A Changing World: Romania’s Stakes

Speaker: 
Teodor Meleşcanu, minister of Foreign Affairs
Date: 
08/29/17
Event: 
Speech of the Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs at the official opening of the Annual Meeting of Romanian Diplomacy
Location: 
Bucharest, Hotel Marriott


(Y.E.) Mister President of the Senate,

(Y.E.) Mister President of the Chamber of Deputies,

Ladies and Gentlemen, Ministers,

Members of the Parliament of Romania,

Ladies and Gentlemen, Ambassadors of Romania abroad,

Ladies and Gentlemen, Ambassadors accredited in Bucharest,

Ladies and Gentlemen, Representatives of the diplomatic corps of Romania and of the diplomatic corps in Bucharest,

Honoured audience,

 

This annual meeting of Romanian diplomacy stands under the reflection on the change and strategic stakes that Romania has in the coming years. What has changed and what will change in the world, it is the most interesting aspect for us as diplomats; the implications, above all, of these changes on our interests and conduct become vital.

The rhythm of change seems more alert than ever, beneficial or not, to the greatest extent inevitable. What we can do is to better understand the developments, to pragmatically model them by managing the implications, and adapt ourselves accordingly. Intelligence, oriented towards anticipation, strategic and tactical management, and adaptability define our duty, promoting our interests in the changing world.

I am honoured to have with us, in order to share their assessments on these topics, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt - a voice that will strengthen the global dimension of our debates.

This year, I propose some special emphasis: preparing the Great Centenary, our Presidency of the EU Council in 2019, Romania's candidacy for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council - with elections in 2019 and our candidacy at the OECD. These are the essential milestones of your mandate. Equally, we need an economic diplomacy more clearly oriented on results. We have a series of sessions where I expect a large number of Romanian diplomats to conduct direct, applied and honest discussions on economic issues with representatives of companies.

We have also wanted to organize a visit to the ELI project at Magurele. We need a better connection of our diplomats with the most innovative and recent projects of Romania. It is our message about the creative, scientific, dynamic Romanian advantages that you have the duty to promote externally through clear external cooperation projects. The last day will be dedicated to a visit on the field for discussions with local and county authorities and for knowing about successful development projects, and this may be a source of inspiration for you.

Today I want to cover together what has been done and what are our priority objectives, I mean the major stakes not only for foreign policy but for Romania in the coming years.

In the near future of the Great Centenary, our present, in which we live, breathes history and compels us to look at our actions from an expanded perspective. We are enjoying in Romania, today, unprecedented development, security and welfare in our history. Our collective duty is to protect them, secure them in the medium and long term, being prepared for contexts that may be less favorable to us. We owe to consecrate a future Romania, preserving what is particular and authentic of its specific values and, at the same time, the most dynamic and pro-European, important and creative within the EU. My urge is to look to the future.

Our European stake is the presidency of the EU Council. We are engaged in the processes of debate and historical decision-making for the European Union, directly and implicitly for the future of Romania.

The debate on the future of Europe did not end with the Rome Declaration, as evidenced by the five reflection papers proposed by the European Commission. The future of Europe is shaping to a decisive extent by the end of 2017. Our voice, our arguments, must be reiterated and heard at European and bilateral level. We have a pro-European image that we still need to use.

Romania's interest is to revive development policies in the face of economic convergence and deeper European integration. At the same time, we must update our country profile, grow intelligently the influence, at the standards our society deserves and wishes. At the external level, we must reach the level of reputation, respect and recognition that will make us proud as a country and as citizens of Romania.

The Minister-Delegate of European Affairs will talk to you on Romania's priorities on various European cases. The national agenda in the field, where the Minister- Delegate, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other institutions are deeply involved, remains focused on topics of direct importance to citizens: their rights as EU citizens, including in the context of BREXIT; accession to the Schengen area; European security, including the external border; cohesion policy and the common agricultural policy, especially in the context of debates on the future of the EU and the European budget; deepening the Single Market; CVM completion; managing migration; combating climate change; the European social pillar and others.

We need to be much more active in promoting Romania's national interests on the EU topic as well as in bilateral relations with the Member States.

The preparation and exercise of the Presidency of the EU Council in the 1st Semester/ 2019 is at the top of the list of priorities, being a historic opportunity for our foreign policy, for us as a country and as a society. It is a responsibility of unprecedented complexity. We have acted since the very first months of the mandate to make progress in the proper internal organization, to define the political concept of the Presidency, and to shape the external environment that is most favourable to the proposals we will come with and which will be settled very soon.

The role of our Representation to the EU will be crucial and must be facilitated by concerted efforts. All diplomatic missions have a special role: you have to engage in planning this mandate, now, building the most favorable premises for the successful exercise of the Presidency in the countries in which you carry out your activity locally.

In the EU's external relations, we must focus on implementing the EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy, focusing on the resilience dimension, the future of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, NATO-EU cooperation, the implementation of the Revised Neighbourhood Policy, the EaP Summit in November, the EU Strategy for Syria, the further expansion and preservation of the Balkans and the Black Sea to the EU's attention, the EU's role in promoting effective multilateralism.

With regard to the future of the Security and Defence Policy, the next few months will mark the definition of the new approach, especially the enhanced cooperation in the field. Romania defines its positions so as to participate and benefit fully from this process, in the logic of unity and strengthening of the EU.

Obviously, the stake of our security, in a transatlantic and global perspective, remains decisive. Romania has emerged in recent years not only as a beneficiary of NATO policies but also as an active participant in defining and implementing the organization's objectives.

We are participating in the consolidation of NATO's defensive and discouragement post on the eastern flank, on the national territory, the Black Sea and Poland, we are hosting elements of the anti-missile defence system, we are among the most important contributors in Afghanistan, we coordinate the voluntary fund in the field of cyber defence towards the benefit of Ukraine. The decision to increase the defence budget to 2 % of GDP in 2017 has increased our visibility and credibility.

We will focus on the need for full implementation of measures to strengthen defence and discouragement on the eastern flank. We have a clear stake in ensuring coherence between the northern and southern areas of the eastern flank. The preparation of the NATO Summit in 2018 has begun and we must dedicate ourselves to this end with all our energy. I would like to subscribe here to the further development of the Bucharest B 9 format, possibly at the summit level, along with our strategic partners in Poland.

Deepening and expanding the Strategic Partnership with the US is an integral part of the security challenge. The Ministry has the responsibility to support the pace in this direction. The special relationship with the US, as well as the whole transatlantic relationship remain essential elements of our foreign policy. We continue to act for the transatlantic unity, the central pillar of good managing changes and tensions in the current global system.

We have extended our strategic dialogue with the US, have resumed the political-diplomatic dialogue at the highest level and have fulfilled one of the technical conditions of a major interest for Romanian citizens - the Visa Waiver Program. By the end of the year we will host in Bucharest the Annual Meeting of Strategic Dialogue Romania-USA, where will be agreed the priority actions and projects for the deepening of the bilateral relationship. Organizing by the US Department of Commerce in Bucharest in October of the Trade Winds Southeast Europe Business Forum as a regional economic mission is a signal that we can also make concrete progress on the economic component. The participation of about 200 US companies creates a chance that we have to capitalize on.

The stake for a good trans-regional neighbourhood : For my mandate, Romania's direct neighbourhood, the area designated by all the surrounding regions is of special importance. Geography remains a given of foreign policy. Romania needs to be more responsible, more creative and more involved in its neighbourhood, seen as an integrated, strategic one.

In the neighbourhood, Moldova remains the priority stake and its support for a European future. In the current geopolitical and security context, maintaining the stability and the European path of the Republic of Moldova, strengthening the rule of law and democracy, continuing modernization for the benefit of citizens are objectives that underpin bilateral cooperation. And here, the year 2018 has a special significance. It is the year in which we will celebrate the Centenary of the Great Union and give us the opportunity to remember that Romania and the Republic of Moldova share the responsibility of capitalizing on common linguistic, historical and cultural heritage through joint projects, oriented towards the future and to the new generations through trust, responsibility and pragmatism.

Between our neighbours, the approach to the relationship with Hungary must start from similar principle milestones, as I said in my first external visit, at the Annual Meeting of Hungarian Diplomacy. We have a common European present and future, fundamental to our countries and our citizens. We have a common cultural heritage, the result of historical processes, many of them systemic, not exclusively bilateral. We have minorities as potential for better mutual understanding. We have pleaded in Budapest and I shall benefit of our meeting, which will be honoured by the presence of the Hungarian counterpart, to support the re-launch of our bilateral partnership, on the basis of the principles established in the 1996 Basic Treaty: mutual respect, multifaceted cooperation, neighbourliness. We have very close economic relations and a multitude of cross-border projects. Hungary is for us the second economic partner in the EU after Germany.

In general, bilateral diplomacy maintains or even strengthens its status and relevance. From this perspective, we intend to develop relations at European level on three fundamental dimensions: 1. Closer and structured cooperation with the neighbouring countries, among which Bulgaria occupies a special place; 2. Strengthen relations with strategic partner countries or special partners, including in our economic development plan. A special place belongs to the very good dialogue, at the level of the president, the prime minister and the foreign minister, which we had this year with France and Germany. The relationship with the United Kingdom needs to be addressed with particular attention, both in the EU27- BREXIT negotiations and in subsequent arrangements, from the perspective of external and security interests that bring us further. I want to keep up the alert pace of the partnership with Poland, to consolidate our partnerships with Spain and Italy. 3. The deepening of the bilateral dialogue with the other EU Member States, with the EU candidate and partner states, is the third bilateral-European axis, given the objective of a succession mandate for the EU Council Presidency in 2019 and a favourable pre- and post- Presidency. We need to intensify cooperation on the European agenda and not only with Slovakia and the Czech Republic, with BENELUX, the Baltic States, Austria, as the holder of the previous half-year presidency, Finland and Croatia as partner countries of Romania in the trio of presidencies.

In our Presidency program, a special place will come to the Balkans, whose future is a strategic stake. In the last year, the MFA has actively contributed to the positive developments recently made in this area. I remind: finalizing the process of joining NATO and significantly advancing Montenegro's accession negotiations with the EU; support for Serbia at European level; supporting Albania in reforms to open accession negotiations; Bosnia and Herzegovina's membership application.

In our approach to our whole neighbourhood, the partnership with Turkey is of particular importance. Turkey's stability, security and prospects for economic development are of direct interest to us. We advocate for a bilateral and European-wide dialogue.

Romania's response to the illegal annexation of Crimea, given the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the difficulties it faces internally, have shaped us as a vector of political and diplomatic support for Ukraine, a gratifying evolution. We will continue to be a provider of assistance and expertise in the reform process of Ukraine.

We need, for our own stability, neighbours with strengthened, resilient institutions with secure and development prospects, decided at a sovereign level. These goals also guide our relationship with Georgia, the South Caucasus and Central Asian states - which I have recently visited.

Relations with the Russian Federation will continue on the basis of a discouraging approach and dialogue, in coordination with our Euro-Atlantic partners. Romania wants good relations with Russia, with two essential premises: mutual respect and respect for international law. As long as international law is violated by Russia's actions, we will further support the EU's sanctions policy.      

We will also debate these days the stake of Romania's development. The current internal economic conjuncture must be reflected, with the involvement of diplomatic missions, in a more consistent external presence of Romanian companies, both in the classical trade sphere and in the economic cooperation - high technology, investment and service provision.

The picture of the global economy offers complex perspectives: rather favourable post-crisis trends, but also protectionist tendencies of some major economic actors. As an EU member and supporter of the benefits of an open economy, it is time for Romania to take a more prominent role in shaping the Union's economic policies and to actively capitalize on its current economic potential, including through a good correlation of national objectives with sectoral and global strategic documents agreed at Community level.

I emphasize here that your domestic efforts and diplomatic steps directly allowed Romania to be placed for the first time in the group of candidates with real perspectives to be invited to the OECD accession negotiations. I am fully confident that you will step up the promotion of our candidacy, in view of the decision of the OECD Council expected this autumn.

Another major global trend of recent years is the promotion of extensive regional economic connectivity projects, not just simple transport routes, but genuine corridors with multiplier economic effects, especially in the field of investment. It should be agreed at national level - public institutions, the private environment - that Romania's inclusion on the map of East-West or North-South connectivity projects is a national priority, for which the necessary resources must be allocated.

In 2018, Romania will host the Summit of the Three Seas Initiative, which aims to stimulate the economic and interconnection potential of the Baltic-Adriatic-Pontic Arc States to the benefit of the participating countries and to increase the EU's economic convergence. The interconnection projects to which Romania is currently a party (with Bulgaria, Hungary, the Republic of Moldova in perspective with Serbia, too), as well as participation in the Vertical Corridor, including BRUA's main component, highlight the beneficial potential of establishing a common space of action.

Sustainable economic growth in Romania needs to be supported by reorienting and diversifying to emerging geographic regions, recapturing markets with growth potential or sectoral niches of opportunity. Geographical diversification efforts have so far produced only partial results. I urge you to act in this direction, on relations like China (especially through the New Silk Roads Initiative), Japan, the Republic of Korea, India, ASEAN, Central Asia and Africa.

We need to deepen our strategic relationship with Israel by expanding our areas of cooperation while enhancing our relations with the Middle East region as a whole.

The last months have seen intensified dialogue with Latin America and the Caribbean through bilateral level contacts with numerous states on the continent. It is time for us to better shape our capacity to play a role beyond the EU and its neighbourhood, starting with the cooperation formats and the bi-regional dialogue between the EU and the Asia-Pacific regions, Africa and Latin America.

At 100 years of transformation and existence of the modern state, beyond our profoundly Eurocentric envelope, we need to be aware of our global stakes. We are most concerned about the evolution of the Korean Peninsula. We are involved in combating terrorism - as part of the anti-Daesh Coalition, in the stabilization and communication dimension, as a NATO member, and through police training projects in Iraq. We actively support the settlement of the Syrian file and the identification of a sustainable solution in the Middle East Peace Process.

 

Romania directly supports the OSCE's unique role in enhancing security and cooperation in Europe on the basis of a comprehensive security approach. We also remain a committed member of the Council of Europe.

Romania's future years must be engaged in defending an international system anchored in multilateralism, principles and widely accepted rules designed to ensure peace, stability, respect for universal human rights, and reduce global development disparities.

In this spirit, we officially launched in June 2017, in New York, Romania's candidacy for a non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council. For success, a multifaceted and particularly active campaign is needed. Romania's goal is ambitious but also has a sufficient dose of optimism. Active conduct is needed in international organizations and in multilateral debates on classical issues and on new themes of international security - post-conflict reconstruction, peace education, food and water security, climate change.

A special tool for our action is Official Development Assistance. We are working hard to make the Agency of Romania's International Development Cooperation – RoAid operational until the end of this year, a specialized agency under the strategic coordination of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

A last stake I want to insist on: the stakes of the internal cohesion, solidarity and support of Romanian society for foreign policy.

To this end, the protection of the rights and interests of Romanian citizens through the work of the MFA and the foreign diplomatic service remains a priority. I am pleased to announce that the MFA has completed the E-Cons project, the integrated IT platform currently serving through 5 distinct, very complex systems, the entire Romanian consular network. Through the computerization of consular services and through the procedures implemented at the level of the MFA Crisis Chamber, the Romanian consular service is one of the most modern in the EU member states. Thus, in many ways, the modern instruments implemented in this field are a first European premiere in terms of the scale, diversity and timeliness of consular services. We want to capitalize on this expertise also during our EU presidency.

Progress has been made to streamline or improve work at the Bari, Bologna, Haifa, Manchester, Marseilles, Miami, Strasbourg, Stuttgart general consulates and Brussels Consulate.

Last but not least, the MFA crisis chamber has faced a series of situations in which the safety and life of Romanian citizens have been jeopardized: the attacks in Barcelona, London, Manchester or Stockholm. New repatriation operations have taken place in Syria or the Gaza Strip. This year, the number of consular services provided to Romanian citizens stands at 2 million.

As regards institutional management, we continued to refresh the staff of the MFA. We have started two new competitions this summer. We are waiting for more than 90 new colleagues by the end of the year.

We have initiated legislative steps to supplement the staffing plan, including the external one, covering both the training needs and the ensuring of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council under the best conditions.
 

Dear colleagues,

For Romania's foreign policy, a series of determinants and external factors are in a great process of transformation. But our national interests and the resulting priorities do not change fundamentally. There is a change, sometimes accelerated and even surprising, the way in which we are called to pursue and realize our national interests. Today we have new tools, means and expectations related to the goals and performance of diplomacy. I invite you to use these tools and means in full to respond with professionalism and honour to your expectations and to the Romanian diplomacy as a whole!