Thank you very much for your kind invitation to address such a distinguished audience.
The subject I am supposed to speak about today is a very challenging one and I hope that it will help you understand how different theoretical models studied academically can be translated into practice.
Romania’s Foreign Policy as an EU member is very simple and it could be presented in five minutes, because it is structured along the principles of solidarity and adhesion to the EU common foreign and security policies, which were shaped by all the EU member states, including Romania.
But, because I was requested to have a significantly longer initial statement, I will use most of my speech in order to explain the reasons behind our Foreign Policy.
In order to understand Romanian Foreign Policy you have to take into consideration not only our current status as a member of the EU and NATO, but also our previous quest to become a member of these fundamental organizations.
Talking about the last 25 years, I have to mention that in Romania, the accession to the Euro-Atlantic family, which means EU and NATO membership, was not a project handled exclusively by the Romanian political elite.
On the contrary, the Romanian society has manifested a strong sense of ownership of the entire process of accession and belonging to the Euro-Atlantic institutions.
And this goes even further back in time, because our process of integration into the Euro-Atlantic family cannot be fully explained based only on our geopolitical coordinates. It has to do, as well, with our Romanian identity, which combines our long and rich history and cultural heritage.
We like to think of ourselves as a mix: Latinity, Roman cultural heritage, affinity for the Francophone cultural, political, linguistic and juridical space, Christian Orthodox majority religion, and links to the Orient, the Balkans and Central Europe – they all define us. We are Europeans because of all these features.
Every time I have a chance, I like to say that Romanians are a unique combination of Latin temper, enthusiasm and openness, byzantine sophistication and German commitment, and, as such, it was only natural for us to want to be reunited with the Western democracies.
Our society believes in the same set of principles and values, in the same commitments.
Another important element in defining our identity and our quest for joining the Euro-Atlantic family is our recent past, and the way we relate to it.
The history of more than 40 years of communism in Romania has profoundly marked the Romanian society and has prompted us to ask ourselves “who we are and whom we belong to?”
We had to “heal our wounds” and “assume our past”. This process of “recovery” of our identity, of rediscovering and rebuilding ourselves, gave us more trust and enthusiasm in the NATO and European Union projects.
For us, our accession to NATO, in 2002, and to the European Union, in 2007, was not the end of the road.
Those were important milestones, but the process of integration was not over, because the Romanian society was eager to show that Romania belonged naturally to this family, that we are not a burden, but, on the contrary, a reliable ally able to be a security provider and an EU state able to contribute to shaping our common future.
If you understand this love for freedom and desire for reunification and integration, you will understand better our attitude when it comes to heavy engagement in international military missions or when we debate the future plans of the North-Atlantic Alliance.
An example of our resolution to contribute to the common security of our allies, including Hungary, is our significant presence in Afghanistan, where we deployed our first soldiers in 2002, without caveats, and, by the year 2011, despite of the economic crises hitting our economy, we reached a peak contribution of 2.000 soldiers.
Our military personnel performed a large spectrum of duties, such as the protection of highway No. 1 in the province of Zabul, southern Afghanistan, participation in Special Forces operations, protection and management of airports, training of Afghan defense and security forces, close protection for UN high officials, airlift operations etc.
So far, more than 30 Romanian battalions rotated in Afghanistan, most of them in the province of Zabul.
Afghanistan is, also, the place where the Romanian Armed Forces have paid the highest price for protecting our citizens, Romanians, Hungarians, Americans, Germans and from the other allied and partner countries.
23 Romanian soldiers lost their life in order to fight international terrorism and to give the Afghans a chance to run their own country.
All in all, 40.000 Romanian soldiers have participated in international military missions under NATO flag, 25 of them lost their live and 140 were wounded.
The same attitude of full commitment to our common future has been displayed by Romania since it became a member of the European Union.
Of course, a glass has always an empty half and a full half, and in order to reach the full half of the glass you need to go through the empty half.
This is why, if you follow the debate in Romania about our performance as an European Union member state, you are going to see that we are focusing mostly on the areas where our performance is not satisfactory.
We want to progress in all fields and, in order to do so, we are paying, in our internal debate, an increased attention to the areas where we need to improve.
The Romanian politicians, political analysts, experts, NGOs, public authorities etc. are speaking mostly about our poor performance in attracting European structural funds and, in the case of the operational programs that are already indicating a good level of absorption of the European funds, they are questioning or assessing the real impact of the projects implemented.
We debate a lot and in a very critical way about the performance of our public administration, generating a bottom up pressure to continue and accelerate the modernization of our public administration.
Even if we, the Romanians, focus our debate on the things that are not working the way we want them to work, because those are the things where we need to improve, that does not mean that we do not have areas where we perform at the level of the average European Union member state or even quite above the average.
Even if some politicians from older EU member states question the level of preparedness of Romania when it joined the European Union, we can state that Romania was not the reason for the problems faced by the EU in the last seven years, but, on the contrary, it was always part of the solution.
In my view, if we want to asses our performance in the European Union, we should not limit our discussion to how much European money we were able to absorb.
If we fall into the trap of focusing our discussion only on the issue of European funds absorption, we give credit to the Euro-sceptics, who are saying that the only reason for us, Romanians, Hungarians, Poles, Bulgarians and others to join the European Union was in order to have access to the purse of the European Union net donors.
Romania did not join the European Union with the plan of taking advantage of the EU funds and exiting the Union before becoming a net donor.
We are fully committed to the values of the Union and to our common future and we strive to match our words with deeds in this regard.
Without denying the importance of the structural funds and the agricultural subsidies for our countries, we have to explain to all our partners in the European Union, net donors or not, that the European Union is also doing better since we joined the European Union.
Our European Union partners should be aware that there are thousands of French workers who have today a working place because Romania joined the European Union, that the GDP of the Netherlands today is significantly higher because Romania joined the European Union and the Netherlands is the biggest foreign investor in the Romanian economy, that thousands of Italian retired people are doing better because Romania joined the European Union, that the Danish IT sector is doing better because Romania joined the European Union, that British hospitals are doing better because Romania joined the European Union and so on.
Despite the fact that Romania had a very difficult economic heritage from communist times and had to go through a tough economic transition, which meant that we did not have the reserves and safety nets of the older members of the European Union, Romania was able, during the recent economic and financial crises, to undergo another very ambitious, and, at the same time, painful, economic restructuring.
Our budgetary deficit is significantly below 3% of the GDP, our public debt is considerably below 60% of GDP, our inflation and interest rates are within the Maastricht criteria, we had, in 2013, the second fastest growing economy in the European Union, with 3.5%, and in the third quarter of 2014, we were the third fastest growing economy in the Union, with 3.1%.
I do not know how many of the older members of the European Union are able to have such a performance. Consequently, Romania and other new members of the European Union who were able to restructure so radically their economies, during times of crises, deserve credit for their efforts.
I gave you these examples, in order for you to have the necessary background information when it comes to listing Romania's Foreign Affairs main priorities, as they were stated publicly at the Annual Meeting of the Romanian Ambassadors in late August 2014.
Our main priority is to enhance the profile of our country in NATO and in the European Union.
That means we will continue to engage intellectually in the debates shaping the future of these organizations and we will contribute heavily to the implementation of the decisions taken together with our allies and partners, showing solidarity in bearing the political and economic costs of those decisions.
We want to consolidate the European Union project and we have a high level of ambition when it comes to deepening the integration within the European project.
Romania is convinced that a failure of the European project will mean to go back in history and will have catastrophic consequences for our citizens.
This is why we discourage any gesture that will undermine the principle of solidarity which lays at the foundation of the European Union.
Romania is also convinced that the positive impact of a successful European Union is not limited to the borders of the current members of the European Union.
Consequently, Romania is one of the strongest supporters of the enlargement process of the European Union, which has been one of the most efficient instruments for promoting democracy and the rule of law in our region.
We have the same attitude within NATO, where we support the open doors policy of the Alliance.
We would like to see our neighbors from the Republic of Moldova and the Western Balkans joining the European Union, and we hope that each of them will reach individual performances that will allowed them to become members of the European Union as soon as possible.
Romania is also a strong supporter of the EU Neighborhood Policy, and of its regional and multilateral cooperation initiatives, especially the Eastern Partnership and the Black Sea Synergy.
When it comes to the Eastern Partnership, we encourage the implementation of the more for more principle. That means that we have to match whatever the level of ambition of our partners is.
If the Republic of Moldova, country with whom we have strong cultural and historical links, wants to join the European Union, we have to support this country in achieving this major goal.
If Ukraine and Georgia want to make big steps on their European path, towards the European Union, we should be able to assist them in their endeavors.
These countries deserve to take their own decisions, and we, as members of the European Union, should encourage the other actors on the international arena to respect the decisions of these sovereign countries.
Romania is very committed to the EU policies that are aimed at enhancing the energy security of Europe. We support the projects regarding the development of new sources of energy, the exploitation of local resources, the construction of new energy corridors, the creation of a strong common market for energy and so on.
Romania is also very supportive in promoting the global agenda of the European Union.
For example, within the context of the current negotiations for generating a global effort to prevent global warming, Romania has been one of the countries that promoted, in the European Council, a unilateral EU commitment that will encourage our global partners to increase their own commitment, without jeopardizing the competitiveness of the European economy.
Once a decision was taken in the European Council, we stick to it and we work with all the other EU member states in promoting our common position on this subject.
Romania is one of the European Union countries contributing significantly, in practice, to fighting global climate change. For example, when it comes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, Romania ranks third in the European Union, with a 49.54% reduction in emissions in 2011, compared to 1990.
I do not know how many of you are aware of the fact that Romania is one of the European Union champions when it comes to renewable energy. Let me give you some figures in order to understand what I mean.
According to the European Union 2020 Agenda, the European Union should cover 20% of its energy consumption from renewables. Within this context, in the case of Romania, its national target is to cover, by 2020, 24% of its energy consumption from renewable resources.
I have to proudly report that, in 2013, in the case of my country, Romania, 41% of its total energy consumption was covered from renewable resources. Yes, we managed to get results that are above the expectations of our partners.
Romania is also supporting the efforts for enhancing the EU global posture and profile.
This is why we are very active when it comes to national contributions to European Union Peace missions. Romania is currently on the 9th position out of all European Union member States in terms of its contribution with personnel to civilian CSDP missions and is taking part in several military operations.
You can find Romanian personnel both in European Union missions deployed in our immediate neighborhood as well as in European Union missions deployed in far-away countries like Mali, Niger, Congo, Somalia and so on.
We are also present with a significant contribution to the different FRONTEX operations that are meant to guard the external borders of the European Union. Actually, Romania is one of the main contributors to FRONTEX operations.
The same spirit characterizes Romania’s position regarding the Peace Process in the Middle East, the Islamic State, the conflict in Syria, the negotiations with Iran etc.
My speech was not meant to make an exhaustive and microscopic presentation of Romania’s Foreign Policy as a member of European Union.
It was meant to give you the background and a brief presentation of our priorities, in order to set the stage for a meaningful exchange of views and a dynamic Q&A session.
Thank you very much for your kind attention and I am waiting for your questions.
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