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Breaking the CMEA hold: Romania in search of a ‘strategy’ towards the European Economic Community, 1958–1974 in European Review of History: Revue européenne d’histoire, Online December 2019, DOI: 10.1080/13507486.2019.1694492, Volume 27, 2020, Issue 4, pp. 494-526.
This article analyses Cold War Romania’s conceptualization of its relations with the European Economic Community (EEC) and its struggle to influence the policy of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) towards the EEC in a way compatible with Bucharest’s interests. Addressing a significant historiographical gap, in a sense, this study investigates the origins of Romania–EU relations. Multi-archival in approach, it argues that the period between 1969 and 1974 represents the formative years of Romania–EEC relations. Exploring the political rationale behind Romania’s attitude towards the Common Market, the article finds that the country’s ‘strategy’ in this respect had three main characteristics: it was pragmatic, active and, to some point, adaptive; drawing heavily from Romania’s previous position, it took shape in the early 1970s; and, although it seemed to focus on the commercial aspects of relations, it reflected a far more complex interaction between the two political and social systems than previously acknowledged.
1. The Communist Crisis in Romania
In 1947 Romania was the last monarchy within the new Soviet sphere of influence. However, on 30 December 1947 King Michael was forced to abdicate. On the same day, the Communists proclaimed the Romanian People’s Republic, and from 1947 to 1989 Romania was under Communist control. From the late 1970s, in many countries of the Eastern bloc, including the USSR, dissident ‘movements’ began to develop – partly as a consequence of the Helsinki Process. During the next decade, two other phenomena, glasnost and perestroika, brought new significant changes to Eastern Europe. However, in this changing socialist world, the Communist regime in Romania remained unreformed. Moreover, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Ceausescu decided to pay Romania’s Western loans and to build a series of colossal and extremely expensive architectural projects, such as the House of the Republic. Consequently, after a few years, Romania faced a dramatic shortage of consumer goods, and, in 1984, large-scale food rationing was reintroduced – after more than twenty years. Thus, during the 1980s, Romania had the lowest standard of living in Europe (Albania excluded), and misery spread across the entire country, since not only food was rationed, but also hot and cold water, electricity and methane gas. Continue reading