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EXCLUSIVE Ian Brzezinski, Senior Fellow Atlantic Council: With a Trump or Biden administration, US military presence in Romania will increase

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Conducted by Dan Cărbunaru and Robert Lupițu

The trajectory of the US – Romania relations it’s becoming very “operational” and, as an ally that has lived up to the expectations and its robust commitments, Romania will have important opportunities with both a Trump or a Biden administration in the White House and we will see a continuity in troops deployment in the region, US national security and foreign policy expert Ian Brzezinski with the Atlantic Council told CaleaEuropeană.ro in an exclusive interview.

Speaking from Washington ahead of the second and last presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden before the elections, Ian Brzezinski described how US’s foreign policy and commitment to the transatlantic link will develop under a second Trump administration or a Biden administration.

This is an important election. And there are two very very different worldviews that are colliding together, that are reflected by President Trump and Vice President Biden. (…) The good news is that Romania has been caring and share 2% of GDP (on defence) and its robust commitments to international operations, including those led by NATO, gives the current president or the next president real license to pursue an internationalist agenda“, Brzezinski said.

A former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO Policy in 2001–2005 when Romania joined the North Atlantic Alliance, Brzezinski praised Romania’s commitment and laid out some advices on how to seize opportunities with a Trump or Biden administration, especially in the context that Romania and the United States will celebrate in 2021 the 10th anniversary of the Joint Declaration for the Strategic Partnership signed in the White House by former Presidents Obama and Băsescu.

If Biden wins, I think when it comes down to the security relationship we will see continuity in terms of force deployments. So, we’re all very aware about the increases that President Trump made to our force posture in North Central Europe. I think those will be sustained and possibly, under Biden administration, augmented. There has been a growing momentum towards increasing our force presence in Romania, perhaps not as dramatically as we’ve seen in Poland, but I think in ways that are operationally and geopolitically significant. I think that momentum would carry into a Biden administration. I certainly hope it will. It will be significantly shaped by how, you know, Romania encouraged and facilitates that kind of cooperation and the role that it plays in NATO”, Brzezinski explained.

He also added that a Biden administration will bring to Europe an agenda that “will actually ask Europe to be doing more within Europe”.

“That will be a burden that will fall heavily on our west European allies and it’ll be a burden that will fall heavily on our central European allies, including Romania”, Brzezinski mentioned.

As for a second Trump administration, Brzezinski explained the opportunities coming out of the transition in power.

A transition from a first Trump administration to the second Trump administration creates opportunity because new faces will come in, plans will be reevaluated and recalibrated, and it creates opportunity to kind of enhance one’s relationship“, he said.

The US national security expert extended his argument, mentioning that “when there’s a transition between two different administrations, a Trump to a Biden administration”, then “the opportunities are even greater”. In this context, he suggested that Romania should take the initiative and leverage its demonstrated commitments.

The way to this kind of leverage and opportunity is through initiative. And here’s where I would go in the security realm, you leverage your new capabilities. For example, the Patriot air defense systems, the HIMARS missiles, not just to enhance Romania security, but the region security”, Brzezinski added.

While pointing out a special interest that a Biden administration will have for Ukraine, the US expert said: “What can Romania do to upgrade its security relationship with Ukraine, that is something that would be noticed by the new team, and something that would probably bring good benefits to the US Romania relationship“.

Furthermore, Ian Brzezinski spoke about US-Romania special partnership based on his experience as an US official in the area of NATO’s enlargement and operations when Romania became a full member of the Alliance.

“Romania has lived up to the expectations and in United States we know that we have a member state spending two point or 2% of its GDP on defense. It’s thinking constructively and actively acting proactively in the Black Sea region on its forces have deployed on allied multilateral including US led missions around the world.  The experience I had with Romanian forces in Afghanistan was really really a profound one for me, because they were in areas of real risk, and the courage of those soldiers is something I will not forget, I would say”, stated Brzezinski.

He emphasized the recent visits in Washington by Romania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Defense and Minister of Economy, underlining that “those meetings underscored the growth of the US – Romanian economic relationship, the deepening of the US – Romanian military relationship and increased role that US-Romanian relationship is playing in regional cooperations, for example, through the Three Seas Initiative in Central and Eastern Europe”.

The track of the trajectory of US-Romanian relations has been very very positive. It’s becoming, it’s not just rhetorical and symbolic, it’s actually very operational“, he also said.

Given that Romania and the new US administration, led either by Donald Trump or Joe Biden, will celebrate next year the tenth anniversary of the Joint Statement of the Strategic Partnership, Ian Brzezinski named a few opportunities for 2021: the gas and energy opportunities in the Black Sea, the increase of US military presence in Romania and in the region to deter Russia’s provocative actions, US investments in the Three Seas Initiative Fund co-sponsored by Romania and Poland and technological cooperation under the 5G Memorandum of Understanding.

“The 10 years anniversary provides an opportunity to kind of add additional energy and vigour into the strategic partnership that we have”, he also said.

Ian Brzezinski (born December 23, 1963) is an American foreign policy and military affairs expert. He is a Resident Senior Fellow, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, The Atlantic Council, United States of America. He is also Senior Fellow in the International Security Program and is on the Council’s Strategic Advisors Group (SAG). He brings to the Council and its International Security Program over two decades of experience in U.S. national security matters having served in senior policy positions in the Department of Defense and the U.S. Congress.

Mr. Brzezinski served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO Policy in 2001–2005, under President George W. Bush. His responsibilities included NATO expansion, Alliance force planning and transformation and NATO operations in the Balkans, the Mediterranean, Afghanistan and Iraq. Key highlights of his tenure include the expansion of NATO membership in 2004, the consolidation and reconfiguration of the Alliance’s command structure, the standing up of the NATO Response Force and the coordination of European military contributions to U.S. and NATO-led operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans.

Among several honors awarded for his public service, Mr. Brzezinski has received the Romanian Medal for National Service, Order of Commander.

Robert Lupițu este redactor-șef, specialist în relații internaționale, jurnalist în afaceri europene și NATO. Robert este laureat al concursului ”Reporter și Blogger European” la categoria Editorial și co-autor al volumelor ”România transatlantică” și ”100 de pași pentru o cetățenie europeană activă”. Face parte din Global Shapers Community, o inițiativă World Economic Forum, și este Young Strategic Leader în cadrul inițiativelor The Aspen Institute. Din 2019, Robert este membru al programului #TT27 Leadership Academy organizat de European Political Strategy Center, think tank-ul Comisiei Europene.

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Op-ed | President of the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change at the European Economic and Social Committee: Without critical raw materials resilience, there will be no green or digital industrial revolution

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Opinion by  Pietro Francesco De Lotto, President of the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change at the European Economic and Social Committee

Whether we are talking about a fourth, fifth, or even sixth industrial revolution, we often see public debate take place. Despite the different views on the issue, one thing we can say with certainty is that our industry is undergoing a profound revolution, which comprises a twin challenge: becoming greener and more circular, as well as going through a digital transformation. It is a revolution that is driven by several factors: our commitments under the Paris Agreement, the pursuit of global competitiveness, the need to adapt labour markets, consumer sensitivity and, last but not least, public opinion.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals and the fight against climate change are clearly essential pillars of the EU’s action, and we need to ensure that they are perceived and experienced more and more as an opportunity rather than a burden by all parts of society and industry. The European Green Deal, the Circular Economy Action Plan, the recently updated New Industrial Strategy for Europe, the Fit for 55 package presented in July, and the related activities and legislation are essential tools to transform public debates into an everyday reality, everywhere in Europe, leaving no one behind in this collective effort.

Raw materials, and especially critical raw materials, are at the core of this process. Digitalising and greening EU industries and society require technologies that depend on raw materials. Wind power, for instance, comes from turbines that contain, among other materials, rare earth elements. The EU relies almost 100% on China to supply such elements. Similar scenarios exist for many technologies that are essential to the green and digital transition, from batteries to photovoltaics, from robotics to fuel cells. The EU Critical Raw Materials Action Plan and the Updated Industrial Strategy identify 30 materials and 137 products respectively that are essential for our industry and society and on which the EU is highly dependent.

These are worrying figures, but they also provide a necessary reality check. The past few months have brought these dependencies to the public’s attention even more clearly, as the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the need for EU industry and society overall to become more resilient and strategically autonomous, especially in areas such as vaccines, medicines and medical devices. The time to act on these critical factors is therefore ripe, and we must make use of all instruments to address our dependencies with a strategic vision.

The Commission’s Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials, on which the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) recently published its opinion CCMI 177, is a good instrument that combines measures to fix current shortcomings with actions to mitigate possible future problems. The EESC believes that the actions envisaged by the European Commission are essential if we are to maintain and strengthen the EU’s industrial base. This is a very important first point: for too long, we have left this issue up to the free market and industry, hoping that it would regulate itself. We must however now acknowledge that, as much as companies should be free to build their supply chains, we need to secure some parts of these chains that we deem of strategic importance to the European Union.

More specifically, the EU needs support instruments for sustainable primary sourcing in Europe. Financial instruments for sustainable projects, as well as streamlined authorisation processes are needed, as is the greater involvement of and public acceptance by citizens and local communities. This is also very much linked to the need to maintain extractive and processing capacities in the EU. We need to support workers and regions through better training and a deeper link with higher and vocational education, including investment in training and retraining workers, and in the teaching of specialist disciplines such as geology, metallurgy and mining, even at undergraduate level.

At the same time, and this is the second point, we need to invest in activities that can foster substitution; something that will only be possible with significant, constant investment in R&D programmes to discover new materials and processes for ensuring justified substitution.

Together with primary sourcing and substitution, the third key element is that of circular reuse and secondary sourcing from waste. To do this, we need to invest in research and development, but we also need to carefully assess the waste we ship outside Europe, while at the same time mapping – as soon as possible – the potential supply of secondary critical raw materials from EU stocks and waste.

As for the external dimension, the EU needs to diversify its trading relations, while supporting developing countries. These two objectives go hand in hand, as our efforts should be aimed at forging strategic partnerships with like-minded nations in a multilateral framework, which can both help avoid supply disruptions for EU industry and contribute to the well-being and development of developing third countries. In this regard, there are three very specific elements to be underlined: the mutual advantages of integrating the Western Balkans countries into the EU supply chain; the urgent need for an increased role for the Euro in critical raw materials trading and the need to take greater account of the ethical dimension when drawing up Europe’s critical raw materials list.

Overall, we want to see EU industry flourish in a green and digital way, but we do not want to see our industry and society shift from one dependency (for instance on certain fossil fuels) to another full reliance on certain critical raw materials. To avoid this, and to ensure that the green and digital transitions increase resilience, competitiveness and social justice, we need to invest in research and development, sustainable domestic mining exploration, recovering valuable materials from waste, training and retraining a skilled workforce and creating a multilateral level playing field. This is essential in order to ensure that the green and digital revolutions are successful and benefit EU industry and society as a whole, and do not leave any worker, region and country of the world behind.

Pietro Francesco De Lotto

President of the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change at the European Economic and Social Committee

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MEP Vasile Blaga: Romania has fulfilled for 11 years all the Schengen requirements and our acceptance is still delayed

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MEP Vasile Blaga, member of the Committee on Civil Liberties of the European Parliament, took the floor during today’s reunion of the LIBE Committee, June 15, and with this occasion touched, during his intervention, upon a “political aspect” throughout the debate on CMV.

“This political aspect refers to the integration of Romania in the Schengen area and the connection between CMV and the postponement of our entry into Schengen. I was the Minister of Internal Affairs who dealt with the removal of the safeguard clause and securing the frontiers regarding Romania’s adherence to the EU”, mention the MEP during the reunion.

Moreover, the liberal MEP pointed out that Romania administers almost 2000 kilometres of EU borders and has fulfilled for 11 years all the Schengen criteria: “nevertheless, Romania’s admission is delayed without openly specifying why. Of course, it was denied on multiple occasions that the integration in the Schengen area would be related to the criticism from the CVM reports. However, reality contradicts this. I believe that the postponement of a decision regarding Romania’s admission to Schengen is an unfair treatment which the European Union applies to my country”, he added.

“I would like to express my hope that the finalization of the CVM for Romania will remove any obstacle, declared or undeclared, to Romania’s integration into Schengen”, concluded Vasile Blaga.

The entire intervention of the MEP can be followed here.

The European Parliament adopted on July 8, with 505 votes for, 134 against and 54 abstentions, the annual report regarding the functioning of the Schengen area which claims, again, that Romania and Bulgaria have to be integrated with full rights into Schengen, while a specifying that Croatia meets all the technical requirements as well.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: The Romanian Government, determined to finalize all the necessary reforms for the suspension of the CVM

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© Vasile Blaga/Facebook

MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) participated today, July 15, at the reunion of the Committee on Civil Liberties of the European Parliament and specified Romania’s direction following the last CVM report.

“The last CVM report for Romania clearly shows that in Bucharest exists political volition the effective implementation of the last steps towards reforms which will lead to the suspension of this mechanism for Romania. During the 14 years of evaluation, we found ourselves in the thankless position of repairing the inherited matters from the previous governments, the case being the same today. The last CVM report puts forward Romania’s positive progress from the last 2 years. I emphasize the fact that in Bucharest we have a governmental coalition determined to finalize all necessary reforms”, explained Vasile Blagato his colleagues.

Moreover, the liberal MEP notes that Romania still campaigns for averting the double evaluation regarding the Mechanism of the rule of law: “I want to point out the fact that there is a true expectancy for the finalization of the Mechanism for cooperation and its verification and evaluation based on the same criteria applied to all member states, meaning through the Mechanism regarding the rule of law. Romania still pleads for the prevention of this double evaluation.”

The entire intervention of the MEP can be seen here.

The European Commission adopted on June 8 its most recent report regarding the evolution of the situation in Romania concerning the reforms of the judicial system and fight against corruption, in the context of the responsibilities assumed within the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), noting that Romania registered developments regarding all the recommendations of the CVM and that the fulfillment of all recommendations is essential for the closure of this mechanism.

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