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17th Sep 2021

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

  • Cathedral in Iasi, the largest historic Orthodox church in Romania (Photo: Wikimedia)

Priests are to be assigned to help inform Romanian citizens about entering the eurozone, according to a National Plan to Adopt the Euro Currency prepared by the government in Bucharest in the autumn and last week released to the public.

This religious-political communication strategy will begin some 12 months prior to the official joining of the single currency date set by the Romanian government for 2024.

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  • 'We are taking on the task of replacing the current national currency with the euro by 2024,' says Romania's prime minister, Viorica Dancila, (Photo: European Commission)

Since it became a member of the EU 12 years ago, in 2007, Romania has moved back and forth on various phases of the accession process, outlining plans and setting numerous deadlines for joining the eurozone.

Yet the most recent convergence report of the EU concludes that Romania is currently the least-prepared EU member state for adopting the euro - despite the government's plans to do so in the next five years, and the decision to use the clergy in its communication efforts.

In fact, it is not the first time the government has turned to the Romanian church in hope of reaching a wider audience.

Previously, the Romanian ministry of agriculture resorted to a similar tactic on two separate occasions in order to convince farmers to join agricultural cooperatives and apply for European funding.

The church is well-regarded in the countryside, with over 80 percent of Romania's rural population maintaining a high level of trust in the clergy.

Information-scarcity also empowers priests to act as opinion leaders for a vast number of citizens in the region.

"Priests are great communicators in rural areas of Romania. They are considered educated, trustworthy and far more dependable than any local political figure", Radu Umbres, anthropology lecturer at the National School for Political Science and Administration, told EUobserver.

The Romania government is hoping that priests will be particularly important in reaching particular groups, such as retirees, the unemployed and national minorities.

The information campaign aims to "ensure a smooth and balanced transition to the new currency and to offer a clear perception of the benefits and costs of the process", according to the government's strategy.

Romania's prime minister, Viorica Dancila, has announced she will soon send the European Commission a plan detailing how the country will make the switch to the single currency.

"We are taking on the task of replacing the current national currency with the euro by 2024," she said, following a weekly cabinet meeting on 30 January.

"Joining the eurozone is a complex objective that requires a thorough approach carefully planned out by specialist, political groups, civil society and all the parties involved in the process," Dancila said.

One-in-four

Romania is required by EU accession agreements to adopt the euro as soon as the country fulfils all of the four Maastricht treaty convergence criteria: price stability, soundness and sustainability of public finances, exchange rate stability and long-term interest rates.

The European Commission's representation in Romania said that the country barely meets one of the four accession criteria, namely the one referring to public finances.

Another hurdle is that the Romania leu currency is not yet part of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, which is required for a minimum of two years in order to qualify for euro adoption.

Furthermore, it appears that recent governmental policies are straying away from this objective, with 2024 regarded by economists as an unrealistic deadline for Romania to adopt the euro.

"Following the economic crisis, Romania began to address its macroeconomic imbalances. Two years ago, the country met three of the four requirements needed to adopt the euro," Alexandra Pele, business specialist and coordinating financial editor for Cronicile newspaper told EUobserver.

"Now, it only fullfils a single convergence criteria," she said. "The gains made in previous years have been lost due to bad fiscal and budgetary governmental policies."

But the government insists the switch over will go ahead as planned.

Besides priests, the authorities plan to involve mayors, teachers, police officers, postal officers and even retailers to help spread the word about the implications of adopting the euro.

Authorities are expected to provide details about the design of the euro notes and coins, the conversion rate, the adoption calendar and ways to exchange the currency.

The fiscal impact and the dual signalling of prices will be also be part of this upcoming information campaign.

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