Teodor Meleşcanu, minister of Foreign Affairs
Conference Threats. Resilience. Society
Bucharest, Athenee Palace Hilton Hotel


Opening speech by the minister of foreign affairs of Romania, H.E. Teodor Meleșcanu, at the conference organised by the Aspen Institute Romania and NATO's Public Diplomacy Division

Minister Geoană,
General Ciuca,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Distinguished audience,

[Opening general foreign policy messages]

  • I am honoured to be listened to by such a high-level audience. The Aspen Romania is always an excellent venue for debates and an incubator for new ideas, so I always leave richer than I arrived.
  • I am also impressed that you have proved to be resilient enough to sacrifice one Saturday morning in order to listen to me.
  • I do not know when Minister Geoana decided the date for this event, but it is incredibly timely. On the 7th of June, two important EU documents came out: the Joint Communication on the strategic approach to resilience; and the 4th out of 5 reflection papers by the Commission tied to the future of Europe subject, namely the paper on the future of European security and defence.
  • On the 25th of May we had the NATO summit and yesterday, our President met the US President, where certainly NATO was part of the conversation.

Dear guests, colleagues and friends,

  • The efforts, over the last two and half decades, to conceive new models of security cooperation, at the scale of the entire European continent and beyond, have been successful up to a certain degree. Nevertheless, they have been largely undermined, especially in our region (Eastern flank – the Baltic and the Black Sea), by accelerating events since 2008.
  • These and blatantly, the 2014 Crimean illegal annexation and conflict in Eastern Ukraine, signalled the resurgence of conflict in the Black Sea region and the Eastern Neighbourhood, with deepening demarcation lines, increasing militarization, growing trafficking and insecurity of all types, negatively affecting the security of the entire European continent.
  • Under such circumstances, we have learned that coordinated action is needed more than ever, so that the Euro-Atlantic community strengthens its own security and resilience, while also increasing that of its Eastern and Southern neighbours.
  • Romania believes that NATO presence must be, under such circumstances, solid, based on a long term vision and fully integrated with other relevant Allied efforts, as to strengthen defence and deterrence across the entire Eastern flank.
  • Romania is a deeply committed NATO member. That explains why we are one of the first members to take part in the We are NATO public diplomacy program. And I want to acknowledge the support of NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division for today’s event as well.
  • We need to better explain NATO to our citizens. But it is also paramount to actively support partners like R. Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia, especially by helping them to develop national defence capabilities so as to prevent a worsening of regional security.
  • The Western Balkans is another area where we have to act more decisively to turn the efforts already made into long-term success. This way we can also prevent other actors from taking advantage of vulnerabilities and unsolved problems in the region, with the objective of challenging the EU and NATO stabilising influence.
  • The recent NATO Brussels Summit and the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome took place against a general “transformative” background (among which, not least, some historical developments in the security & defence field at EU level).
  • NATO continues to play a key role in the current security context. It remains the guarantor of the collective defence of its members and also an important player in projecting stability beyond the allied borders. The recent high level meeting in Brussels confirmed the determination of the Alliance to continue to respond to threats and challenges coming both from the East and from the South, thus addressing security concerns of all members. There is also a common understanding of the fact that such an ambitious agenda requires proper investments by all, and a fairer burden sharingYou all know that Romania has become, once again, a positive example by deciding to allocate 2% GDP for defence. I want to take this opportunity to express again my appreciation for our leadership and entire political scene for having agreed to a national consensus around that allocation. It is crucial in itself and by its multiple implications – not the least that we should practice more often consensus-building around strategic goals.
  • The EU Global Strategy has, in its turn, created a framework for adapting and changing our procedures and instruments for EU external action. The aim is to ensure more unity, coherence and relevance. Indeed, a new vision and a new level of ambition is emerging, for the EU as well.
  • The relationship between EU and NATO has entered a new phase itself. Adapting to new realities, being creative and flexible, is fundamental in a constantly changing environment. Excellent relations with NATO support the achievements of the EU and vice versa. A clear expression of where we are and what we can do together can be seen in the list of 42 common actions implementing the Joint EU-NATO Declaration in Warsaw.
  • Both NATO and the EU tackle resilience, yet from different angles. Close coordination and harmonising of instruments are vital.

Dear friends,

[ Resilience in a NATO reading]

  • Coming closer to today’s very attractive conference title, a few words about enhancing resilience across the Alliance: resilience is a pre-condition for a successful collective defence, it is about ensuring continuity. About successfully sustaining pressures or responding to shocks. It implies a whole of government approach and appropriate civilian support to military forces when faced with various types of threats.
  • If earlier our governments were concentrated on protecting territory, today they are bound to be prepared to protect our “connectedness”.
  • We live in open societies, but the channels that sustain openness can easily be used as a means of disruption (see recent cyber-attacks and growing misinformation/propaganda for instance).
  • Our openness is our greatest asset, but also our highest vulnerability. To protect it implies a serious security challenge that we have to meet appropriately, by anticipating, preparing for, and addressing vulnerabilities: plan for the worst while hoping for the best.
  • Therefore, baseline resilience requirements for NATO member states are all the more important. Seven areas thus identified apply to the entire crisis spectrum and NATO, as an organization, is ready to support its members to make progress in these areas.
  • For collective defence to be efficient, civil preparedness is once again a must. Building resilience involves many stakeholders. NATO needs resilient partners too, thus to reinforce its own resilience.
  • It is in our own interest to help more vulnerable societies become more resilient, by projecting resilience forward. Possible instruments for NATO: the assistance packages in support of Ukraine, Georgia and R. Moldova, under the Defence Capacity Building Initiative, should be developed to encompass resilience.
  • NATO’s expertise can help partners improve their own capacity for assessing and improving resilience. Fields like cyber defence and civil emergency planning are increasingly featuring in defence capacity building packages for partners such as Georgia or R. Moldova.
  • The energy dimension is also in need of a more structured policy frameworks and practical instruments to address major vulnerabilities, in view of the broader implications of energy resilience at the state, economy, society, household and individual levels.
  • The disruptive character of disinformation campaigns and propaganda makes it critically important for us to enhance also the effectiveness of strategic communication instruments of the EU and of NATO, and to transfer acquired expertise to our partners. Civil preparedness could aim at forging psychological resilience of citizens faced with manipulation of different sorts.
  • Also, importantly, to use the knowledge and experience of frontline countries for lesson-sharing with other states/actors, while developing media strategies within relevant government agencies to counter disinformation.

Distinguished audience,

[ Resilience in the EU approach – the recent joint communication COM/EEAS dedicated to resilience – 7th of June 2017]

  • NATO has made important progress in these fields. But the EU has done some important work as well.
  • The EU Global Strategy identifies state and societal resilience as one of the five priorities of the EU external action. The recently published EU Joint Communication on Resilience marks an important progress in carrying out the implementation of this Strategy.
  • It is an ambitious and far-reaching initiative, to which we, from the MFA, have provided some valuable input by organising in Bucharest a seminar, with EU support, dedicated to resilience as seen from a Black Sea perspective.
  • Translating ideas and principles into reality is no easy job. It does not end with the Communication, quite on the contrary: work only begins. This is one of the reasons why I gladly accepted Aspen Institute’s invitation to speak about the topic.
  • Resilience becomes a fundamental concept for political decisions and concrete measures, from now on. It is a common thread for initiatives aimed at increasing stability, security, sustainable growth, functional institutions, as well as a means to deepen relations with partners. Resilience has become important in terms of EU policy and decision-making across numerous thematic and regional dimensions.
  • Building on what has been already achieved in the field, Romania welcomes this Communication’s strategic approach to resilience. The ambition is to further mainstream it, to incorporate resilience horizontally in EU policies.
  • As part of this much-needed common and comprehensive understanding, we pay particular attention to a two-folded approach: resilience as a political concept needs to remain value-infused, and also to be declined into practical, operational dimensions. These two combined can effectively sustain the EU’s soft transformative power, within today’s value-disturbed world.
  • Ensuring the security of our citizens is our most important concern, therefore, at the EU level, more and more emphasis is being placed on the internal-external nexus: focusing on reducing exposure to threats to our cohesion and security, as well as those of our partners.
  • In light of the above, resilience in the EU’s neighbouring countries should further represent an autonomous strand of work, especially considering the vulnerabilities and fragility in Romania’s direct vicinity (whether we look eastward, to the Black Sea region, or westward, to the Western Balkans).
  • A structural approach, with emphasis on situational awareness, prevention and early action, requires adapting our views and our instruments.
  • We all agree that strengthening resilience is not a process with a clear beginning or a clear end. It is rather a continuous process of improving our capacity to manage change and to overcome pressures and crises.
  • And since change, pressures and crises are a daily reality across the world, resilience becomes our individual and collective task, as well as our moral imperative!

Thank you for your attention and I wish you all exciting debates!