Is the European Union being too hard on its two newest members?
The accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU in January 2007 was certainly seen as premature in some quarters. Not only did the two appear unprepared, but the move came too soon after the ‘big expansion’ of May 2004 that brought in eight other Central and East European (CEE) countries, along with Cyprus and Malta.
Only today (January 30) it is being reported in the Bulgarian press that the country has received a final warning for violating three European directives in the energy sector and may stand trail at the European Court of Justice.
Meanwhile in Romania – and much more relevant to our industry – it has just been confirmed that the EC is taking action against the country for violating the independence of the telecommunications authority.
All this contrasts sharply with reports in some sections of the British press that the EU is looking into the possibility of fast-tracking Iceland into the Union by 2011. Such a scenario would have been unthinkable until recently but is now seriously being considered to stop the country from financial collapse. Which begs the question – would Bulgaria or Romania have been treated in the same way had they, too, faced similar economic problems to those in Iceland?
On balance, EU membership has been hugely positive for countries in CEE. However, while some have found the transition process relatively smooth, others have encountered difficulties. Bulgaria and Romania certainly fall into the latter category and should be helped rather than criticised.
In the case of the infringement procedure against Romania, it has been pointed out that last year’s controversial restructuring of the regulator ANRTCI to create a new body named the ANC took place under the watch of the previous government. The new administration cannot be blamed for the actions of its predecessor, though it has to be hoped they will not be repeated in the future.
At issue is the independence of a regulatory body that has a huge say in the future of Romania’s TV industry. There are probably several options now open to the new government, one of which could be the scrapping of the ANC.