A Faustian Bargain: Romania and Bulgaria Join the EU
One day I expect my sons to give me a grand tour of Romania. Thanks to their mom, grandparents, and company, my sons’ Romanian is at least as good as their English. So I’ve got more than just an academic interest in today’s accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU.
It’s easy for a Briton to be a Euro-skeptic. But the hard truth for Romania and Bulgaria is that the EU is, on balance, a good deal. EU admission provides access to European markets, free emigration to high-wage labor markets (with some delays and limitations), and near-immunity to future hyper-inflation.
Still, it’s a Faustian bargain. To get in, the new members have to go along with the EU’s inane harmonization policies. Example: Most Romanian milk – much of it milked by hand on small Romanian farms – isn’t up to EU standards. After mid 2008, it won’t even be legal to sell this milk inside of Romania with a warning label. Joining the EU means bearing the full load of its regulators’ high-handed paternalism – a paternalism which weighs much more heavily on poor countries like Romania and Bulgaria where there is actually substantial demand for “low quality” products.
Overall, Romanian accession to the EU makes me more optimistic for its future. In twenty years, I expect my sons to give me a tour of a very nice country. At the same time, though, I also expect the Romania of the future to succumb to Eurosclerosis, a demographically-driven fiscal imbalance, and worse. That’s a lot better than I would have expected in 1988 – but still far short of its potential.