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Romanian people and the EU integration

sociology

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Romanian people and the

EU integration

Romania like not Balkan country, but Balkan influenced country made after 2000 an important increase of all domains to integrate in European Union. Speaking about Romanians’ opinion regarding the integration of their country in the EU, we have to speak about the image of the international organizations from Romanians’ point of view. In polls is shown that over two thirds of Romanian citizens mention spontaneously, the European Union as an international organization. In time, it is known that the percentage of Romanians who have good knowledge about EU’s basic institutions went up. This way, we can observe that Romanian people are aware of EU interests and demands addressed to the Romanians institutions, but citizens, too. Which are the feelings that European institutions inspire, in Romania? The following order of the feelings inspired to Romanians by EU’s institutions is from the highest to the lowest: hope, confidence, mistrust, enthusiasm and indifference, impatience and rejection.



Well, before 2007 (the year that opened the European frontiers for Romania and Bulgaria) most Romanians thought about the European Union as source of solutions to all the problems and crises – social, economical, financial, industrial, cultural, technical, educational, an so on without asking something in change. As a matter of fact, Romanians did not know all about being a member in the European Union. All of them heard about the funds given for the development of regions, weak points. The greatest number of people collected their information about European politics, institutions and supporting funds from Media, especially television.

Researches also detected that most Romanians know about the main missions of the European Commission Delegation to Bucharest: reporting Romanian developments to Brussels and working with the Romanian Government on the administration of funds. Besides these two, there is also a third mission less perceived by Romanians, but it involves informing Romanians about European Union.

Field studies also shows that in 2002, 69 % of Romanian people would have voted for Romania joining the European Union and it got to 72%, in 2005.

In Romanians’ mind, the actions to which European Union should give major importance are: - fighting against poverty and unemployment;

-          security in Europe;

-          fighting organized crime;

-          fighting against terrorism;

-          fighting against drugs;

-          protecting environment;

-          implementing Euro.

Before becoming an EU member, Romania was the nation with the strongest positive social response to the European Union.

Is Romania meeting European Union accession criteria?

The Romanian public thinks that European Union accession will primarily depend on eradicating corruption (48%), raising the living standard (34%) and reducing unemployment (16%).

Romanians are aware that the country’s record in fulfilling European Union accession criteria is mixed.

Two criteria are seen as accomplished by a large majority of all sections of the society. These are press freedom and minority rights.

Somewhat smaller majorities feel that Romania is doing well in meeting the criteria below:

Significantly smaller groups of people (excluding authorities) believe that Romania is meeting the European Union criteria shown in our next table:

Related to the process of European integration, official reports also detected the fact that there are constant concerns and expectations of Romanians. The most important ones were about agriculture, higher taxes and fees and about growing drug addiction. Other Romanian worry was about a possible loss of their national identity and not necessarily related to EU integration, there is a strong fear regarding the growing prices and unemployment as the national main problems.

Most of all Romanians dreamed to the freedom to travel in Europe and to work without formal papers for more money. But that was all that they knew. No more else, like conditions to attract funds, like following some goals in some activities.



Probably, that lack of information is caused by the political trend from the election campaigns, when all the politicians spoken about Europe waiting us to become members, specialists from government accessing European funds for the benefit of Romania.

We can not say that all the people living in Romania waited with their heart opened to become European citizens. They were also skeptical that thought that being a member of a group attracts also obligations, responsibilities, so these were those who thought to European Union like an association of states, where firms can collaborate without asking permission to states. Romanians were also, skeptical that the European Union is a group of economical interests, focused on dominating the whole resources of the European continent.

So, speaking about the differences between the opinions before the integrations comparing them with the opinions after the integration we can say that not all the facts are quite relaxed.

Speaking about Romania foreign people can think about shepherds who raise sheep on Romanian mountains. Well, those shepherds thought that the integration will bring to them the opportunity to expand their commerce and provide their goods to Europeans. It seams that it was not as god as they thought, because the integration bought some major changing rules like: forbidding the commerce with cheese to al distance bigger than 5 km from the shepherd’s home, the moving of flocks, was straight changed, the shepherds have to move their sheep in trucks with special boxes for the animals, the route have to be approved by the public health service, and so on. It seams that is no more to interesting to be shepherd in Romania, may be they will try to take their sheep to other non European states, who knows, because they are very upset now.

In Romania, the most of the people live in rural areas. This means that they have also a small farm (like “Old McDonald” with chicken, pigs, cows, horses, here, there, everywhere) which provides him some goods that do not nicest money. As far, all it is fine, till the European rules about rising home animals, and treating, and sacrificing the animal. Well, the European Union came to Romania not just with funds for the agriculture but also with rules about how to kill pigs, cows, fact that is not too friendly with Romanian traditions.

In Romania, the most known supporting European funds are SAPARD and PHARE. But those are just names for some people because even if they have heard about them, they know very little about these programs. Few people have heard about ISPA as a pre-accession financial support. This situation hasn’t changed at all after 1st of January 2007. Most people know that EU will offer a lot of money to Romania, as a new member, but they have no idea about the real conditions and sources of these structural funds. In the time being, Romania struggles with training people for absorbing these funds. This orientation is adopted for public institutions, NGO sector, enterprises, but for civil society, too.

Romanians are still convinced that funds provided by European Union are associated with fraud and corruption. Media and their personal experience shape their impression that corruption is part of the daily life including the field of EU funding. The reports of the European Commission Delegation regarding defrauding haven’t had a great impact on Delegation’s image, but the fraud itself brought a bad image on the funds’ distribution.

Most Romanians think that their Government is responsible of fraud and abuses of European Union’s funds and other problems or scandals shown on Media. This fact is decreasing public trust in Romanian public authorities and further by extending, the European Union.

                 There were programs especially made for the development of the agricultural field, programs like SAPARD and addressed for rural regions development by offering the chance to bring the utilities to an optimal level in rural areas. Most of the projects on SAPARD were made and applied by local public authorities, especially for building water providing, natural gas networks and reconstructions or enforcement of roads. People dealing with this kind of projects found it very hard to respect all deadlines, to explain all the expenses, to make all the reports regarding the projects. As most Romanian people is living in the country area, the development of the rural region including agriculture, is going to be sustained by a new structural instrument named EAFRD (European Agricultural Funds for Rural Development)

The Government also brought his effort to the rehabilitation of the rural area, by passing legal opportunities: - reconstruction or enforcement of bridges, but for cultural monuments, too.

There is one inconvenient for the applicants to the European funds: co financing. In order to get money from EU, public institutions, NGOs or private enterprises, has to sustain financially the activity that is going to develop, between 2 and 50%.

Concerning the environment, we can say that there were made some changes, the enterprises ware forced to invest in their filtering installations, providing a better quality to water, waste energy and other environment sectors. The EU rules prevents the pollution, asks to the enterprises that uses resources to establish better quality to the environment.

Interesting is that Europe wants to help their members to get to a better level of development, as a matter of fact; it creates campaigns that provide opportunities for their members. Starting January 2007 Romania is also a member of European Union even if it takes a little time to get used to it.




Let’s not forget that Romanians came out of a dictatorial form of government. Before 1989, no one could freely speak about the unions, about foreign connections, about freely pass, being persecuted just by cause of suspicion.

Concerning the labour force market, before the integration Romanians were very tempted to work abroad, even without any legal working contract. They accepted to work cheaper there because the wages in EU countries were bigger than the Romanian ones.

The government tried till January 2007 to mediate the abroad work through the Office of the Migration of the Employment. Although the people were unhappy about the services provided by this governmental service, they used to travel abroad as tourists and find a job but without a work authorization. Lately, the working conditions in Romania have changed and people seem to be happier to work in their own country than they were some time ago. This is because laws regarding working reports have been improved and the rights and obligations of employees but employers, too, are strictly provided in working contracts. The legal frame has changed a lot indeed and most employers don’t hire people anymore without legal contracts. They have benefits on hiring special categories of people like young graduated people, disabled people or over 45 years old unemployed people. The Development of Human Resources was and it remains a major domain to be developed and it continues to be financially supported by European funds. This is an easier and cheaper method for unemployed people to get a qualification by taking part in a free course organized by public institutions, private enterprises or NGOs.

Today, the Romanians are between the cheapest workers from Europe, being on the same level with the Albanians. Still, part of Romanians working abroad is happy because now, after joining the EU, their diploma could be recognized and they could even go on with their studies in different states of the EU.

Education is one of the domains that have adopted a progressive evolution regarding educational methods, experience exchange between teaching staff and the general level of education has increased. Romanian educational system has known a lot of improved strategies through the European Union Youth Program. Although, the European Union hasn’t imposed the increase of the educational level as it has been done in other European countries where most of the people could hardly read and write.

The quality of life is the main goal pursued by average person. It seams that there are also international groups concerned in social benefit. There are lots of programs addressed to young who were/drug dealer and smugglers, young Roma peoples persecuted on ethnicity included in programs which helps them go to school and learn a job qualification.

There are also AIDS/HIV programs that give a chance to HIV positive people to manage in the Romanian society by including them in educational activities and exchanging and advising in group therapy.

Besides all these facts that concern the Romanian citizens, we have also this problem from the political spot. We have elections campaigns based on the most European candidate/candidates, the ones who can bring the European lifestyle down to Romanian ground.

The politicians, even if they represent more parties, they try to keep as closer as they can to the idea of Romanian European state. Right now, there a political trend to relate you career to an international organization like EU, UN, and NATO. The external relations of our country become more essential to the European space that we live in. The biggest part of the external commerce is realized with countries from Europe, developing in the same time the economical relations with other states. Starting from this fact, in Romania, we can find political groups that are oriented to some international forces. So, politicians are oriented to EU, USA, Russia starting from their orientation, from their interests and political doctrine. 

Speaking about the level of prosperity for Romanian people we can describe that before the EU integration, Romania had known a considerable increase of buyers (citizens bought large consume goods –TVs, DVDs, computers, mobile phones - houses, vehicles) case justified by the larger income of the abroad workers who sent money home to their families.

By observing this trend, the National Bank tried to control the credit market and prevent the credits without solvency, by establishing some rules that brought the diminution of the bank credits. This measure was applied till the 1st January 2007 when the credits have been released of some of the accessing conditions. Regarding insolvency, the Romanian state created the Central Slow-Payer Database and through it, people that weren’t able to pay their credits can’t contract another one.  

            A strong and well developed service even early before 2007 was the Internet and network service, where Romanians gained their fame. That fact attracted some deeds that are infringing the law, like hacking or pirating software, music, movies. That’s why Romanian authorities took some measures o complete the legislation that provides right protecting.

            Tourism in Romania isn’t as strong as it should be even if there are a lot of cultural, historical points to exploit. There are some changes like charter flights to Romania from Europe, most of the passengers being Romanians; it is a notable change, but still those charter routes are not exploited to their main goal. Unfortunately, because of the low quality of touristy services provided by Romanian agents, people prefer to spend their vacations abroad. Before joining EU, taking into consideration the custom-house formalities, they were less. After Romania became an EU member, even if it was just four months ago, the number of people that left the country for spending their holiday abroad on Easter for example, has obviously increased. And because the custom formalities are much easier now, they prefer going on vacation abroad, by their own cars, with their children and friends.

            Also, other chances noticed, comparing the services before Romania’s integration is the mobile phone services. Till 1st January 2007 it is known that mobile phone services were obvious between the most expensive from Europe, even if the costs of providing this kind of services weren’t to high rated. So, today people from Romania can enjoy the benefits of options that gives you hundred of minutes (with friends, groups, in the evening) in change of some dollars or euros (somewhere before 5).



            Speaking about Romanians’ health, by viewing the reports of World Health Organization we can find that they are leading in HIV/AIDS, Tuberculoses and sexual transmission diseases. This problem is kindly monitored by NGOs that provide education in health. Who talks about Romanians’ alimentation, too, which is low in vegetables and fruits? Alcohol and tobacco occupy a high rated place in their daily expenses. Also, by reading the same reports, the conclusions show that most of Romanians do not spend so much money on personal hygiene products like tooth paste or detergent. Even if we can’t say that Romanians are dirty, it is easy to notice that they have bad dentures. Private surgeries have been developed, but ordinary people can hardly appeal to their services because of their low incomings that don’t permit this. The public health services are still really bad because of the material bad conditions of hospitals and clinics, but because of the bad training of the medical staff, too. In the rural area of Romania, the health services are even worse.

            In the last few years, the private sector of enterprises has been developed in the goods production, but in providing services field, too. This has been encouraged by the banks’ policies, by facilities offered by law (low taxes on creating a small enterprise for students, for example), but by pre-addition European funds, too. We can notice that the development of the Romanian private business field is decelerated by the great number of taxes and fees that the entrepreneurs must pay to local and central authorities. Recent studies showed that Romania is on the sixth place between all the countries in the entire world regarding the number of taxes and fees that firms have to pay (over 80 taxes and fees), materialized in about 50% of their own profit. Is this an encouraging business environment for national or international investors? Who knows…Later, we might see the results.  There are some lots more of facts (well rated or not so good) but that’s all that I had to say in my project.

In the end of this essay, I can say that all that these are some of the thoughts of Romanian people and a piece of the facts that happen in Romania, viewed from inside the country (form personal opinions, Internet, Media and polls) and form outside the country (taken from pre addition Euro Barometer of the European Commission). I have only tried to create an objective image regarding Romania and EU.

Sources:

1.      Gheorghe Socol, Dan Constatin Radulescu - Civilizatia rurala din Romania in perspectiva integrarii in UE, The Center of Economic Information and Documentation, Bucharest, 2006;

2.      Livia Chisagiu -  Conditii de locuit : analiza comparativa Romania-UE, The Center of Economic Information and Documentation, Bucharest, 2006;

3.      Agnes Ghibutiu - Liberalizarea comertului cu servicii in UE : implicatii pentru Romania -  The Center of Economic Information and Documentation, Bucharest, 2006;

4.      Euro barometer of the European Commission;

5.      The site www.infoeuropa.ro;

6.      The site www.mediafax.ro;

7.      The site www.rompres.ro;








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