Romanian foreign policy priorities for 2013. What did President Băsescu say about Romania’s adhesion to Schengen

traian basescuRomanian President, received Monday, 21st of January, at the Presidential Palace, the heads of diplomatic missions accredited in Romania.

We present the  speech held by the President on this occasion:

Your Excellency Apostolic Nuncio,
Ladies and Gentlemen Heads of Mission,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by thanking you for your greetings on the New Year. Allow me to wish you, the Heads of State that you represent, and your peoples a better 2013 than the year that has just ended, prosperity, security and better hope for the coming years.

For Romania, 2012 was a complex and politically turbulent year. The events in July-August caused a major step back in complying with the standards in the field of justice, the rule of law and supremacy of law in Romania, as well as in abiding by the international commitments, first and foremost by Romania`s European Union Accession Treaty.

The end of 2012 brought a new political equation in the Parliament in Bucharest, marking a solid power and a weak opposition, a guarantee for fulfilling the program of the current power, an opportunity to continue Romania`s modernization reforms, as well as fears about delivering on our commitments in this field. Therefore, rebuilding the trust of the partner states in Romania`s capability to be a rule of law state, consistent with implementing the laws and predictable in the outcome of applying them becomes the Government`s main task in the EU this year. We need to become predictable again in our activities, a feature that only a stable institutional system can guarantee. We need to prove that the anti-corruption fight is a constant feature and that both the Government and the new parliamentary majority continue to have the same approach in this field.

Almost eight years have passed since Romania joined NATO and six years since we have become an EU Member State. However, we cannot say that we have managed to make the best use of all the political, economic and security benefits stemming from our membership in the two aforesaid organizations. Therefore, we are duty bound to plan to recover the setbacks building on the existing experience and bases, while also assuming new projects. The Danube Strategy and Romania`s constellation of strategic partnerships are projects that we consider priority security solutions and solutions for economic jumpstart, for the creation of jobs and therefore for the prosperity of the Romanians.

The 21st Century Strategic Partnership with the US is the trans-Atlantic part of the Romanian foreign policy and our country`s most important partnership of global outreach. This partnership, which has reached its highest level of consistency, should enter a new phase in which the excellent cooperation in the political-military and security fields needs to be completed with a positive dynamics in economic cooperation on the social, cultural and people-to-people levels. As regards our bilateral relations, we will finalize the legal framework that regulates Romania`s participation in the US anti-missile defense system in Europe, by signing all the Arrangements for the Implementation of the Romania – US Anti-Missile Defense Agreement. Expanding the economic cooperation and attracting new American investments in Romania will be priorities. We will be active in creating the necessary conditions to see Romania accepted in the Visa Waiver program, as new legislation in this field is promoted and adopted in the US. Within the EU, Romania will support the enlargement and deepening of the EU – US partnership.

Our NATO membership remains a pillar of our foreign and security policy. Romania will continue to lend support to the Allied training and assistance efforts in Afghanistan, even after 2014. We will actively support the development of NATO`s anti-missile defense system, after its interim capability was declared at the Chicago Summit. We want to make a full contribution to implementing the Alliance`s New Strategic Concept adopted in Lisbon by supporting NATO`s three core missions, namely: the defense of the territory, the contribution to preventing and managing conflicts, and the implementation of the smart defense concept, particularly by promoting NATO`s partnership policy. We will support NATO`s continuing open door policy, as well as the active engagement in promoting responses to the new security threats of the 21st century such as the fight against terrorism, cyber-defense and energy security.

Allow me to add here a parenthesis that needs to be underlined. We have all seen these days that terrorism is at the southern border of the European Union. The events in Algeria have confirmed, once more, that strong terrorist groups are able to kill our citizens. And this is where we need to ask ourselves how we can defend our own citizens. We cannot pass over the events in Algeria without asking ourselves this in the most serious way. When people leave with our companies to work abroad, they leave with the feeling that the state will defend them. We have no final assessment yet of what happened in Algeria, but as soon as we have it, we will make a statement. The fact is that our innocent citizens died there. And we do not speak about EU citizens alone; we speak about American and Japanese citizens who went with our companies in Algeria. We do not have the right to pass over this event without giving an answer about what we assume from what happened in Algeria.

And the second parenthesis refers to the previous period, when Romania was subject to an unprecedented cyber attack. I need to tell you that we managed to deal with this attack thanks to our preparation that started three years ago when the Country`s Supreme Defense Council set the protection of Romania`s IT systems as a priority. However, it is clear that hostility, the hunt for information are elements that we should not neglect and that we need to deal with this type of hostile acts and to take the decisions of the NATO Summits in Lisbon, Bucharest, and Chicago seriously.
We will seek to see Romania better represented in the structures of the Alliance and we will continue to advocate the reform of these structures.
As for Romania`s European policy, the actions of the Romanian state in the European Union will focus on the following directions:
– providing the Romanian citizens with full access to the rights enshrined in the Treaties, especially to the free circulation and free settlement rights;
– creating the political conditions to overcome the economic crisis and to put the European economy on a sustainable growth track;
– recovering the trust Europe lost in the stability of the institutions in Romania, particularly in the independence of the judiciary;
– advancing the states in the Western Balkans and the Republic of Moldova on their path towards the EU.

The protracted economic crisis revealed the fact that the Member States have a poor capacity to muster their political will in order to find bold solutions that would reflect the principle of “exceptional solutions to exceptional actions”. In its turn, this common will, hampered by national interests, has caused a deep confidence crisis, a genuine rift between the European citizens and the integration processes. In many European countries we can see nationalistic political platforms, if not even Euro-skeptic platforms, winning votes, which can lead to trends – which we already see – of a flare-up of populism.

It is not the time for us to take small steps, but rather big ones that should reflect the size of the difficulties we are faced with. We have already started to make those big steps, for instance with the Treaty on the Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union. It is not too early for us in Europe to start considering other ambitious political solutions that could lead to changes in the current EU Treaties.

We firmly believe that we can only safeguard the key goals of the European construction – namely guaranteeing – for the older Member States – and achieving – for the newer Members – the level of security and prosperity that the European integration processes sought from the very beginning, by a new political approach in the Union on the unprecedented challenges that continue to undermine our economies.

The political gridlocks that now hamper achieving a larger consensus on economic policies can be overcome by a common effort meant to increase the citizens` confidence in the solution of the European institutions and certainly by granting the citizens back an attribute – the original attribute of being political generator. Now more than ever we need to see the citizen not necessarily as the beneficiary of some rights but a creator of rights of general interest.

Amid political, economic, social, and trust-related challenges facing us, future should imply continuation of integration and the qualitative consolidation of the EU. A more integrated Union and, therefore, a stronger EU means a more comprehensive and better functional domestic market. We know very well that the domestic market is one of the most important competitive advantages of the EU. The domestic market is the essential instrument for ensuring economic growth and, implicitly, the citizens` welfare.

At the same time, a European area with no border controls – or with no borders at all – is not yet created because of political reasons that some Member States continue to claim in a bid to block the access of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen Area. I avail myself of this opportunity to address the ambassadors of the Member States to make a renewed appeal for your governments to return to a technical approach of this file: Romania has proven to meet all the criteria related to the obligation to defend the EU border. Romania believes that it has met its obligation from the Accession Treaty. 

The year 2013 is also the last year from the current budgetary perspective. We all know – and the Irish Presidency of the Council reflects it in its program of priorities – that the essential stake this year is to agree on the set of laws about the future Multiannual Financial Framework.

The Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 must be genuinely adjusted to the growth and employment agenda reflected in the Europe 2020 Strategy, to be able to consolidate our states` investment capacity. For us, it is essential to ensure fair financing for the cohesion policy and the common agricultural policy. Obviously, Europe needs sufficient budget for strengthening its competitiveness worldwide and for being consistent with its own ambitions. However, this cannot be achieved by perpetrating the disparities between regions and states or the existing major gaps between the incomes of farmers in different countries.

European competitiveness is directly influenced by the speed with which competitiveness and development gaps in the EU are covered. And this is the very stance we will support in the second part of the negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 at the European Council due on 7 and 8 February.

Current debates on the Economic and Monetary Union will change the configuration of the EU. In addition, they anticipate changes in the Treaties (maybe for a perspective closer than some Member States would like it to be). Although it will not happen immediately, I want to mention it in order to express the conviction that the Union needs a new medium-to-long run paradigm of organizing itself and functioning, through which the political union of the Member States should be the main generator of our decisions.

To us, it is very important for the process of consolidating the eurozone to be conducted by taking into consideration the interests of the states with temporary derogation from the euro. We do not wish to create a second-category club in the Union, a club of the non-eurozone states. Last but not least, I wish to convey my sincere congratulations to Croatia on its EU accession, and to hail from the bottom of my heart the fact that it will join us in early July 2013.

Romania has developed a system of strategic partnerships in her efforts to consolidate her security and develop her economic ties. The partnerships are structured on three dimensions, in the context of political, security, economic, energy, cultural, and academic cooperation. Periodical consultations on third topics of common interest strengthen these relations. Besides the Strategic Partnership with the United States that I have already talked about, I would like to mention the Strategic Partnership with Poland, already with excellent results, which will continue to be strengthened, based on the convergent interests of our two countries within the EU, NATO, and the Eastern Neighborhood.

Thus, it is important to enforce all the stipulations agreed upon in the Action Plan of the Romanian-Polish Partnership, at the level of excellent cooperation in the military policies and in European files. We shall pay enhanced attention to our relations with Turkey in order to implement the bilateral strategic partnerships by signing and enforcing the Action Plan. And we shall do so relying on shared democratic values, common interests within NATO, the need to turn the Black Sea region into an area of democratic prosperity, stability and security, and on Romania`s firm support for Turkey to become a EU member.

Also, we need to continue to take action to make fully operational the informal trilateral format created by Romania with Poland and Turkey in 2012.

We intend to make larger effort so that the Partnership with Great Britain became more meaningful in the economic field, as well as through joint actions in the EU`s Eastern Neighborhood. At the same time, the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the relevant Romanian authorities must make continuous efforts in order to ensure actively, along with the British authorities, that the rights of the Romanian citizens in the UK, who are European citizens, are not affected and that the relevant European norms are observed. From my position, I assure the British authorities and those concerned that the Romanians will not invade Great Britain. Romania is a very beautiful country.

In its relations with states in the South Caucasus and Central Asia, Romania will seek to maintain and consolidate the upward trend in Romania`s political dialogue in the region:

Our strategic partnership with Azerbaijan will continue to be promoted as a priority, so that decisive steps are taken in the cases of Nabucco and AGRI, and so that the freight transport corridor between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea is achieved together with Turkmenistan and Georgia. Romania must make efforts to support the construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. Romania will continue to support Georgia`s European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

Romania`s relation with Israel has a special strategic dimension in several fields: security, politics, a dimension that will be further expanded, including in the fields of economy and technology. We will make the best use of the special relations with the community of Israeli citizens of Romanian origin, as a privileged bridge between the two countries.

Enhanced attention – both politically and economically – will be given to our strategic relations with Germany, starting from these solid grounds of the economic relations and close stances on most of the main European files, which remain topical. Moreover, the strategic partnership with France must be deepened, based on the common interests of our two states within the EU. Thus, a new Road Map of the Strategic Partnership must be agreed upon – it should not be strictly limited to the repatriation of the Romanians from Paris and from the French territory – and implemented, especially in economy. Besides, enhanced convergence in the European files must be reached.

The consolidated partnership with Italy, which is at a special level of excellence, will be further harnessed, based on the very good economic and political relations.

We shall continue to enhance the solid relations with Spain, but also with our neighbors, Hungary and Bulgaria.

Romania will seek to capitalize on the strategic partnership with Canada, which can strengthen the Trans – Atlantic tie as essential drive of Romania`s foreign policy. An important goal in our relations with Canada (beside that of enhancing our economic relations and cooperation within NATO) will be to waive visas for the Romanian citizens.

Strategically and from the viewpoint of security interests, Romania`s level of ambition aims at three main neighboring zones: the wider Black Sea Region, the Western Balkans, and the Middle East and North Africa. I can stress that from this viewpoint, Romania has had traditional relations with the states in these three regions I have mentioned before.

The Wider Black Sea region is a traditional zone of interest and regional cooperation in which Romania was a pioneer. The strategic, political, and security importance of the Black Sea Region is also underlined by the fact that it is a sea at the border of the EU and NATO, an area of confluence and convergence, an area of transit towards hotbeds of instability in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The competitive nature of the economy decisively depends on supplying the energy needs. This is revealed by the priority given to this topic in the agenda of the European Union, both in terms of the objective to increase the percentage of renewable resources in the energy mix or growing energy efficiency, and in diversifying the sources and routes for the transport of hydrocarbons.

Romania can contribute to developing and enforcing an effective energy security policy, taking into account only the fact that through our geographic position we can ensure the best route for transporting natural gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe. We have developed excellent bilateral relations with all the supplier states in Central Asia. We want to harness these relations from the energy security viewpoint for the benefit of the entire European area.

However, harnessing the Caspian energy resources to their maximum potential depends on a genuinely common EU approach of the relations with the supplier states. As for us, we keep our engagements for the Nabucco project, and we will take action for the building of the AGRI interconnector project.
The idea of transport corridors also supports the idea that we have just launched, regarding a direct link between the Black Sea and the North Sea, through the river path between the Danube, Main and Rhine, which cannot be fully exploited economically because different navigation regimes, specific to the Danube and Rhine rivers are still in place.

The EU`s Strategy for the Danube could become the framework of coordination between the concerned Member States in order to forge the political agreement we need to unify the navigation regimes and integrate Europe`s most important river route in its economic circuit. Aware of the strategic importance of a single river route between the Black Sea and the North Sea, in 2013, Romania will resume the efforts to make this target a priority of the EU.

The Republic of Moldova has proven to be the partner with the most remarkable performance in the Eastern Partnership, which encourages us to firmly believe in its European future. The important path it has followed in the past few years in terms of its inclusion in the EU processes must be harnessed by maintaining the pace of reforms so that soon a clear prospect for EU accession is secured.

We will continue to support the granting of this clear prospect for the Republic of Moldova, including through our support for enhanced dynamics of the negotiations on the Association Agreement, the Comprehensive and Deepened Free Trade Agreement and visa liberalization. I hope the Republic of Moldova will manage to finalize the negotiations on the Agreement of Association to the EU in summer this year, so that the document is signed at the Vilnius Summit of the Eastern Partnership.

I hope that 2013 will bring fresh dynamics in normalizing the relations with the Russian Federation, on the already set positive coordinates of our economic collaboration. I am convinced that we can find points of convergence that can allow for a pragmatic and transparent dialogue, even though the shadow of distrust in the other side is present both in Bucharest and in Moscow. I am convinced that a solution in the Transnistria issue that can include keeping the territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova and the full respect of international norms is the key to an open political relation between Moscow and Bucharest.

We will further support Ukraine`s European aspirations amid implementation of the European standards by the Kiev authorities and amid stimulations for political, social, and economic reforms. We hope 2013 will bring significant progress by Ukraine in terms of the topics on our bilateral political agenda. To an equal extent, we wish Ukraine every success in exercising the incumbent presidency of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

We wish that in both the Western Balkans and our Eastern neighborhood we have a democratic area of prosperity, security and predictability. Consequently, we will continue to actively support European efforts in this direction and we will further seek to strengthen bilateral cooperation with the neighboring states. Concretely, we continue to support, as a position of principle, the open door policy, namely NATO`s enlargement to the Western Balkans and in our Eastern neighborhood, as well as the EU`s further enlargement, while observing accession criteria.

In this context, I wish to hail the progress made by Serbia in 2012 by becoming an EU candidate country. This is an encouraging sign that Serbia fully deserves. As for us, while maintaining our political support for Serbia fast becoming EU fully fledged member, we keep our attention to the way in which the rights of people of national minorities are observed.

To Romania, the settlement of equal access to mother tongue for all the Romanian ethnics groups – freely self-identified – will remain a priority in our relations with Serbia and the other states in the region. To us, it is still essential to enforce the Protocol of the Second Session of the Joint Inter-Government Commission between Romania and the Republic of Serbia on national minorities.

We still have a lot to do about defending and promoting the rights of people of Romanian minorities living in states neighboring Romania and of the important Romanian communities in other European states. Besides, we have assumed responsibilities for the Romanians living all over the world and for our citizens, wherever they are, work and live, but who keep their Romanian identity and their spiritual link with their country of origin.

The economic diplomacy will have to focus ever more on the possibilities to promote the Romanian investments, the Romanian inventions and ideas that could be valorised on third markets. The effort to ensure the prosperity of the Romanian citizens depends on economic growth and the creation of jobs, but also on an effort to identify this rich resource, which is insufficiently harnessed, of the Romanian mind, inventiveness, and entrepreneurship. In the upcoming period, we must concentrate additional diplomatic resources in order to attain the strategic goals of consolidated cooperation with countries on other continents towards which Romania`s economic goals can be oriented. I include here China, Japan, India and South Korea, but also other already traditional partners in the Far East, Africa, the Middle East, South America, and South-East Asia. They will be landmarks for Romania`s economic diplomacy.

I believe we have a lot to learn, especially from our major European partners, about consolidating the economic dimension of diplomacy in order to foster economic cooperation, attract foreign investment and promote the Romanian products and companies on the foreign markets.

I am confident that I shall find in you, ambassadors, Romania`s closest collaborators in building closer ties with the countries you graciously represent in Bucharest.

To conclude, please allow me to convey to you – to you and to your families – my warmest wishes of good health and happiness for the New Year, and as many achievements as possible in your professional and personal lives. I wish you every success in the activity you conduct, to the benefit of both the countries you honourably represent and Romania. Thank you! But before we go on to the next activity on the schedule, apart from my initial speech, I have one more food for thought for us all. It is food for thought because we have not answered this question yet: a question that I have been asking myself lately and that I am asking you now, although I do not expect an answer right away. But the big question is: what do we replace the North African, the Middle East dictatorships with? We keep on arguing that these states should live in freedom and democracy. But a question arises: do we always know what we put instead of these dictatorships? Because we already have got some bad omens that we are replacing something bad with something very bad. Al-Qaeda is at our borders, at our southern borders, and we have seen it now again in Algeria, we see this in other countries as well. Of course, this is a talk with the diplomats and I am not expecting an answer today. But I think this is food for thought. Because we should always support the democratic evolution, but the problem is: do we control the process until a democracy is in place in those countries or do we support the process until the dictator is overthrown and after that we have no control whatsoever on what follows next? It is a question I have been pondering on for several months now, although I have been a keen champion of supporting the emancipation movements against dictatorships, we have not been so successful at putting something in their stead.”


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