Diplomacy – a pillar of Centennial Romania

Teodor Meleşcanu, minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. President of the Senate,

Mr. Vice-President of the Chamber of Deputies,

Esteemed Members of the Romanian Parliament,

Esteemed Members of the Romanian Government,

Ambassadors and General Consuls of Romania abroad, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ambassadors accredited in Bucharest, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Esteemed representatives of the diplomatic corps of Romania and of the diplomatic corps in Bucharest,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


We reunite this year in a collective exercise of reflection on the role of diplomacy in Centennial Romania – I would say a salient theme in 2018, one of special significance and foremost importance.

I would like to go back to the years of the Great Union, to pay homage to one of the personalities who made it possible, and to make myself an echo of the message those generations left to us.

Ion I.C. Brătianu, in his capacity as Minister of Foreign Affairs, noted, in August 1919, in Sibiu, at a meeting of the National Council, that the very word Union illustrates our reciprocal duties: the Union of all Romanians, meaning the Union of all our consciences, the Union of all our energies, towards a common goal. Today, when we have achieved this Great Union, we are all naturally duty-bound to be grateful to those who have made it possible through their suffering, through their work, and especially through their faith.

For us, as diplomats, and even as members of the Romanian society, this is a unique moment for historical reflection and assessment: we have inherited from the previous generations a country re-unified after World War I, much-tried during World War II and in the following decades. Today, Romania is the cumulated result of what we have received and what we have achieved through our labour, the labour of our society and institutions, citizens and the state. The ideals of previous generations have always guided us, and, in our turn, we need to ask ourselves what kind of Romania we pass on to our future generations, and, especially, what values and ideals. Looking back, I can affirm that Romania’s foreign policy has been, at the most elevated crossroads in our modern history, a common ideal.

There were fervently competing political sides and impassioned disputes in the Old Kingdom and during World War I. But the sacrifices on the battlefield, and the democratic endeavours, were all achieved by virtue of a political consensus, of a widely-shared, or at least largely accepted strategic vision within the political class.

After 1989, the ideals of integration in the European Community, in the Western realm of culture and values, in the Western social and political space, were fully, energetically revived. The reform, modernisation and development of our country were possible through the consensus of the entire political class on the objectives of Romania's accession to NATO and the EU. This was a consensus grounded in the wide support of Romanian citizens.

It has been 15 years since our accession to NATO, and over 10 years since we became EU members. Romania has achieved its historical objectives and benefits from an unprecedented level of security and prosperity.

Unfortunately, however, we are today in a fluid global context, in a period of open or hidden challenges, of fundamental realignments whose final configuration is very difficult to anticipate. Conflict hotspots have multiplied, latent or frozen conflicts have deepened and instability and the potential for conflict are still present. In our very neighbourhood, we witness unprecedented attacks on international norms and on multilateralism.

Additionally, we are faced with what are known as hybrid threats, and with a much subtler toolbox, effective, in places, in eroding the fabric of Western societies. In this context, and reflecting on the larger global prospects, I would assert, in all responsibility, that we cannot afford to be divided, in our institutions, in our external projection, in our society. Our foreign policy and our diplomacy can and must remain a bond, a fundamental bond of society, and one of the engines of Romania's modernization, development and assertiveness at the European and international levels.

Esteemed guests,

Dear colleagues,

Current international tendencies impose special attention and deep comprehension, on the part of Romanian diplomacy, and of the other state institutions, in support of political decision-making.

Unfortunately, the security environment is defined by a collapse of the traditional boundaries between the virtual and the physical space, between the internal and international approaches on certain security aspects, leading to a state of ambiguity and uncertainty, affecting the very definitions of state of peace and state of war.

At the same time, modern technology alters the structure of the international system, while information flows pose a real challenge to the exercise of the diplomat’s trade. Information flow are nowadays instantaneous and all-pervading. New digital technologies bring immense possibilities to diplomats, but they also create daunting vulnerabilities.

The world has been in flux since the Cold War, and at an increasingly higher pace. An acceleration of turbulences appears inherent to globalization, a phenomenon in full acceleration itself, through interdependencies, through instantaneous and practically universal communication, through extremely fast transports and the sheer massive movement of people travelling around the world.

At the same time, there are also unfortunately massive challenges to, and realignments of, the  international order, outside of any  global blueprint for their management, for  a management of the phenomena and the negative effects of  this acceleration. Thus, various states, of varying strategic importance, are trying to make the most of the opportunities brought by these changes, by a better positioning or by inducing or designing the perspectives of world-rearrangement.

Therefore, for diplomats, it is more important than ever to focus on new, up-to-date means of redefining response options to actions going happen on below the threshold of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.

The resources allocated to Romania’s foreign policy and diplomacy are at a level commensurate with our economic power. We currently have 171 diplomatic and consular offices, we have increased our personnel and have welcomed in the MFA, over the past two years, a very large number of new diplomats, without however reaching back to the personnel levels from before the massive cuts of 2010.

Increased requirements call for our diplomacy massively investing itself in knowledge, as the sources of power and influence are increasingly more diverse and sophisticated. It falls to the Romanian diplomacy to identify such sources in the accrediting states, for a more finely tuned understanding of our country's best options for reaction and adaptation to the new context, and for promoting the national interest.

To a great extent, our citizens are not very familiar with the purview of the Romanian diplomacy, resting on perceptions that are in many cases subjective. Improved communication between diplomatic missions and consular offices and the MFA HQs will have to become a priority of your activity.

Esteemed guests,

Dear colleagues,

The Strategic Partnership with the USA is a fundamental element of our foreign policy.

We strongly believe that many global issues will find appropriate solutions in a solid, open transatlantic relationship, based on awareness of our fundamental common interest in the peace and stability of international order. A more open and pragmatic dialogue is needed for an in-depth understanding of each party's objectives and priorities. This is the main conclusion drawn from the numerous high-level and working-level contacts carried out within the Romania-USA strategic dialogue in 2018, with unprecedented frequency and substance.

Security is one such priority, and in this NATO remains the key referential for the Euro-Atlantic community. The NATO Summit in Brussels this year have reconfirmed the Allies’ capacity for unity and the importance of the Alliance in the current security environment. The July Summit has also brought important results for Romania, especially in reflecting NATO’s attention to the defence of the Eastern flank and to security in the wider Black Sea region.

Romania is an actively contributing Ally to the implementation of NATO policies and decisions,  no less in terms of allotting adequate resources to defence.  In 2017, Romania registered one of the largest increases in defence expenditure among NATO Allies, and we will stay at the  threshold of 2% of the GDP directed to the sector in the coming years. The decision is based on a national, cross-party, multi-annual consensus, and the benefits in terms of internal security and of external credibility for Romania are evident.

Another topic of positively large internal consensus, brought on the transatlantic agenda mainly as a result of Romania's efforts is the Three Seas Initiative. Romania will be soon hosting the Initiative's Summit and first Business Forum, in a desire to promote and capitalize on the economic growth and development potential of Central and Eastern Europe, through extended interconnectivity, along new infrastructures, energy flows and digital flows that should be as free as possible.

These are the objectives of the Initiative, which we will implement together with the participating countries, with our European and American partners. From Romania’s perspective, this Initiative is an additional transatlantic bridge.

We are happy with the momentum gained by the Initiative over the past year, as much as we are satisfied with the dynamics of the B9 format. They will both remain priorities for our foreign policy, alongside the other frameworks of cooperation in which we are present - in South-East Europe, in the Black Sea region, but also beyond, in the ASEM or as observers to the Pacific Alliance.

A special role also has our activity in the International Organisation of the Francophonie. Romania is a beacon in this organization of more than 80 countries, among those from Central and Eastern Europe. This framework of consultations on political and social issues, of developing economic cooperation, significantly contributes to promoting multilateralism.

Our primary diplomatic toolbox shall continue to be enlarged and diversified by flexible formulas for dialogue and cooperation, in the form of already-established trilaterals and quadrilaterals.

If diplomacy is one of the mainstays of Centennial Romania, it is equally certain that bilateral relations are the foundations of diplomacy. We are on an ascending trend in this respect. In the following interval, especially in 2019, we are prepared for substantial evolutions in our partnerships with France, Great Britain, and Germany - whose Foreign Minister will honour us with his presence towards the end of the day. We shall further boost our strategic, special partnerships with Poland, Italy, Spain, Turkey. We remain in close connection with the states in our trio of EU Council Presidencies, Finland and Croatia, but also with Austria, and with states that have held Council Presidencies in the past.

Starting with our neighbours, the Republic of Moldova, Hungary, Bulgaria - some of them strategic partners, continuing with our Balkan neighbours - members and (we hope) future members of the EU, with our Eastern partners such as Georgia and Ukraine, all the way to the Southern Caucasus and Central Asia, there has been a good dynamics with those countries over the last years. Bilateral  dialogues have been increasingly dense and oriented towards concrete results. This tendency should continue to guide us in the future, while also gaining extra depth through our exercising the Presidency of the EU Council.

Among our strategic partners and those with strategic potential, are also states on other continents, actors with booming economies. Our dialogue with China will be sustained and well enframed in the larger picture of global interconnectivity. South Korea, Japan, India, Brazil, Canada, are just a few of the bilateral relationships in which we need to inject more dynamism.

For Romania's security and economic interests, but also in the spirit of a global Romania, as a responsible and reputable member of the UN, new energies will need to be deployed in our traditional relations with states in the Middle East and North Africa. This is an area of heightened interest, with multiple economic, cultural, inter-human valences, and especially important in terms of regional and global security.

Romania will continue to enhance its strategically oriented relationship with Israel, by expanding the areas of cooperation, while at the same time building up our relations with all the countries in the region. Political, commercial, and investment ties with the Gulf states will also be consolidated. Romania will continue to be involved in the processes for solutions to the Middle East crises, based on respect for international law and the specific UN resolutions. Our diplomacy will continue to support the identification of a durable solution in the Middle East Peace Process.

Romania will also actively support the efforts for a political settlement in the Syrian file. Last but not least, we will continue to support international counter-terrorism efforts, among others as a participant in the Global Coalition Against ISIL/Daesh.

Two very important components need to be fully integrated in all our bilateral relations: consular services for the Romanian citizen, and public and cultural diplomacy. These are at the interface between the diplomatic service and, on the one hand, Romanian citizens, and on the other, the citizens of the states of residence. In this centennial year, we can be proud of the diversity and creativity of projects implemented by our diplomatic and consular missions and by the MFA HQs to honour this crucial historic moment for our nation.

Esteemed guests,

Dear colleagues,

Beyond the celebration of the Great Centennial, we still have a lot to accomplish, on the major objectives supported by our citizens.

In 2019, we will hold for the first time the Presidency of the EU Council - a true test of our European vocation. We are already in a new stage of our external becoming and self-assertion.

It is in Romania's interest that the European Union should overcome the current internal issues and dilemmas, in a sustainable way, and continue to profile itself as a credible, influential global actor, anchored in a complex system of values, and a forefront promoter of the multilateral global order. Romania's policy is one of increased EU cohesion and convergence, and promotion of European values.

I believe that we can contribute to the restoration of the citizens’ faith in Europe and the European project. The Sibiu Summit of May 9th, 2019, will be the culminating moment in this test. The lessons of history and the messages of other generations can guide us so that, on May 9th, 2019, through unity and strategic vision, we should be able to write, together with our European partners, a new page in the history of the Union.

A great challenge will be the negotiation of the next Multiannual Financial Framework. A Union that is relaunching itself and wishes to write a new page of history cannot be built without an intelligent and viable budget, especially convergence and cohesion funds, as well as those for the Common Agricultural Policy. Also, in 2019, we will have to manage politically, financially, concretely and symbolically, at the Union level, the separation of the Great Britain from the EU.

We will also have to contribute in a constructive and balanced manner to the management of all the aspects related to migration, which will remain a significant pressure on the Union.

Regarding our priorities in the field of European affairs, you will discuss more in detail in the allocated sessions. At this point, I wish to share with you a series of priorities whose pursuance falls mainly within EU’s foreign action remit. The Romanian Presidency of the EU Council will aim to strengthen the Union's vocation as a global actor, in the spirit of the Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy.

We have gone through a sustained exercise in reflection and planning, we have initiated an informal dialogue with the European External Action Service, to reach a list of agreed priorities. A few essential things can already be prefigured. We will give special consideration to the efficiency of the EU external action, based on progress in implementing the Global Strategy.

We are particularly interested in the future outlook of the Common Security and Defence Policy, starting from already registered progress, focusing on the military-civilian balance and a superior capitalization of civil niche capacities of the Union. EU-NATO complementarity and synergy of action will also constitute a benchmark for our actions as Presidency of the EU Council.

Another priority objective of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council will be in ensuring consistency of the EU policies for the Eastern Neighbourhood.

In this line, we are targeting three specific dimensions: promoting the Eastern Partnership - focusing on concrete fields of cooperation and on highlighting the wider social benefits for our partners in growing closer to the EU. Especially in the case of the Republic of Moldova, our upcoming European responsibility should be aimed at making this partner better known in Europe and, conversely, making Europe better known to the citizens of the Republic of Moldova, especially since 2019 will be a crucial year for them as well.

The second dimension in substantiating EU support to the neighbourhood will concern the Union's increased involvement in the Black Sea region. We will focus, together with the European Commission, on a constructive sectoral agenda, which should revitalize the Black Sea Synergy, and which should sustainably inscribe this topic on the priority agenda of the EU.

From a broader perspective on the neighbourhood, we will be actively involved in EU-Central Asia relations, firstly in reviewing the EU strategy for this area, starting from our expertise and diplomatic presence in this space.

An important component is also the EU Strategy for the Danube Region, whose presidency we will  hold starting November 1st, 2018, over a 1-year period. Its partial overlap with the our Presidency of the EU Council will contribute to achieving Romania’s objectives for the EUSDR: relaunching this format of cooperation, and increasing its visibility and impact.

Another major concern of our Presidency in relation to the EU’s global role of the EU will be with respect to the Union's engagements, first and foremost through marked progress in enlargement with the Western Balkans. We wish to capitalize on the continuity with the Bulgarian and Austrian presidencies, by advancing negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro and by opening negotiations with Albania and the Republic of Macedonia.

We are supporting these partners in carrying out substantial reforms and attracting increased support from society, especially the younger generations, for the European perspective.

Still in the spirit of respecting commitments, we will have a special focus on the EU’s role at a multilateral level, first and foremost through EU-UN cooperation, but also with regard to the future of the WTO. Of special interest will be our sustained involvement in the negotiation of the future framework-agreement guiding EU relations with developing countries in Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean - the so-called Post-Cotonou agreement.

In all these endeavours and for the entire duration of our Presidency, a special, unprecedented responsibility falls with our colleagues in Brussels - the Permanent Representation of Romania to the EU will be the spearhead of this exercise on most files. It thus deserves to be granted full support by all the central institutions represented there, and by all our diplomatic missions, where relevant.

Romania, at 100 years of modern becoming and accomplishment, and Romania, as Presidency of the EU Council, equally has a role to play on a global scale.

We have the assets and the arguments for it, we just need to promote them more strongly, through the activity of our entire diplomacy.

Multilateralism based on principles and norms is vital for a state with Romania's interests and positioning to be able to benefit from this kind of approaches. In a similar way to the inter-war period, Romanian diplomacy is one of multilateralism and regional cooperation. Romania can contribute to UN adaptation by putting forward new solutions to global issues – this is the message of our candidacy to a non-permanent place in the UN Security Council, for the elections of June 2019. One country - one vote means that each of you, taking part today in these debates, have the responsibility to bring and develop your own input.

Elections are not won solely in New York. We are intensely preparing new diplomatic endeavours in various regions of the globe, in states with which we wish to re-launch or, as the case may be, to initiate a consistent political dialogue. We wish to make our arguments, our pleading, better known, but we also wish to gain a truly global expertise for our diplomacy.

Within this UN campaign, three visiting tours, to the Southern area of Africa, to the insular countries of the Caribbean and those of the Pacific, have already been carried out, with meritorious endeavours. As of this year, we hold for the first time the Presidency of the UN Peacebuilding Commission. This year, Romania has established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Palau, Antigua and Barbuda, the Republic of Kiribati and the Republic of Vanuatu, while also formalising a cooperation framework with the Community of Caribbean States. I rely on a sustained involvement of all our diplomatic missions in the interval remaining until the elections, to ensure our success.

Sustained efforts at the external level, and better converging internal ones, have placed us also as favourites to receive an invitation for accession to the OECD. This is a major objective of our foreign policy, through its implications for Romania's development policies, and for its international posture.

This activism needs to continue, in the same spirit of coordinating among institutions and well-targeted external promotion, and I am convinced that we will also reach this objective as soon as possible.

In the year of the Great Centenary, I have not aimed at an ordinary formal stocktaking of our activity as Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I have rather tried to refer us back to the generation which accomplished the Great Union. With its example in mind, I wanted to look at the great priorities of our foreign policy on a short, medium, and long term. Romania's foreign policy and diplomacy need to be prepared both to face the avatars of history, and to be able to envision new ideals, think out new objectives, and participate in their fulfilment!

Thank you!