Opinion: Standing by hard-won freedoms helps remind us what the EU is all about

European Commission President Barroso yesterday used uncharacteristically tough language to condemn the current political turmoil in Romania. Calling for “urgent action” by the country to win back the confidence of its EU partners, Barroso talked about the “exceptional events” which have been “a major source of concern to the EU” and “shaken our trust.” Barroso also announced that the EU was extending a special system of checks on Romania’s respect for the rule of law and judicial independence, instigated after the country joined the EU five years ago.

The unprecedented language from the EU follows a political crisis which has escalated over recent weeks and tested the country’s relatively young democracy to the limits. As Barroso said, “Challenging judicial decisions, undermining the constitutional court, overturning established procedures and removing key checks and balances” have called into question the government’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law itself. An ongoing spat between the Prime Minister and President, each from opposing parties, is also heading for a showdown, with the parliament promising to hold a referendum on impeaching the President on 29 July.

But while the crisis has undeniably shaken international faith in Romania and raised questions about the timeliness of the country’s admission to the EU in the first place, it also presents an opportunity for the EU. By sticking firmly to its democratic principles and insisting on the need for all its members to fully respect them, the EU is proving its often undersold credentials as a continent-wide guarantor of freedom.

The transformation of central and eastern Europe over the past two decades, aided and abetted at every stage by the EU’s magnetic power and insistence on political and economic reforms, remains to this day one of Europe’s singular biggest achievements. By taking a hard line in Romania, and before it, Hungary, the EU has shown that a commitment to democracy has to be permanent and unswerving if countries are to continue to benefit from membership of the club.

The question now is whether this tough stance on rights and values can help to lift the EU out of its recent euro-fatigue. By reminding us what the EU is really about – bringing democratic rights and economic opportunity to millions – it might just help.

* Giles Goodall is a Lib Dem European Parliamentary Candidate for South East England.

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Europe / International and Op-eds.


  • An excellent update, Giles; thanks. You are spot on about the positive impact that a desire to join the EU had on ensuring eastern European countries moved in the direction of freedom, democracy and the rule of law after their release from the grip of the Soviet Union. I am pleased to see that there is no weakening of requirements on that score even once countries are inside the EU.

  • Richard Dean 19th Jul '12 - 10:40pm

    Stuart says it all. Well done Barroso and the EU.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Tristan Ward
    @ Andrew Hickey "Free speech. Which is not infringed in any way by the party saying that it doesn’t want members who don’t agree with its values. " Fr...
  • Phil Beesley
    Andrew Hickey: "Links to documents which purport to be leaked copies of confidential advice given the party, which, assuming they’re genuine, show that the pa...
  • Andrew Hickey
    So Tristan's arguments boil down to: 1) Free speech. Which is not infringed in any way by the party saying that it doesn't want members who don't agree with it...
  • Martin
    Mick Taylor: I am not sure what you are responding to. My point is about a distinction between isolated and non-isolated systems. This is pertinent to your ...
  • Denis Mollison
    "finding a workable solution" I think the simplest and most liberal solution would be not to attempt to have our own definitions of offences such as transpho...