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INTERVIEW German Ambassador to Bucharest: Romania is at the “finish line” on Schengen accession; The lesson we have to learn the hard way is that we cannot trust Russia

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The lesson Europeans need to learn more than three decades after the peaceful reunification of Germany is that we cannot trust Russia, a lesson that needs to be learned “the hard way”, as Moscow is not a reliable energy supplier and is not a reliable political actor, German Ambassador to Bucharest Peer Gebauer said in an interview for CaleaEuropeană.ro on the occasion of the 32nd anniversary of the reunification of Germany and the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Friendly Cooperation and Partnership in Europe between Germany and Romania, marked this year in the context of the Russian war against Ukraine at the EU and NATO borders.

During the dialogue, the German diplomat expressed optimism that Romania is at the “finish line” regarding Schengen accession and that EU member states could vote in favour of this wish by the end of this year. Furthermore, Peer Gebauer confessed that German companies in Romania complain about waiting times at the borders for their trucks because Romania is in Schengen, and said he wished Romania had been part of the free movement area from the beginning of the year, given the support provided to Ukraine.

The German ambassador to Romania spoke in this interview about lessons learned and less learned in Berlin and in European capitals about Russia, about the intensification of cooperation between Germany and Romania in the economic, cultural and security policy spheres, about the right of each EU state to determine its own energy mix, but also about the importance of EU enlargement in order not to leave a vacuum in the great European political family for others to fill, considering that NATO Alliance ensures that no one dares attack us in any way.

 

The lesson we must learn, the hard way, is that Russia cannot be trusted. Russia represents everything we despise

CaleaEuropeană.ro: Your Excellency, 32 years ago today, the reunification of Germany became a reality after almost half a century, when Germans in the east were separated from their fellow country men and women in the West because of the “spheres of influence” logic. Today, we celebrate the German Unity Day, a moment of peace, reconciliation and respect for democracy at a time of war caused by Russia in Ukraine, at EU’s and NATO’s borders. What are the lessons that we have and have not learned in the last three decades?

Dr. Peer Gebauer: German Reunification Day, the Day of German unity is indeed a cause of joy for us. As you’ve rightly pointed out, it was a peaceful unification and we are proud today to have achieved this in peace and unity – not only for Germany, but for all of Europe. We are more united than ever in our history. And when it comes to the lessons learned or not learned, I think these last 30 years have shown us, first of all, wonderful developments within Europe as I’ve pointed out. Unity is a great achievement and one key lesson that we have learned is that we have to work together, that we have to be united in solidarity in order to move forward and to achieve things. And I think the development within Europe has been a very, very positive one. But you’re right, the recent developments, the brutal Russian aggression against Ukraine, raise questions. We had hoped that we would never again see such a war on our continent or in the perimeters of our continent, but now here we are. So there are lessons to be learned. I think one lesson that we all have to learn the hard way right now is that you cannot trust Russia. It’s not a reliable energy supplier, and it’s not a reliable political actor. On the contrary, Russia stands these days for everything that we despise, for breach of international rules, for aggression, for trying to bullying around weaker partners or presumably weaker partners. Of course, Ukraine is proving to be actually much stronger than Russia had hoped for. So these are lessons we have to learn. But again, the main lesson of the last 30 years is that together we are stronger and I think this is what we are showing right now.

German companies don’t come to Romania to make a “quick euro” and then leave again. They come here and stay, they invest in the hearts and minds of the people

CaleaEuropeană.ro: Under these extraordinary circumstances we also mark this year the 30th anniversary of German-Romanian Treaty on Friendly Cooperation and Partnership in Europe. And a lot have happened this year – a joint declaration signed by German and Romanian Ministries of Foreign Affairs, the visit of President Steinmeier in Romania, the joint visit of President Iohannis and Chancellor Scholz with the leaders of France and Italy to Ukraine and the co-initiative of Germany, Romania and France to launch a support platform for the Republic of Moldova. How would you describe the state of bilateral relations and, if there is room for future deepening of our relations, how do you see Germany and Romania working in the future?

Dr. Peer Gebauer: Our bilateral relations are excellent. And I think it’s fair to say they’ve never been better in the past. We are connected politically, economically, culturally in many aspects. Politically, as partners in the EU as allies in NATO, we rely on each other and we benefit from one another. We can see this in the current crisis, obviously, where Germany and Romania are very directly liaising and cooperating in so many fields. You’ve mentioned the various high ranking visits that we’ve seen this year that also underline the great partnership. Economically, I think it’s a fantastic partnership for both sides. There are more than 7500 German companies active and present in Romania. Germany is by far the largest trading partner for Romania. More and more German investments are coming and what is particularly positive is the fact that German companies that invest are not here to make a „quick euro“ and then leave again. They come here for good and they stay. They invest not only in production sites, but also in the hearts and minds of the people. They focus strongly on dual education and know-how transfer. So, this economic partnership is a very, very fruitful one for both sides. Culturally, of course, we are linked through the historic existence of a German minority in Romania that had a relevance for centuries and it has a great relevance up until today. And we are proud to have a German heritage here in Romania, which has also translated, for example, into a very strong interest in German language education. Just these last weeks I’ve been at openings of two German schools, of new campuses of these schools. There are many more in the country, we are supporting German education through various programs. And of course, the interests of not only ethnic Germans but of Romanians in German language education is another element that connects us strongly. In addition to that we have an ever growing Romanian community in Germany, which also underlines the closeness of our two countries.

Is there more to come? Yes, I think that these bilateral relations we enjoy offer many more areas where we can intensify our cooperation. One element certainly is the sphere of security policy, which is obvious these days. We are already in line to check where we can further broaden our cooperation. When it comes to the economic sector there’s a lot of room for improvement and for enlargement of our cooperation in the field of the green transformation, the transformation of our economies into carbon free, renewable-focused economies. There’s a lot of potential for German-Romanian cooperation in the future. And also culturally, I think this element of German minority, of German language here Romania offers a lot of possibilities to be brought in the future.

Russia cannot be perceived as a partner. Europe is strong and united in its response, much to Putin’s despair

CaleaEuropeană.ro: As we’ve set the stage with the German Unity Day, with the challenges that we face, with the important relationship between Romania and Germany, I would like to come back to President Putin’s war against Ukraine, Germany has shifted its view on Russia. From the Zeitenwende speech of Chancellor Scholz to the decision to halt Nord Stream 2 approval and the support offered to Ukraine. However, Western countries faced criticism because of its conciliant position on Russia over the years despite being cautioned by their Eastern partners and allies, like Romania. Do you see EU unity and solidarity towards Ukraine, towards sanctions against Russia and towards the difficult winter that lies ahead as remaining rock solid or backlashing?

Dr. Peer Gebauer: I remain very optimistic that the European Union will not fail and will not crumble. We will stay together. And there’s a simple reason for that. I think everybody can see that you cannot trust Russia. A country that is not only moving forward with this brutal aggression against one of its neighbours, but spreading fake news and pretexts, a country that is openly threatening the world with the use of nuclear weapons. I think a country like that, Russia, cannot be in any way perceived as a partner or one that you could somehow cope with or accept. We are united in Europe in our response. We have been very strong and united in our response, much to the despair of Putin, if I may say so. He had believed that the European unity would just not be there, that we would only discuss. The contrary is true. We’ve been very strong in our united answer when it comes to sanctions, when it comes to fully supporting Ukraine also with weapons and of course financially and with humanitarian aid. So this unity has been key in the past and it will continue. Of course, you’re referring to the fact that within Europe, within the EU we are discussing, we are openly discussing. This is a trademark of the European Union based on democratic values. It’s not one part or one leader deciding for everybody else. No, everybody has its own voice and this voice can be heard. And of course, when it comes to shaping a policy approach, there can always be different views. That’s natural. There’s no absolute truth. It’s good that we have the possibility to speak and discuss openly. And that’s what we are doing so far. And I remain confident that this will not change in the future. So far, we have always managed to come to common terms, to come to a compromise and move forward on that base.

Energy security: It is correct that each country should have a degree of independence in the type of energy it focuses on, renewable, nuclear or other

CaleaEuropeană.ro:  The question of EU solidarity has some key topics to be addressed, like energy security. And this topic needs to be tackled from different angles – energy prices soaring, eliminating dependency on Russian gas, common purchasing and creating European gas reserves, each member states entitled to create its own mix, renewables, the dispute on nuclear energy. What is the approach of Germany on this and what would be a good European compromise to get through this winter and to reach the middle term targets under RePowerEU?

Dr. Peer Gebauer: We are facing great challenges. This is obviously true and it’s particularly true when it comes to this winter. The rising energy costs are putting a very heavy burden on both households and the industry and the companies. That’s why we have decided within the EU to find joint ways of coping with the situation. RePower EU, you’ve pointed out to that initiative, which is aimed at cutting the dependency on the supply of fossil fuels from Russia to Europe as quick as we can. There are various elements to this approach from saving energy to diversifying our energy supply and buying from other partners to focusing stronger on renewable energies. And of course, we also have to take measures on a short term base when it comes to rising energy prices. There are a number of instruments in discussion right now. Gas price caps, for example, which would protect consumers from paying too high prices and of course, you will have to compensate energy companies to a certain extent. It’s good that we have the EU as a platform to discuss these elements. You’ve touched upon a few elements in your question on what kind of energy we should be focused on, whether it’s renewables and/or nuclear and others. It’s an element or a trademark of the EU to be united in diversity. We have all different historical backgrounds and of course, different approaches to certain angles, and that’s why it’s only correct to let every country also have some sort of independence in terms of how to move forward. To give you an example in Germany, we have for quite some time now decided to get out of nuclear energy. I know that a lot of countries in Europe see this differently. That’s the way it is. I don’t think we have to cover up these differences in approach. We have set course for our approach, we’re moving out of nuclear energy, despite the fact that we will have our nuclear power plants potentially run a bit longer than expected, not stopping them by the end of the year, but potentially running them a few months longer. But again, the course has been set. And in the end it’s this mixture of approaches also within the EU that makes us strong.

NATO – the transatlantic defence alliance that is the strongest in the world and ensures that no one dares attack us in any way

CaleaEuropeană.ro: If we speak about energy security, we have to speak about security as a whole and I would like to move a bit on NATO. Under the same image of Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine, the Euro-Atlantic unity has the same importance and Germany proved that by sending fighter jets and military personnel to NATO’s Air Police Mission in Romania and the Black Sea. How does Germany see NATO’s presence in the Black Sea and does Germany intend to enhance its cooperation with Romania on defence, under both NATO and EU umbrella?

Dr. Peer Gebauer: We are all very, very glad to have NATO, particularly in these days. A few years ago, there has been a discussion on the relevance of NATO. Do we need it any longer? Does it have to shift its approach completely? And we now know and appreciate the fact that we have it as it is, as a transatlantic defence alliance that is the strongest in the world and that makes sure that nobody dares in any way attack us. And it’s great to have Romania as a partner in this endeavour for Germany. The increased focus on the Eastern Flank, on the South Eastern Flank, the Black Sea region, is against the backdrop of this Russian aggression, a very, very great necessity. It’s not being disputed in Europe and in NATO. And that’s why NATO has decided in the wake of this war to beef up its presence in the South Eastern Flank, in the Eastern Flank with new battlegroups to be established in all bordering NATO countries, including Romania. I’m very glad and proud that Germany contributed to securing the south eastern flank by sending Eurofighters in the framework of NATO’s air policing mission in spring of this year. And we, Germany, have also moved forward in increasing our presence along the border, the Eastern border of the Allied territory. We lead a battlegroup in Lithuania. We will have a strong footprint in the new battlegroup to be established in Slovakia and we have been present in Romania. So there are various parts where we do our part and other NATO partners do their part. With regard to bilateral cooperation between Germany and Romania, I think there is a lot of room for increasing the cooperation in the security fields when it comes to the procurement or the production of weapons. It is a key element for European sovereignty in this sense. In Europe, I wouldn’t say we suffer, but it’s a matter of fact that we have way too many different weapon systems, which make it difficult in times of crisis to interact and to liaise. We have therefore decided within the EU to cut back the number of weapon systems and to focus on producing joint new systems for the future. And I think, in this respect, Germany and Romania are natural partners and I would be very glad to also do my part to move projects forward. There are a few elements of this cooperation in the pipeline, not to be discussed here yet, but it’s something where we move strongly forward.

EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, Ukraine and Moldova: We cannot leave a void in the European family, a vacuum for others to fill at our expense

CaleaEuropeană.ro: We all saw the speech that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave in Prague this August. I personally called it his first major speech on the future of Europe since taking office. Two important subjects crossed our interest – EU enlargement and the accession into Schengen for Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia.

First, on enlargement. Both Germany and Romania support this. When everyone was talking just about Ukraine, which seemed fair given the context, Berlin and Bucharest were advocating also for the European cause of Republic of Moldova, Georgia and Western Balkans. But in his speech, Chancellor Scholz spoke about a geopolitical EU, also from the point of view of the political community proposed by President Macron, and he also mentioned the idea to reform the right of veto and the treaties in respect to enlargement. Therefore: how can we build a geopolitical European Union with 36 nations one day, while we will also need a treaty reform, a topic that now, together with the veto power, is still a Pandora’s box?

Dr. Peer Gebauer:  You’ve rightly described that there is a challenge in making sure an enlarged European Union is still able to act decisively. And that of course, points to the question of majority voting, unanimity necessity or the possibility to use qualified majority voting, which we have in certain areas. So the question is where we can broaden the use of the qualified majority. First of all, yes, enlargement is a key element when it comes to the EU and we fully agree with Romania and the Romanian government on the need to not only give the Western Balkans a clear European perspective, but also to three countries of the Eastern Partnership: Ukraine, Republic of Moldova and also Georgia. I’m very happy that together within the EU we managed to make clear that now Ukraine and Moldova are candidates and Georgia is shortly behind them also moving in that direction. We cannot leave voids in the European family. We cannot leave a void that others would fill, which would all be detrimental to us and to the EU in general. And that’s why it’s important to move forward there. I’m glad that we, for example, solved the issue with Albania and Northern Macedonia and were able to move forward with starting accession negotiations with them. When it comes to Ukraine and Republic of Moldova, you are right. It is also a strong message that was sent by both Romania and Germany. And yes, we have to find ways to cope with the fact that a larger EU needs more effective decision making procedures. A number of proposals are on the table also in the wake of the Conference on the Future of Europe, which has included the public in all European Union member states. And I think we will find ways forward. It’s delicate as, of course, a broader, a bigger and a larger Union means that an individual country is smaller in comparison to the whole group. It’s natural that every EU member state has a great interest that its voice is still being heard. But we will manage to find ways to ensure that this Union is both strong, but also representing individual countries nevertheless.

Romania’s Schengen accession: a vote could be taken by the end of the year. I remain optimistic that we are truly at the finish line

CaleaEuropeană.ro: Second, on Schengen. Chancellor Scholz said that Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia fulfil all the criteria to join the Schengen area. This was seen as a major breakthrough and a signal that a political vote in the Council could happen soon, maybe by the end of the year. Are we on an irreversibly finish line or our EU partners are still waiting for the evolution of judicial reforms?

Dr. Peer Gebauer: To start with the judicial reform, I think this is a clear need. And it’s clearly in the interest of Romania to move forward on that. And I know the Government is putting a lot of effort into to judicial reform. We encourage our Romanian friends and partners to move forward with ambition in this respect. A reliable and trustworthy judiciary system is key for everybody: for societies, for economy, and of course, politically as well. And that’s why again, we encourage every ambitious step forward in this respect. And if I may say so, it’s also an effort that’s never over. Neither in Romania nor any other country. Also not in Germany. We always have to constantly work to ensure that we have a functioning judiciary and functioning institutions in all areas of government and state. So this will be a continuous effort to come. But anyways, it’s something that’s being addressed right now in Romania, and when it comes to Schengen, I think the message of our Chancellor, you’ve quoted it, indeed, is a very strong one. He will work to see Romania and the other two countries becoming part of the Schengen area. This is very, very important, I think, a very strong message. How will this translate into procedure? You are right, there could be a Council vote on this even by the end of the year.

It’s not easy for me at this position here to exactly determine how other countries are voting, but I think our’s has been a very strong message from obviously a big Member State. A Member State that in the past maybe has not expressed its support explicitely. So in this sense, I think it’s great news for Romania. And I remain optimistic that we are really on the finish line. But again, I cannot see the future to exactly tell you how it’s gonna go.

“There is no visit to a German company where I am not told that things would be better if Romania were in Schengen/ In terms of support for Ukraine, it would have been better to have Romania in Schengen”

CaleaEuropeană.ro: At the beginning of our interview you talked about the powerful economic relationship and partnership that lies between Germany and Romania. The accession into Schengen would come at a moment when Romania’s action have proven crucial for food security and humanitarian support to Ukraine and Ukrainians. But it would also significantly boost the economy and the circulation of goods in the single market. Do you see the economic relations between Romania and Germany improving and deepening after Romania’s accession to Schengen?

Dr. Peer Gebauer: Oh yes! Schengen accession of Romania would certainly boost the already excellent economic relations between our two countries. There’s hardly any visit that I do at a German company site somewhere, mostly in Transylvania, where the CEOs don’t tell me: Listen, if Romania was in Schengen, things would be even better for us in terms of not having our cars and trucks wait at the border for being allowed into the Schengen area. So certainly this would have a tremendously positive economic effect and it would further improve the quality and the value of Romania as a site for the industry, both from Germany and other countries across Europe. Just a word on what you said because I just want to stress, indeed, the fact that Romania has been super constructive and important in the framework of supporting Ukraine. Being the EU member state with the longest land border with Ukraine geographically, Romania plays a crucial role when it comes to providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine, when it comes to helping Ukraine export its grains, when it comes to, for example, in the beginning of the crisis, taking in refugees from Ukraine. In all these areas, Romania has been there as an extremely reliable partner and we are very, very grateful to Romanian Government and yo the Romanian people for delivering when it was most needed. And, of course, also in this respect, Schengen membership of Romania would have been better to have already at the beginning of the year. But again, Romania managed very well. And personally I would be happy to see Romania in Schengen.

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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Christoph Heusgen, chairman of the Munich Security Conference: We tried to build a partnership with Russia, but Putin destroyed the common base. Romania is correct and NATO should focus more on the Black Sea region

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Interview conducted by Robert Lupițu

Russia’s invasion in Ukraine is a turning point in history, including for Germany, who was tried to build a constructive partnership with Moscow over the last decades, argues Christoph Heusgen, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, in an exclusive interview for CaleaEuropeană.ro on the sidelines of the Munich Leaders Meeting, organised for the first time on the southeastern flank of NATO, in Bucharest, just before the NATO Foreign Ministerial Meeting. The Chairman of the Munich Security Conference also emphasised that Romania is correct and NATO should focus more on the Black Sea region.

“I hoped that Putin would be impressed by the international solidarity with Ukraine and would have second thoughts about aggressing Ukraine”, he said, recollecting the strong EU and transatlantic unity at the Munich Security Conference, few days before Russia’s full scale invasion.

Former German Ambassador to the UN and ex-diplomatic advisor to Angela Merkel, Heusgen explained Germany’s longstanding approach to Russia and the stakes of the “Zeitenwende” (turning point) approach on foreign and security policy.

“Germany in World War II was responsible for the death of 20 million people who lived on the territory of the former Soviet Union. Also, without Russia giving its consent Germany would not have been reunited. So German policy towards Russia for a long time was influenced by a feeling of guilt and of gratitude. (…) We tried to build a partnership with Russia, but all of these efforts terribly failed. Putin destroyed the common base we had tried to build”, he said.

“Now, we have to be very tough in response to Russia’s war”, Heusgen added.

The Chairman of the Munich Security said that Russian President cannot be welcomed again in the community of respected politicians and emphasised that Putin is wrong when he is counting on Ukraine’s war fatigue or the fatigue of Western help.

“I believe that Germany and the transatlantic community will have to even strengthen their support to Ukraine. There is demand for political leadership which makes clear what is at stake: If Putin wins this war he will not stop in Ukraine”, he said, mentioning that the only possibility for peace talks is for Russia to return Ukraine’s territories.

Full interview below:

CaleaEuropeană.ro: Russia’s invasion was preceded a few days before by the Munich Security Conference. Did you felt at that moment, when President Zelenskyy took the stage, when Chancellor Scholz, Foreign Minister Baerbock, Vice President Harris or Prime Minister Johnson did the same, that Russia’s full scale military aggression is imminent, and diplomacy will be shadowed by war on the European continent? 

Christoph Heusgen: I had predicted already at the end of 2021 that Putin may wage war and invade Ukraine. The Intelligence Community was certain that Putin would actually do it. But when I witnessed the strong EU and transatlantic unity at the Munich Security Conference on 18 to 20 February 2022, and the readiness to give a common and tough response to a possible Russian attack, I hoped that Putin would be impressed by the international solidarity with Ukraine and would have second thoughts about aggressing Ukraine. But he didn’t and went ahead with his flagrant breach of International Law, his breach of civilization. 

CaleaEuropeană.ro: You mentioned the transatlantic unity and for many pundits Germany’s stance, including in the context of a brand-new coalition, was remarkable. The Zeitenwende speech, halting North Stream 2, economic and energy sanctions against Russia and stepping forward as a future military power in Europe. Is there a new German foreign and security policy in the making? What does it mean for Europe and for NATO? 

Christoph Heusgen: Chancellor Scholz in his speech to the German parliament three days after the invasion, pronounced a ‘Zeitenwende’. We are indeed witnessing  a turning point in history. For decades, Germany had tried to maintain a constructive partnership with Russia. To understand German policy towards Russia, one must go back in history. One has to remember that Germany in World War II was responsible for the death of 20 million people who lived on the territory of the former Soviet Union. Also, without Russia giving its consent Germany would not have been reunited. So German policy towards Russia for a long time was influenced by a feeling of guilt and of gratitude. Many in Germany hoped that we could conduct a policy where, on the one hand, we would be a good partner of NATO, but on the other hand maintain a decent relationship with Russia. The latter included a lot of trade, but also a broader dialogue between our societies through the so-called Petersburg dialogue, where an exchanges took place between the political and business class, non-governmental organizations and youth. We tried to build a partnership with Russia, but all of these efforts terribly failed. Putin destroyed the common base we had tried to build. Putin violated every international covenant and every bilateral agreement with Ukraine when he started his full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Putin has destroyed all bridges behind him. Now, we have to be very tough in response to Russia’s war. Some people in Germany have problems to adapt to the new reality to the ‚Zeitenwende‘.

CaleaEuropeană.ro: So, as I understand correctly, this will be a long-time stance of Germany and also of Europe when it comes to Russia?

Christoph Heusgen: As I said, Putin committed a breach of civilization. He severely violated international law. And we must respond to it in a very clear way, defending the rules based international order, also defending Ukraine. And we have to make Putin and his gang accountable for the crimes they committed,  war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. There is no way back for Putin into the community of respected, civilized politicians

CaleaEuropeană.ro: And we saw that Russia’s aggressive war in Ukraine has brought major strategic changes in Europe – Sweden and Finland are almost NATO members, Ukraine and Moldova have received candidate status for the EU, France is more involved in NATO, especially in Romania, Germany’s Zeitenwende approach. But the war costs lives, threatens critical infrastructure, food security, energy prices soaring and so on. Do you envisage a war fatigue in matters of Western support for Ukraine or this “as long as it takes” approach will continue?

Christoph Heusgen: This is what Putin counts on. Putin counts on Ukraine fatigue, Putin counts on Europe and the US becoming weak, no longer ready to pay for defending Ukraine. Putin believes that at some stage we will either pressure Ukraine into a ceasefire and some kind of peace agreement to the liking of Russia. But Putin is wrong. This is what the Ukrainian representatives here at our Munich Leaders Meeting in Bucharest made very clear. The Ukrainians are determined to defend their country no matter what Putin does. He has already flattened Mariupol as he has flattened Grozny and Aleppo. But he cannot destroy the Ukrainian determination to defend their country. And I remain optimistic that Germany, the European Union, NATO and our transatlantic partners will remain at the side of the Ukrainian people despite higher food and energy prices, despite a possible recession. 

I believe that Germany and the transatlantic community will have to even strengthen their support to Ukraine. There is demand for political leadership which makes clear what is at stake: If Putin wins this war he will not stop in Ukraine. He has set his eyes on other countries which at some stage in history were parts of Russia, including Moldova or the Baltic countries. This means that when we are helping to defend Ukraine we are defending our own freedom.

CaleaEuropeană.ro: I understand from your very elaborated answer that given Ukraine’s stance to defend its country and given Russia’s destructive war in Ukraine we are far in reaching the conditions for political and peace talks?

Christoph Heusgen: Currently, I don’t see it. First, we have to respect what the Ukrainian people and government intend to do. I fully understand that the Ukrainians are not ready to give up their territory, to give in to a dictator who commits war crimes and crimes against humanity. I only see a possibility right now for negotiations if Russia is ready to give back the territory that according to international law belongs to Ukraine. Also, what is very important is that Russia pays reparation and that there is  accountability. At this stage, I don’t see that Russia is ready for it and therefore I’m also afraid that this conflict will continue.

CaleaEuropeană.ro: Since the war began there has been a particular focus on the Black Sea security, a matter that Romania has advocated for since Crimea’s annexation. Foreign Minister Aurescu called for a to do transatlantic list for the importance of the Black Sea region. How can NATO focus better on this part of the Eastern flank, in the Black Sea, and what role Romania plays or should play in the region?

Christoph Heusgen: Aurescu is correct. Russia’s naval blockade has demonstrated how critical the Black Sea is. NATO has to focus more on the region. But NATO is turning already into this direction.  There will be more NATO troops stationed here. The fact that the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting took place in Bucharest is a demonstration that NATO is serious, but also a recognition of the role that Romania plays as a key partner in the Alliance. And I am certain that NATO is there to stay and will remain engaged. 

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MEP Vasile Blaga, after the lifting of the CVM for Romania: We are just one step away from Schengen accession

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MEP Vasile Blaga welcomes the lifting of the CVM for Romania by the European Commission and underlines that our country is just one step away from Schengen admission.

“We are at an extremely important moment – we are only one step away from Schengen admission. We should no longer hear, either now or after accession, how bad we are, how imperfect, how lacking in merit”, the MEP said in a statement to CaleaEuropeană.ro.

„It is our right to be in Schengen, just as it was our right to be monitored in exactly the same way as the other Member States – and not through a special mechanism like the CVM. I have said it many times in recent years. And I want to underline once again – at important moments for Romania, politicians must speak with one voice. In unison. In the same way that politicians in Brussels of other countries manage to unite behind their national objectives. It is good to learn from the lessons of the mature democracies we want to live alongside”, he added.

The Liberal MEP also condemned the attitude of some Romanian politicians in Brussels regarding Romania’s merits: “If 2022 was the year of Romania’s integration into the European Union, some Romanian politicians in Brussels would nonchalantly say that we are not ready for integration, that there would be one more thing to do, that the EU should pay close attention to us. This is where we are. I cannot understand the reaction of some politicians who are in Brussels primarily for Romania.”

“The CVM will be suspended after consultations with the European Parliament and the Council. As I said above, we find in Brussels the grey voices that, in subtext, are disappointed: it is good that the CVM is suspended, but, thank God, we will continue to be monitored by the generalised rule of law mechanism”, concluded the PNL MEP.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: EU will not recognise Russian documents issued in areas illegally occupied by Russia in Ukraine and Georgia

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The European Parliament agreed by a large majority at its last plenary session in Strasbourg not to recognise travel documents issued by the Russian Federation in the illegally occupied territories of Ukraine and Georgia, said MEP Vasile Blaga on Monday.

MEPs agreed by 540 votes to 6 with 36 abstentions on a mandate for negotiations with the Council on a legislative proposal on the non-recognition of travel documents issued by Russia in the occupied Ukrainian regions and the so-called breakaway territories of Georgia for visa purposes or when crossing the EU’s external borders.

At the same time, MEPs amended the Council’s proposal and underlined the right of citizens from conflict zones to flee the war and their right to enter the European Union for humanitarian reasons.

“The illegal annexations in Ukraine and Georgia require clear EU decisions on the non-recognition of documents issued by Russia in those territories to be used for travel within the European Union,” said Vasile Blaga, EPP & NLP MEP, member of the LIBE Committee, which handled this dossier in the European Parliament.

“The Russian Federation must understand that the European Parliament and the European Union will not compromise on these unacceptable aggressions. At the same time, the European Union must allow access to refugees from conflict zones, honest citizens fleeing war. The European Union must also take humanitarian cases into account and provide adequate support to refugees”, said the EPP MEP.

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