I am trying to stay away from politics for as much and as long as possible, mainly because I don’t want to feel like I did yesterday when the news that Bulgaria will be accepted into the Schengen area starting January 1st, while Romania won’t. I was absolutely outraged and I needed to take a short break and walk a bit to calm down.

You see, people in Romania usually have their brothers in Bulgaria to look at when looking for some positive news and reassurances. It has been innoculated in our minds that, no matter how bad things are in Romania, they’re worse in Bulgaria. It was our neighbors and fellow EU members who usually helped us not being last in any chart that you could think of.

Lowest salary? Not in Romania, in Bulgaria is worse! Most corrupt country? Not Romania, Bulgaria is worse. And so on. Even though at least in terms of statistics and studies Romania was never doing well, we always knew that we’re not last. (My personal opinion about our neighbors was a bit different as I already made it clear in my Bulgaria vs Romania comparison).

However, this is no longer the case and it seems that the Bulgarians have started to really do the right things and change into a much better country than we historically knew it was. And now I heard the news that really filled the glass for me: Bulgaria will join Schengen on January 1st 2019, while Romania still has work to do, especially in regards to the fight against corruption.

Currently, there are 5 countries in Europe that are in the EU, but not in Schengen: Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Ireland. On this list, Ireland is the big name here, but they were kind of forced by the UK not to enter the Schengen area – so they would still be accepted as soon as they wanted to. Cyprus has a special situation with all their North and South Cyprus, so it’s also understandable. Croatia has some border disputes with Slovenia, making things difficult.

That leaves 2 countries that were not accepted mainly because the fight against corruption had to be improved. And out of these two, Bulgaria received the thumbs up to join in January 1st, leaving Romania as the only odd one out.

So yes, we’re finally, officially, last.

Now, truth be told, being in or our of the Schengen area doesn’t really change much for people living in Romania and not even for those who plan to visit the country. Yes, we do have to spend more time to get our passports checked when traveling out of the country, but we’re already used to going through this ordeal, so not much changes.

However, it is still enraging because I usually see the whole Schengen approval thing as a confirmation of progress. Of the fact that Romania is moving in the right direction. And while I wasn’t one of the few (or many, if we are to judge the previous vote results) who believed that the country is moving in the right direction, having this cold truth thrown into my face didn’t feel good.

Yes, the leading party appears to be one of the most corrupt parties in Romania’s recent history, with their leader almost a convicted person who changes the laws of the country to benefit his status and help the few who are in command. Many of the measures that they took (sometimes trying to hide them from the public eyes – see the protests in early 2017) were blamed by people in the country and all over Europe for weakening the fight against corruption and opening the doors for criminal activities. On many occasions, analysts went as far as warning that Romania is heading towards dictatorship once more.

Although much of this fight is purely political and Romania becoming a dictatorship is a complete aberration, we can’t ignore the facts and the truth: things are not going well in the country and instead of having a nation that progresses as fast as others in this world, we’re stuck in the past, in a corrupt system that becomes stronger and stronger and, what is most worrying to me – it (still) has the support of the majority of voters.

These voters won’t be affected by the fact that Romania is not part of Schengen and won’t be accepted when Bulgaria and Croatia join, since they rarely leave their villages anyway. Those who are affected, will be manipulated to believe that it’s not the ruling party’s fault. We live in a world where truth doesn’t matter for the masses, because the masses are easily manipulated. Especially uneducated masses who are raised to accept without judgement (“believe without doing research” is one of the main lessons that the church promotes and the church still weights a lot in the life of Romanians).

In the end, my life itself wouldn’t be affected that much if Romania were to finally be accepted into the Schengen area. But I am still outraged and angry!

It is true – maybe I’ve been manipulated a bit by the opposition here: it’s not official yet that Bulgaria will actually join Schengen. It was just a statement made by the EPP group leader Manfred Weber that they are ready to join starting January 1st – and the Romanian media presented it as a fact. But even though not official, it’s still a lot more than what Romania is getting.

As I said earlier – this would have a minimal effect on people already living in a country, as well as those who were planning to move here or visit. It doesn’t really matter, for our daily lives, if Romania joins the Schengen area sooner or later, before or after Bulgaria does.

But it does hurt, to a deeply personal level, to see the big guys confirm the fact that your own country is not really moving in the right direction. It’s something that most of us knew, but having it brutally thrown into your face is still a bit shocking.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Wow! I’m sure it feels terrible being last! When are they supposed to make it official? I won’t believe it till it’s confirmed. This might mean l have to push my visit to Bulgaria (Sofia) up if l can. Things will definitely change. The situation in Romania that you describe sounds so familiar. I tell you the world is going to hell in a hand basket!!!! Nothing like a good rant is there? πŸ™‚

    • Well, having in mind that the big guy said that they should join in January 2019, I think that anything official should come up fast. Most Romanians are joking now, saying that at least it will be a much faster ride from Bulgaria to Greece (as many choose the latter as their summer holiday spot).

  2. Where is any press release stating that Bulgaria will join Schengen on January 1st 2019? For sure that would be on BBC or elsewhere. I have not seen it anywhere.

    I would be somewhat surprised if Bulgaria is joining as that border with Turkey is far more problematic than Romania’s borders with Ukraine and Moldova.

    As someone living in Slovenia, some issues between them and Croatia has little to do with Croatia not yet joining Schengen. Readiness with non-Schengen countries such as Bosnia and Serbia probably have more to do with it or perhaps even the Balkan migrant route. It is complete pain in the ass and I find it hard not to believe Croatia isn’t ready to join. Just my 2 cents…

    • It was not an official press release, it was something that Manfred Weber said during a talk in the European Parliament. So as I said in the article, it’s not official confirmation that they will indeed join in January, but rather the fact that he said Bulgaria is ready and Romania not. That was the main reason behind my rant πŸ™‚

      Now, the fact that there are many other things at stake here – that is true indeed.

  3. Hey Calin, I was driving into Romania and was sitting waiting in the queue at Nadlac when this news broke and was listening to it on the radio. It is odd and I really feel what you are saying. Here goes…but….with the way Laura Kovesi was treated and against Iohanis’s will was fired the whole question of corruption at the highest level apparent, I hate saying this by the way! I love Romania was determined to be here for this important weekend. As you say though for many this wont change a thing, although its an insult and I see this. Last night I crossed the Iron Gates with a friend and we went out in Kladovo, for him it was no problem and as easy as. For me I had to have my passport stamped and questioned why I was crossing, I mention this only as to draw a kind of parallel. Look, one thing I have leaned over the years, what’s today can be turned on it’s head in an instant. Enjoy the celebrations this weekend don’t let the frustration detract from the fact that despite the current issues, we are in the best place there is. Noroc si sanatate Calin. Shane

    • Thanks for the nice words, Shane. I am unfortunately down with the (man) flu, so I am taking part in the celebrations from my bed, getting tea overdoses but at least it’s a welcome rest. You are correct that we are in the best place right now and we’re having it so much better than most people had it in the past. Staying positive does make everything a lot easier and life better! πŸ™‚

  4. Hi Calin:
    As a professional ranter, welcome to the club!
    It’s a great way to relieve stress.;-)
    Just remember, as bad as you think it is in Romania, or Bulgaria,
    it CAN’T be as bad as it is in the USA! Trust me on this. For that matter,
    Yemen and Ukraine are in worse shape than all of us put together.
    Other than all this, hope is well in casa lui Călin.
    ~Teil (USA Ranter)

    • Yup, it did help to write this and I was much better by the end. πŸ™‚ I always had the opinion that people living in a country – whatever country – are more often exposed to the negatives and have, therefore, a much worse opinion than those who don’t. (Not sure if this phrase makes any sense as I wrote it while my kid was telling my why one of our doors is worse than the others… hahaha)

  5. Just finished two months in Eastern Europe tour, my impression is that Bulgaria living cost is lower than that of Romania, but seems Romania has better better business enviroment. I used Uber in Romania, but is not availiable in Bulgaria.

  6. “The chickens have come home to roost” as we say in America. Here the “chickens” come in the form of EU repercussions for Romanian government corruption and disregard for basic democratic norms such as separation of the judiciary from the political branches of government and the right of citizens to demonstrate peaceably. The European Union has been watching the deterioration in Romania with dismay and chiding the Romanian government incessantly for its corrupt path but the government just refuses to listen. Meanwhile, millions of Romanians live in the “diaspora” in other EU countries where they are gainfully employed and enjoy functioning social democracies with decent education, health care, and modern infrastructure. You are right, just about the only people left in Romania are the old pensioners who only care about their pensions. They still blindly support the government. The government budget deficit has tripled compared to last year, as has the inflation rate. The current government won an election with a very low voter turnout. This passivity by the “good” Romanians, the failure to participate and defend their democracy, has had dire consequences which will be hard to fix. Although Romanians did go into the streets to demonstrate in early 2017, a certain protest fatigue seems to have set in. When Romanians in the diaspora organized a demonstration on August 10th, it was brutally put down in a militarized operation by the government. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I am very proud of how the Americans got serious and organized for the 2018 elections on November 6th. A massive voter turnout flipped 40 seats from the Trump Party to the Democratic Party which will now control one house (chamber) of the government. I think all Romanians who love their country should not get mad at the EU but should similarly prepare for the next elections in order to topple this corrupt government which is led by an ACTUAL twice-convicted criminal.

    • I am not mad at the EU – it’s not their fault that we are in the situation we’re in. Hopefully this news didn’t make people turn against the EU for being – most likely fair. I don’t know how the anti-corruption fight is going in Bulgaria, but I do know, just like you said, that things have been going downhill for a while now here in Romania. So I don’t think that it’s unfair for the EU leaders to think and say what they do.

      The problem is indeed with people not willing to understand that things are not going well. It’s difficult to convince somebody whose salary has been increased by 25% that, most likely, it’s going to be a lot more difficult several years for now when the consequences will be felt. People rarely care to look in the future and, for the most part, right now is better – at least from a financial standpoint – than it was before.

      There are even voices – with whom I tend to agree – saying that whoever wins the next elections will have to cut salaries and take anti-populist measures. And if it’s not going to be today’s ruling party, the people will start saying, once more, that it was better with PSD because that’s when their salaries and pensions increased… It’s difficult to see the big picture and accept that sometimes a salary cut or some harsher measures are better for your own well being.

      • I watched a film on the Centenarul Marii Uniri made by a documentary team called Recorder. Part of the film showed the Jandarmerie and health inspectors descending on a little old lady’s house ON THAT HOLIDAY to kill her pig and take it away because there had been a swine fever outbreak. She was obviously very upset. Some passers-by rudely told her, “Well, you voted for the PSD!” “No, no,” she insisted, “I didn’t vote…” It’s sad to politicize a tragedy like that but I think sometimes people won’t change their ways until a tragedy really happens which, of course, is when it is too late. Look at Hungary and Orban right now.

  7. C. My two cents.. You and I have agreed in the past. It is VERY disheartening to know that 40% of the population worships the ground donald (our pathetic leader) walks on. THIS IS THE PROBLEM. The large number of sheep that follow these people that have NO business being in postions of authority. How on earth did we educated people let this happen? I am still wracking my brain trying to figure out the RepubliCON party because i am open minded and want to understand them. My brain seizes up when I noodle their way of thinking.. i just can’t wrap my brain around how giving more money to the wealthy creates jobs for example. I too feal hopeless.

    We must not give up and have got to keep speaking out. We need to educate those in the village and those who do not understand. The real problem is turning those that support these people into a safer direction. They do not understand the damage they are causing by supporting these people that should not be in power. We are currently working very hard at creating a case for why donald should be removed from office and it is coming from an actual Repulican Mueller. My father was a Repulican and i do support honest ones. I liked the first George Bush but he was the only Repulican president in my life time I could support.

    I worry about Romania sliding in the wrong direction. I hope people like you will continue to write, fight and communicate in any way possible your beliefs. These corrupt people need to go. Why is it so hard to find an honest person to work in public office for others and not themselves? My last comment. Never give up and keep fighting the good fight as we MUST find a way to change the minds of the 40% supporting people that have no business being in public office.

    Thanks for letting me join the rant!

    Otto

    • Thank you for joining the rant! πŸ™‚ You are correct – you are defeated only when you stop fighting and in regards to this, there’s still a lot of fight left in many people. Changing a person’t mind takes a lot of time and dedication, but it is doable, as long as you fight for the right cause.

    • Otto, I hear you loud and clear. You ask, why is it so hard to find an honest person to work in public office for others and not themselves? Unfortunately, power and money often attract exactly the wrong kind of person to politics. These people are motivated by their own interests and are only interested in a bigger share of the public pot. When you look at the natural resources Romania has, the very intelligent, hardworking people it once had before they all emigrated (well, that’s not true, Calin and his wife are still in Romania), you just can’t understand why the country hasn’t modernized more, hasn’t lifted its people out of poverty yet. The answer is an oligarchy of corrupt politicians who cling to political and economic power and run the country incompetently. They have armies of patronage workers whose livelihood depends on their party staying in power. It was the same under the communists and not much has changed with the PSD, the successor party to the communists. Now America… that’s a different story. We have a long history of institutionalized racism that seems to go in cycles. We fought the Civil War to free the slaves, the South imposed Jim Crow laws to disenfranchise the freed Blacks, civil rights finally made some headway in the 1960s, then came the Republican Southern Strategy backlash, we finally get a Black president, then comes the Republican voter suppression tactics. At least November 6th was a BACKLASH TO THE BACKLASH!

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