Traveling through a time of change towards reaching the future’s Europe Address by the minister of foreign affairs of Romania, Teodor Melescanu, at the bi-annual meeting of the Slovak ambassadors

Ministrul afacerilor externe, Teodor Meleșcanu și omologul slovac, Miroslav Lajčák
Deschiderea Reuniunii Diplomației slovace
Bratislava, Slovacia

Minister Lajčák,

Your Excellencies ambassadors and heads of missions,

I am honoured to be here today and to have the privilege to deliver a speech at the Biannual Reunion of the Slovak Diplomacy. I owed my participation to Minister’s Lajcak presence at Romania’s diplomacy meeting two, as well as three years ago. And I am looking forward since it is a good source for new ideas before our own 2018 ambassadors’ meeting, which is in less than a week from now.

This is an excellent opportunity to address a common theme, from a different perspective. There has been much discussion in recent years about the challenges faced by the European Union. The challenges and opportunities in the current European and global environment have, more than ever, a special significance for EU Member States and citizens. When it comes to the Europe of the future, as I’d like to coin it today, any major decision about how to reshape this project should be taken after preventively checking the pulse of each EU Capital. This is the only way to rebuild a strong bridge between Brussels and the citizens of Europe, based on a common language and on mutually acceptable and accepted national interests.

Two years ago, in light of the British vote to leave the EU, the first Slovak Presidency of the EU Council faced an unprecedented challenge. An existential challenge for Europe, I would say. At that time, serious doubts were voiced across Europe and beyond, whether the EU would survive 2017 or that was just “the beginning of the end”. 

At that crucial point, it was here, in Bratislava, that the hope for a Europe able to reinvent itself and to overcome the crisis has been recovered. Bratislava Declaration reiterated EU’s raison d’être, highlighting that a strong Europe remains indispensable for addressing any challenges we face.

Shortly before the Bratislava Summit, Minister Lajčák envisaged, in Bucharest, the need for a new approach to the European project - a project viable, effective and understandable to citizens, respecting the views of all Member States. I totally share his view and his thoughts still inspire us today. In opening our dialogue today, let me share with you some reflections on the major challenges that our diplomacies have to tackle to safely sail a troubled sea.

First, we need to continue a genuine dialogue – open, constructive, respectful of the other, at the EU level. We should try to avoid fueling antagonistic trends regarding Europe’s future. The current debate is too often focused on clashing visions. Some hark back to old dichotomies; others are quite creatively constructing new dichotomies. Building physical and mental walls in Europe keeps many people busy again. Divergence on various topics and along various EU axes is part of the political game across the continent. Now, however, the dialogue needs to move beyond uselessly clashing positions. We need to actively, purposefully explore new realistic solutions that can help political leaders and citizens rediscover the Union’s founding values and principles. We need to remind ourselves of and refocus on our vision and the citizens’ understanding of the benefits of EU integration.

Second, the effectiveness of EU institutions and decision-making. The process should now evolve to a phase of decisions and concrete results. It is important to remain pragmatic and continue strengthening the European consensus by pursuing ambitious, but realistic and widely shared priorities. The EU always served a greater purpose, and its architecture, actions and decisions will constantly be adapted as the purpose changes. No doubt, we always need a forward-looking vision about our future, to guide our present decisions. But in a world of rapid changes and unpredictable, tectonic developments, it is sometimes safer to look at the driving forces that shape EU’s present, from both within and outside, rather than only at its future. I would say it again, I said it many times: we believe that the EU should aim for as much unity as possible and as much flexibility as it is strictly necessary.

Third, how to find the way back to the citizens, to meet their hopes and concerns? To use common “Brussels vocabulary”, we need a Roadmap to better identify and reach citizens' expectations as quickly as possible. Both strong EU political leadership and political will of the Member States are important, but the EU should fundamentally serve the citizens’ needs across Europe.

We must pay more attention to the current democratic deficit and continuous decline of trust which have enabled a counterblast against mainstream political parties and elites. Essential ties between citizens and their political representatives have progressively weakened. People have lost confidence in mainstream politics, turning to apparently more appealing and convincing, populistic and anti-system alternatives. In the lead-up to new European elections, we need to reflect deeply upon this state of affairs and find solutions that are meaningful to our citizens.

Fourth, the viability of the European project depends to the greatest extent on how Europe will act as a credible and self-aware (while not self-sufficient!) global power. This being understood in a context where the foundation of post-war liberal order is shaken by various forces. EU is multilateral by nature and by vocation. As a unique, collective actor with shared sovereignty at its core, the EU should preserve multilateralism. It is an indispensable tool for enlightened and effective global governance, and for limiting unilateral behaviour, by means of international law, shared rules and principles. But [the] EU should also evolve more into proactive rule-making and creative thinking. We need solutions and new initiatives, as new topics are prompted onto our agenda – cyber, space and the global commons generally, social media, artificial intelligence – to name just a few. What I want to say is this: the EU should continue to lead by example, by observing the rules. But, is should also upgrade leadership, leading by initiative and innovation, including in the multilateral field.

What I have described so far is not a position about the future of the EU: it is an attitude about how to handle Europe’s future and EU’s major dossiers: the financial framework, CSDP, migration, qualified majority voting in CFSP and so on. This is how we approach our Presidency of the Council of EU next year. We are determined to play a constructive role in the negotiations and decisions that will shape the future of the Union. The process launched in Bratislava will culminate with the Extraordinary Summit in Sibiu, on May 9th, 2019. There, EU leaders will decide on new strategic directions and on how the EU of the 2020’s will look like. Our vision remains strongly pro-European, favouring deeper integration based on fundamental values and principles: unity, solidarity, equal treatment and convergence. I also believe that your leadership of the V4 will itself have a special role to play in successfully guiding the EU from the Bratislava Summit to the Sibiu Summit.


Minister, ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen,

To be meaningful, our conversation has to be not only about the EU but also about the world. Our world. The world of the future. More and more visibly, a new world order is in the making. Both EU and global institutions need to adapt to new realities on the global stage. We should not take for granted liberal values, democracy, pluralism, political stability, economic growth or the absence of major conflicts.

In this rapidly changing world, at times so difficult to grasp, the trans-Atlantic partnership must remain at the core of an international rules-based system, as well as the main pillar of European security and stability. The EU and US need to work together to prevent major conflicts and crises in the world. NATO remains extremely relevant for that purpose too. Active commitment is needed on both sides, to identify and nurture more points of convergence on a common agenda.

As future Chairmanship of the OSCE, Slovakia will be called upon to play a special role again in this wider strategic context. You can count on Romania’s support – as a matter of fact, I already encourage our respective ambassadors to the OSCE to be in even closer contact. Our Presidency of the EU Council and your Chairmanship-in-Office can act together to strengthen the cause of multilateralism.

As Chairmanship-in-Office, you will be faced with a whole range of problems regarding European security: the resolution of the Ukraine crisis, the settlement of the protracted conflicts, the implementation of existing commitments. From our point of view, the main drive should be on full implementation of existing principles and commitments. No need to re-write or re-invent the wheel, but to really implement what we already have, and to refer back to the fundamentals of OSCE. The settlement of the Transnistria conflict is of particular interest for us from a national security point of view.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

A couple of words, before concluding, about our bilateral ties. 2018 is an anniversary year for our countries: it was at the end of 1918 when Romanians and Czechs and Slovaks accomplished their objective of establishing modern states. In the past 100 years, Romania and Slovakia have faced major common challenges in their general national evolution and development. Today, of all days, when you, the Slovaks and the Czechs commemorate 50 years since the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Treaty armies, Romania’s opposing stance at that historical juncture gains new relevance and a very special symbolism. If I add to that the dynamic of our economic exchanges, constantly increasing these last years, to close to 3 billion Euro in 2017, the strength and diversity of our relations become quite clear, as they have never been closer or more vibrant. We do not have any particular smallest dispute in our bilateral relations, but only the strongest desire to strengthen our cooperation at bilateral, regional, European and Euro-Atlantic, as well as international levels.

In fact, we share clear strategic interests. We share a past and a present, a set of values and principles. We are committed to defend peace and security.

For all those reasons and so many others, we can and will work closely together to shape a common future. A future not only for us and our citizens, a future for the EU and the world. The UN remains a special venue for this joint work. Before I end, dear Minister Lajcak, allow me to express wholeheartedly my personal appreciation for your leadership as the President of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly and your role in highly representing our regional group within the UN system. Thank you!


Centrul de presă

Ţări - zone geografice

Ţări - zone geografice