Statement from the Prize Committee
This year’s prize goes to Cristina Onose, a Master’s degree student in European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Toronto, for her essay entitled “EU Funding for Romanian SMEs: A blueprint for bankruptcy?”
The essay addresses several questions about the effectiveness and implementation of two European Union regional funding programs aimed at supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with particular attention to the case of Romania. The author argues that weaknesses in the programs’ design and accessibility have undermined their impact in Romania, at times even contributing to the failure of SMEs that the programs are intended to support.
The committee chose the essay because it was well-written, with detailed and convincing support from a number of sources, including original data from interviews. The essay also did a good job of explaining the issues involved and contextualizing the conclusions within both Romania and the broader EU. The author showed how the lack of clear implementation guidelines at the EU level and inefficient implementation in Romania has made selection of recipients and distributions of funds slow, uneven, and unreliable for many applicants. In sum, the essay was both highly original and well-written. On behalf of the Society for Romanian Studies, the committee congratulates Ms. Onose.
Abstract of "EU Funding for Romanian SMEs: A Blueprint for Bankruptcy?"
The EU’s Regional Policy - also known as Cohesion Policy – provides financial aid to its 27 member states. Its most important funding programmes are the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund, known collectively as the Structural Funds. Their purpose is to reduce the significant economic and social disparities that still exist between Europe’s regions. The prime beneficiaries of these funds are the new member states, the 12 countries that have joined since 2004. This affirmative action, as some might call it, occurs since their regions’ GDP represents less than 75 percent of the EU average. Romania, a new member since 2007, is one of the countries receiving this generous financial support from Brussels for regional development. Yet, six out of the eight Romanian regions are among the poorest in the EU. Even more worrisome, this paper unveils that economic differences between Romania’s regions have actually increased in recent years. It is also uncovered here that a correlation exists between the level of economic development and the number of SMEs operating in a particular region. In response to this observation, it is argued that a sound financial support system for SMEs is needed. By highlighting some of the weaknesses and inefficiencies of the Regional Policy system in Romania, it will be revealed why access to the EU Structural Funds by Romanian SMEs is so difficult, leaving many of them on the brink of financial collapse.
About the Winner
Throughout her academic career, Ms. Onose has received numerous awards including two entrance scholarships and the prestigious SSHRC Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Student Scholarship. While completing her Master’s degree, she has also worked as a Teaching Assistant, has conducted research for the G8 Research Group and was the Vice-President of the Graduate Students’ Union.
Aside from her academic achievements, Ms. Onose’s professional life has also been extensive. She has worked for the Ontario provincial government and has completed internships at the Romanian Consulate in Toronto, as well as an NGO in Brussels, Belgium. Ms. Onose is the founder of the Romanian-Canadian Club of Toronto and co-chair of the annual fundraising event for the Brain Injury Association of Canada.
In addition to English and Romanian, she is also fluent in French and Spanish and speaks basic Italian and German.