EU reform: Will Eastern Europe be left behind?
Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel are setting the EU on course for reforms and deeper integration of the Eurozone. However countries in Central and Eastern Europe are critical of the plans, fearing that a core Europe will leave them behind. How should the region position itself? Is conversion to the euro the only way to avoid being left on the periphery?
Only the euro can bring prosperity
The debate about joining the Eurozone has gained momentum in the Czech Republic, Český rozhlas notes:
“The Prague central banker Marek Mora has warned against acting too quickly and has stressed the disadvantages of the euro, arguing that it would only mean additional costs for the Czechs, who would be co-liable for the debts of the Greeks and other Southern European debtor states. This illustrates a typical Czech attitude. ... The mood in our country swings back and forth like a pendulum. Because we overdid things when it came to opening up the economy, we're opting for a cautious approach with the euro. It's enough for us that local firms are producing cheaply as part of large Western companies. But to keep these firms, which are often ineffective, above water, we cling to the Czech koruna. That's the real reason why we reject the euro. But without it we'll remain the poor cousins in the EU for a long time to come.”
Bulgaria must make sacrifices
If Bulgaria wants to belong to core Europe it must give up key advantages such as low wages and taxes, the weekly Kapital comments:
“In the coming months and years the EU will change rapidly. Reforms are on the way that will deepen social, financial and military integration. Member states that can't keep up will be left on the periphery. For Bulgaria this scenario carries two risks. On the one hand it faces isolation if the weak government can't keep up with the new tempo. On the other Bulgaria would have to give up decisive competitive advantages. At first glance this would be bad for the economy but in the long term the advantages of playing in the first league would outweigh the disadvantages.”
We in the north vs. those in the south
Despite signs of deeper cooperation between Berlin and Paris, Poland should not become isolated on the EU's eastern front because Europe's true dividing line runs between the north and the south, according to Gość Niedzielny:
“Despite the warm embraces between Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, France and Germany don't really have that much in common. And although the mood between Warsaw and Berlin is tense, the distance between Germany and Poland isn't really all that great. ... The southern countries believe the solution to their problems lies in making them Europe's problems. Germany should assume responsibility for Italian debts and Poland should take care of immigrants from Greece, they say. That's why Germany is closer to Poland. For our countries it's worthwhile to participate in the European single market, but not in a European state.”
Romania must show its will to adopt the euro
Romania needs to take a stance on joining the euro now, political scientist Valentin Naumescu stresses on the blog portal Contributors:
“No one is forcing us; it's our decision (even though we should bear in mind that according to our membership agreement we're obliged to join the euro). … But to develop a perspective here would at least send a positive message that would bring Romania into the group of countries willing to reform. Whether we join the Eurozone in 2022, 2023 or 2024 doesn't matter, but for Romania's sake we should give a sign that this is our plan. … If we miss the opportunities and end up on the sidelines, things will get worse than many of us can imagine. Because the united Europe will seal itself off like a hedgehog to protect itself against external threats. For Britain exiting the EU is not the end, even though it will one day regret it. But for all the other countries in our region such a path would be disastrous.”