At a summit meeting in Sibiu, Romania, in March — the showpiece event of Romania’s presidency of the European Union — Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands was blunt. Asked when Romania would be able to join Schengen, he said: “When you comply with the rule of law, democracy. And you are not moving in the right direction at the moment.”
Cristian Ghinea, a former minister for European funds and a member of the European Parliament for the Save Romania Union, said that joining Schengen had “a symbolic value.”
“It is this feeling that the E.U. accession is not complete,” he said. Schengen is also important for business and for travel, he noted, since Romanian citizens and Romanian trucks must pass through border controls, complicating their participation in Europe’s single market.
Bianca Toma, an analyst at the Romanian Center for European Policies, a research organization in Bucharest, said that despite the success of Romania’s presidency of the bloc, “there is still mistrust in the new members of the club.”
But Romania “is making progress toward being the country the E.U. wants it to be,” she added, noting, “From civil society, the young, those with connections abroad, there’s significant resistance, involvement and commitment to change the negative side.”
“If we look at the politicians only, we can get pessimistic,” she said. “But there is only one direction for the country to go.”
Ms. Toma predicted that the November presidential election would confirm Romania’s shift toward the more liberal politics that were signaled in the European elections in May. Local elections follow in summer 2020, with parliamentary elections scheduled for fall of that year.
“We’ll see a significant change of the political landscape,” Ms. Toma said. “I’m not saying that the new ones will be much better, but we’ll get rid of a lot of the old habits.”