Economy Agriculture

Geopolitics : Could Romania be Europe’s breadbasket?

8 January 2013
Adevărul Bucharest

A shepherd with his flock in Râșnov, in front of the Bucegi mountains, around 150km north of Bucharest

A shepherd with his flock in Râșnov, in front of the Bucegi mountains, around 150km north of Bucharest

Against a backdrop of global crisis, the battle for resources is set to escalate in 2013. At a time when the EU is turning to Russia for its energy needs, one of its member states could supply the others with agricultural produce. But for this to happen, Romanians will have to take full advantage of their country’s assets.

This will not be an easy year. The context continues to be marked by a global crisis that has widened longstanding rifts between north and south and east and west, and highlighted the absence of alternative global solutions.

The only solutions that appear to be more or less functional (or at least offer hope for improvement) are those that are implemented on the level of political regions, or within the framework of traditional alliances that are intent on saving what little power they have: a case in point being the European Union and its bid for survival centred on the countries of the eurozone.

One way or another, the first step towards the resolution of the great existential dilemma faced by Europeans is set to emerge in 2013. The EU is dependent on Russia for 60 per cent of its resource needs — a percentage that is likely to increase significantly in the event of a conflict that temporarily blocks access to Middle Eastern resources. It is also dependent on meat and cereal imports from South America, a strategic and still inexpensive supplier, but one that may soon change its behaviour now that Mercosur has assumed the role of a major player in the international market for power.

Russian energy saviour

It is probable that Europe will continue to view Russia as a strategic partner for the solution of its energy problems, and perhaps it will also find a means to take advantage of the African resources market. However, 2013 will be marked by a fierce battle for agricultural raw materials and meat supplies.

All of this could amount to an opportunity for Romania, a country, which, at least in theory, could produce a significant proportion of the agricultural produce needed by Europe. It would be a historic error not to take advantage (as we have persisted in doing over the last five years) of the many arguments that we can put forward in Brussels, and opportunities defined by the Common Agricultural Policy.

I am not only advocating that Romania should be the breadbasket of Europe, but that we should also take advantage of the foreign policy leverage implied by such a role. But perhaps we do not want to do this, in which case, everything will, of course, be a lot simpler. We will stay as we are, and pay the price for doing so.

Agricultural opportunity

While our country has continued to be home to vast tracts of unused land, which have been left to grow weeds for more than a decade.

While we have become increasingly dependent on costly imports in every field of agricultural production, Europeans have been seeking ways to obtain inexpensive and environmentally friendly agricultural produce. And this is exactly what we could provide, and at the right price, if only we had the initiative or the will to promote what we have right now, and invest in a nationwide programme for small farms, supported by a national farm credit bank.

In all likelihood, the field of agricultural production will be the focus of one of the most hard fought battles of 2013. Even more critically, we have the opportunity to be one of the winners in this contest, because Ukraine, which is the other major agricultural bassin, is hampered by severe political problems, and does not benefit, as we do, from the advantage of EU membership.