The European Union, which Romania joined in 2007, is facing new challenges every day
biggest challenge which the EU has to cope with is Great Britain's leaving the
bloc, Britain being one of the main economic and political powers in Europe and
the world. The European radio network Euranet Plus, of which Radio Romania is a
founding member, has recently organized a debate with Michel Barnier, the Head
of the EU Commission Taskforce for Brexit. For starters, Michel Barnier has
described the political and economic framework in which these negotiations are
Barnier: "After 2016 -
2017 a new context has been created. In 2016 there was the Brexit referendum,
which was one of a kind. For the first time a country, especially a big one,
wants to leave the EU. Which, by the way, proves that we are not the prisoners
of the EU. Then, several months later, the US elected a new president, Donald
Trump, who has a new discourse in relation to trans-Atlantic relations. We have
a pretty complicated geopolitical context, with much instability, wars and
crises on the other side of the Mediterranean, in the Middle East, with a
recrudescence of attacks. Let's remember the terrible attack, one year ago, in
Manchester that killed 22 people and wounded 800. All these events prompt the
European leaders to show responsibility. And I have noticed this attitude ever
since the start of my mission. I wanted to meet, in their offices, all the 27
heads of state and government and the important ministers who manage the Brexit
issue in each country. I have also met with the president of the European
Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Council, Donald
Tusk and the president of the European Parliament, Mr. Tajani, and I can say
that all these leaders, no matter their convictions, feel some sort of
collective responsibility, as they understand the gravity of this situation.
And this explains, to a great extent, the mandate that I have been given, which
is based on the unity of points of view, a mandate for unity in negotiation.
And with the support of Jean-Claude Juncker I have chosen to practice a new
method, that of total transparency, for everybody to know, in real time, what's
going on as part of the negotiations. We always publish on the Internet the
stands we adopt during the negotiations. I have full communication with the 27
member states and the European Parliament. This is what justifies and builds
trust and unity."
The EU has given
Michel Barnier, a former European Commissioner and a former member of the
French government, a powerful mandate to negotiate on all the aspects of
Brexit. According to Barnier, the force of the mandate resides in the European
unity behind it.
Michel Barnier: "I am one of those who regret this vote a
lot. Brexit does not bring added value. Both sides have something to lose. I
believe that together we are stronger. And when you look at all the challenges
that we have to address, geopolitics, terrorism, poverty, especially on the
huge African continent, climate change, digital challenges, we need to ask
ourselves whether, in order to address these challenges, to be respected, to
defend our interests, our model of social market economy, our values as Europeans,
it is better to be together or separated. Is it better to show solidarity or
solitude? My answer is definitely solidarity, we need to be together, we need
to be Europeans, not just patriots, Belgians, Latvians, Portuguese, Spaniards
or Greeks. We need to be Europeans if we want to still matter in today's world.
We do not have the necessary weight and there are others who decide for us."
issue on the agenda of negotiations is related to Ireland. The northern part of
the island belongs to the United Kingdom while the rest belongs to the Republic
of Ireland, which is a member of the EU. Here is Michel Barnier with details.
Barnier: "The issue
related to Ireland and Northern Ireland, which we want to address, is created
by Brexit. And I would like to recall the situation of Ireland for all those in
Europe who are listening. Less than 20 years ago, there used to be lots of
conflicts between various communities, mainly in Northern Ireland, namely the
Catholic and Protestant communities. We should not forget those tragedies! And
courageous people, statesmen, Irish people, mainly from Northern Ireland, with
the support of the Irish government, of the American President and of London
officials, established a process of peace and stability by drafting the
document called The Good Friday Agreement. The results were positive,
cooperation was achieved in many domains, on all the issues between the
different communities, and the border inside the Irish island was removed. Now
there is total freedom of movement for all people, for merchandise, for
capitals and services. And these are the requirements for stability and peace.
I know this process very well, I used to be a European Commissioner in the
1990s, and I do not want to destabilize this process. Nobody wants that. The
British government, the Irish government and the EU have committed to keeping
in force The Good Friday Agreement, to have no 'tough' borders but invisible
borders. But now the UK is exiting the EU, the Single Market, and the Customs
Union. Therefore there emerges an obligation, because the Republic of Ireland
remains in the EU and wants to remain a part of the Single Market, so we need
to protect the integrity of this Market and to control the merchandise traded
on this market. It's something related to consumers' and enterprises'
protection. We need to maintain control without rebuilding borders. And what we
have suggested is an exceptional solution, a unique solution, before a better
one arises in the future, namely to exceptionally integrate Northern Ireland in
our Customs Union and regulations, which is necessary in order to safeguard
cooperation between North and South and to safeguard the integrity of the
internal market. In this regard we have the opinion of the 27 heads of state
and government who have shown solidarity with the Irish government. And we
won't have an agreement for the UK's orderly withdrawal in October or November
unless we have an operational solution for Ireland in this agreement."
among the most mobile citizens within the European Union, and Brexit is a
prospect that worries them a lot, especially with regard to the preservation of
the rights of those who are currently residing in Great Britain, but also the
freedom of movement after Great Britain has left the Union. Therefore, during
the debate, a Radio Romania reporter asked the EU's Chief Negotiator whether
and to what extent the mobility of the EU citizens in Great Britain would be
preserved, of those who are working and studying in the Kingdom.
Barnier: "When talking
about citizens, we need to make distinctions. First, there are those who are
already there, who have chosen to be students or doctors. For instance, there
are many Romanian and Bulgarian physicians who work in the British healthcare
system. In total, as a Romanian journalist told me, there are some 350,000
Romanians living and working there, who are contributing to the economy and
progress of Great Britain.
For all these people and the 3
and a half million European citizens living and working in Great Britain and
for the 1 and a half million Britons living and working in one of the 27 EU
Member States, we have reached an agreement in principle with the British side
to guarantee their rights, including social rights, social security, welfare
benefits, family allowances, for themselves and their families for the entire
duration of their lives. Another important topic is the situation of citizens
who will choose to relocate after Brexit. If everything works out, the rights
we have agreed upon with Great Britain will be guaranteed not just on Brexit
day, but during a period of transition ending on December 31, 2020. If EU
citizens choose to move to Great Britain before this date, provided we maintain
an agreement with the British side, all their rights will be guaranteed.
Afterwards, it all depends on our subsequent agreements with the British side
and their future policy on migration, which I know nothing about".
Brexit is a complicated matter,
which is why we will be talking more about it in the future editions of