Wednesday, April 26, 2006

EU Preliminaries: Bucharest - Sofia

[courtesy of]

EU Says Romania, Bulgaria Made `Enormous Progress' for Entry
April 25
[reporter: Jonathan Stearns]

Romania and Bulgaria won praise from a senior European Union regulator for upgrading their justice systems, bolstering the likelihood that the two Balkan nations will join the EU on schedule in January 2007.

``Both of them under EU pressure have made enormous progress,'' Michael Leigh, head of the European Commission's enlargement department, said in an interview today in Brussels. ``We must give full credit where credit is due.''

The commission, the EU's executive arm, will recommend May 16 whether to delay the accession of Romania and Bulgaria -- or one of them -- until January 2008. Last October, the commission told both countries to strengthen their justice systems to avoid missing EU membership in 2007.

Romania and Bulgaria, with a combined population of 30 million, are counting on entry to help raise per-capita wealth from a third of the EU average. Their accession would expand the world's largest trading bloc to 27 nations and to the Black Sea.

Leigh stopped short of saying the commission would propose that the two ex-communist nations join on time, saying ``there are still a number of challenges to be met.'' The final decision rests with the EU's national governments.

Under EU rules, it would be harder to delay membership for Bulgaria than for northern neighbor Romania. EU governments can postpone Bulgaria's accession only by a unanimous decision and Romania's membership by a majority vote.

This reflects the fact that the EU was more concerned about Romania than Bulgaria when the two were negotiating membership. Romania and Bulgaria concluded their entry talks in 2004 and signed accession treaties in April 2005, before completing the process of aligning their legislation with European standards.

Safeguard Clauses

One scenario is that Bulgaria and Romania will join in January 2007 while being denied membership rights in areas where their standards haven't improved enough. Such ``safeguards'' can be decided by the commission on its own. [...]

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Adoption Dilemma

April 17th:
No child is to be adopted internationally [Bucharest Daily News]
U.S. Congressman to press for answers on Romanian adoption cases [American Chronicle, CA]

April 18th:
Adopted Romanian to testify before the EU on adoption success [The Ledger, FL]

Not to praise my own estimations, but the Romanian government’s response is far from surprising: some form of domestic protection is preferable to international adoptions and it's in the children's best interest; the law will not be changed despite international pressures.

And there is significant pressure. U.S. Congressman Jeb Bradley is trying to address the Romanian adoption issue in Brussels and a 16-year-old Romanian adoptee from the U.S. is expected to testify next week before the EU on the formidable success of her case. Considering that EU pressures lead to the 2001 moratorium on adoptions in the first place, it’s highly possible that the number of children adopted by foreign nationals not holding Romanian permanent residence decreased in direct proportion with the country's EU accession chances. Indeed, in February 2004 the invitation to join the EU by 2007 started to look less like a dark tunnel and more like the light at the end of it; coincidently or not, that's when Romania decided to pass a law that would permanently ban ALL international adoptions. While the moratorium had allowed for some exceptions, the new legislation left little room for bargaining and denied positive answers to about 1400 foreign adoption requests.

I don't think the EU was expecting an ad litteram compliance with its criticism of Romanian adoption policies back in 2001; and it should be pointed out that Romania has made enough anti-corruption progress to diminish said criticism and the government's reaction to it.

However, even if the adoption mechanism may receive better EU "ratings", the real reluctance lies somewhere else. It's not that Romania wants to facilitate the foreign adoption of its abandoned children, but it's holding back on account of European reprimands and fear of being scolded right before the big accession date in January 2007. The pros of the no-adoption law also include reasons such as the necessity to keep the children in their native environment by favoring domestic adoptions over foreign ones; lack of parental agreement; strong connection with at least one parent; reintegration within the biological or extended family; adoption by a legal guardian, etc. These are not all orphans living in miserable facilities and being denied a bright future as a foreign adoptee. Some cases entail at least one biological parent and the rational decision by such parents to leave their kids in homes or with foster families for strong financial reasons; other cases refer to abandoned children still in touch with their extended family.

Truth be told, the Romanian orphans may constitute a stronger case for the reevaluation of said law. I find little justification in denying their adoption by certified foreign families, especially when the extended family members - if they exist at all - are not able or willing to adopt. This is one point at least where the law could and should be more lenient.

Nevertheless, there is still an adoption dilemma. Considering the higher standard of living in most countries requesting adoptions (such as U.S. and Canada), adopted Romanian children could theoretically have many more financial, educational and healthcare options (to name but a few.) If the child's existent family members give their consent, does the Romanian state have the obligation to prioritize the best domestic option over a foreign one? Why does integration in one's native environment (be it through foster care, group houses, etc.) serve the children's best interest more than a potential future in - let's say - the U.S.?

There is no right answer, as far I'm concerned. Every case is different and it should be given considerable attention; however, I do believe that as long as there is no legal avenue for any foreign adoptions, Romania risks disregarding potentially better options. And that is not in the children's best interest.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Congressional Resolution Urges Romania To Amend Adoption Ban

In light of the upcoming May 16th decision on the country's EU 2007 adherence, I doubt that Romania will take any stands against the 2001 moratorium on foreign abortions imposed as a result of EU pressures.

However, since 5 years ago, the European Parliament has shown more leniency in supporting the international adoption of Romania's abandoned children - mainly in unique and imperative cases. Additionally, the moratorium was initially justified based on accusations of corruption in the adoption process; times are changing, there's a new government in place and the Anti-Corruption Department has "started hunting impressive fish" as The Economist pointed out earlier this year.

All in all, the Romanian government may just have enough leeway to finally reevaluate its no-foreign-adoptions policy, though after EU membership is secured. Until then, the choice between the U.S. Congress and Europe seems pretty simple - there will be little or no change at all before January 2007. In seeking an effective answer, this resolution may have been poorly timed.