“People need to come to Romania to see what it is really like”, said Monika (26, Social media
management), so we followed her advice. From almost-EU-member Croatia we doubled backed
along Lake Balaton to Budapest where we picked up our Europe on Track flag, before setting
out again to enter the — for the moment — most recent EU members: Romania and Bulgaria.
It has been 6 years now since Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, but in many ways,
the differences are still clearly visible. Train travel is much slower here than in our previous
pays de passage and in many places we are still met by horse-drawn carts, taking fresh
produce to the market or hauling wood from the forests. It all adds to the charm and attraction
of the country, but not in the eyes of the legislators in Bucharest, who have been trying to ban
horses from most roads since 2008.
If consequently implemented, such a ban would affect the lives of countless rural families,
who depend on their horses for transport and work. As Cristina (24, Online specialist) puts it,
regulations like these are “affecting the survival chances of people in the countryside, who are
no longer able to continue their traditional subsistence farming.” No wonder then, that many
people were — and still are — against the recent move of Romania into the EU.
But it is not all bad, says Cristina (21, Public services management): “Joining the EU was a
kick in the butt for Romania, it made us strive for more.” And of course, it made it “easier to
travel and make new friends around Europe”, adds Alex (23, Telecommunications). However,
this made many young people realise Romania’s image problem in other parts of the continent.
Monika: “We are not gypsies stealing abroad.”
As a way to change people’s perception about Romania — while at the same time giving the
country’s agriculture and business sectors a boost — Cristina suggests organising study trips
for farmers and entrepreneurs to either discover Romania or go abroad to learn. It is not very
difficult to set up a business in Romania, especially for students, says Sabina (24, Economics),
but “it’s hard to keep it going and you have to be brave to stay here and make a difference.”