I am hopeful now that Cameron has had a positive experience in Europe that he can rally another coalition on this topic and alter existing agreements.
A Bulgarian friend once told me he felt their country wasn’t ready to join the EU when it did. That the prospect of membership is what pushed reforms. That once they’d be in, the political classes would relax and revert to their previous behaviour. For both Bulgaria and Romania that seems to have happened. Across the board these countries do not fulfill their obligations as EU members especially where civil liberties and human rights are concerned. Neither does Hungary for that matter which may also be an item that needs to be addressed.
A new coalition could alter existing agreements and insist that free travel for a citizen is contingent upon basic rights and obligations proclaimed in the European Charter being honoured in his or her member state. That would be good for Romania and Bulgaria. A responsible state sets the example to its citizens. Many Romanians and Bulgarians expect other EU countries to be just as corrupt as their own and, without setting examples, such impressions will remain with very negative consequences as a result. Romanians in Italy and France for example face growing xenophobia and racism as a result of perceptions fed by crime statistics. Claude Guéant, interior minister to Sarkozy claimed in 2011 that 80% of street robberies in Paris were carried out by Romanian minors. Politicians must act on such data.
Like with the new EU budget Cameron will find that sufficient countries share these British worries, a new ad hoc coalition could make a difference here. Brussels may pretend existing agreements can’t be changed but the reality is that they and their interpretations are changed all the time.
Cameron may yet start to enjoy Europe and gain huge political capital in pushing things towards the British perspective. Which after all the europhobe polish is brushed off remains eminently sensible.