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Romania - Foreign Relations

Since December 1989, Romania has actively pursued a policy of strengthening relations with the West in general, more specifically with the U.S. and the European Union. Romania was a helpful partner to the allied forces during the first Gulf War, particularly during its service as president of the UN Security Council. Romania has been active in peace support operations in Afghanistan, UNAVEM in Angola, IFOR/SFOR in Bosnia, KFOR and EULEX in Kosovo, and in Albania. Romania also offered important logistical support to allied military operations in Iraq in 2003 and, after the cessation of organized hostilities, has been participating in coalition security and reconstruction activities. Romania is a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which it chaired in 2001.

Romania was the first country to enroll in the NATO Partnership for Peace program. NATO member states invited Romania to join the Alliance in 2002, based on Romania's rapid progress in modernizing its armed forces and its contributions to allied peacekeeping and other military operations. Romania officially became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on March 29, 2004 after depositing its instruments of treaty ratification in Washington, DC. In 1996, Romania signed and ratified a basic bilateral treaty with Hungary that settled outstanding issues and laid the foundation for closer, more cooperative relations. In June 1997, Romania signed a bilateral treaty with Ukraine that resolved certain territorial and minority issues, among others. Romania also signed a basic bilateral treaty with Russia in July 2003.

Romania hosted President Bush's final NATO Summit April 2-4, 2008. The venue symbolized the expansion of the Alliance from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and set new goals for years to come.

Romania acceded to the European Union on January 1, 2007 along with Bulgaria, bringing the number of EU states to 27. Romania is a strong advocate for a "larger Europe," encouraging other countries that were formerly part of the Soviet sphere to integrate into both NATO and the EU.

Romania has been actively involved in regional organizations, such as the Southeast Europe Cooperation Initiative (SECI) and the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe, and has been a positive force in supporting stability and cooperation in the area.

Romania maintains good diplomatic relations with Israel and was supportive of the Middle East peace negotiations initiated after the Gulf conflict in 1991. Romania also is a founding member of the Black Sea Consortium for Economic Development. It joined the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in 1972, and is a member of the World Trade Organization.

Romanian foreign policy did not changed fundamentally in the shift from former Prime Minister Tariceanu to the 2009 government of Prime Minister Emil Boc. The 2008 elections that brought Boc in with the Democratic-Liberal Party (PD-L) and Social Democratic Party (PSD) coalition have shifted the deck-chairs, but the direction is the same. The replacement of Tariceanu by the low-key Emil Boc gives former ship captain President Basescu greater leeway at the helm of foreign affairs and national security policy.

At a February 2009 conference on "Cultural Identity and the Security Dimension", National Security Advisor Iulian Fota argued Romanians were unsure of not only who they are, but also who they wanted to be. He said that Romania needs a national dialogue on identity because, "before you know where you are going, you should know first who you are." He very much sees Romania's transformation both within the EU and in NATO as a work in progress. University of Bucharest Sociologist Dan Dungaciu made a similar argument, but added that there is a growing political generation gap in Romania between those who are nostalgic for Ceaucescu-like controls, those who reject any attempt to look for benefits from the Ceaucescu era, and those -- mainly young people -- who either are scrambling to get out of Romania, rebelling against their elders, or biding their time under the current rules of the game.

Since the launching of the Basescu-inspired Black Sea Forum on Cooperation and Partnership in 2006, Romania has adjusted its engagement on Black Sea security issues to parallel U.S. policy emphasis on "soft power." Turkey's visceral reactions to any Russian mention of Black Sea security in a multinational forum make Bucharest's stance imperative. Romania since has moderated its tone in a conscious attempt to squash irritants in its relations among the Black Sea littoral states. It has not been enough to build the more cooperative, collaborative, and inclusive experience Romania needs in order to promote a Black Sea regional identity.

In most Romanian assessments of the challenges to its national security interests, Russia looms omnipresently. The Russian role in Moldova/Transnistria, Russia's suspension of activities under the CFE treaty, and the August 2008 move into Georgia were seen as part of a Russian tapestry to block Romania's efforts to diversify gas supplies away from Russian sources, better regional balance throughout the region (Caspian Sea inclusive), and most importantly shift the NATO and EU frontiers further eastward. The Russian move against Georgia seriously reversed the more positive momentum that Romania was counting on after the 2008 NATO Summit. Romania appreciates somewhat better than others the importance of the process of NATO integration as the best way to accelerate towards eventual EU membership.

EU membership for Georgia, Ukraine and Turkey were foremost in Romania's Black Sea strategy because the process of integration into the EU would also compel reconciliation of a wide range of unresolved bilateral issues with (mainly) Ukraine and Turkey, further entice Moldova away from Russia, and open up a more secure and stable commercial corridor not only through the southern Caucasus but also towards the Middle East. The August 2008 events in Georgia forced Bucharest to recalculate where Russia may move next to create obstructions in Romania's Black Sea security space. Though there is a general cultural obsession with Moldova, Ukraine-Russia relations are much more prominent in Romania,s calculations.

That is not to understate Romania's feelings about Moldova. President Basescu learned to moderate reactions to what are viewed as President Voronin's efforts to provoke Romanian nationalism as a threat to Moldova's sovereignty. The Moldovans have expelled Romanian journalists, diplomats including the ambassador, students and Orthodox priests on various pretenses. Romania's instinct to strike back has been superceded by the larger strategic goal of trying to get the EU more fully focused and engaged in Moldovan issues. Moldovan expert and university professor Dan Dungaciu stated it more explicitly that the EU must get more involved in concrete ways, otherwise it will continue to lose Moldovans' hearts and minds because the average Moldovan only sees Russia as Moldova's benefactor and defender. Romania is concerned about both Voronin's control over Moldova and the Russian propensity to turn Moldova into a Black Sea pawn. Nonetheless, Romania will remain fully committed to a peaceful, stable, and sovereign Moldova (as an EU member state, Romania really has no choice), and believes stronger association between Chisinau and Brussels is the only, if not the best, way to get there. Moldova will continue to be a test of Romanian resolve to get the EU to develop a more strategic view of the Black Sea.

One complicated challenge for Romania is maintaining good relations with Turkey. In spite of the bloodied history with the Ottomans, Romania prides itself on a strong political, economic and social relationship with Turkey and is fully committed to Turkey joining the EU. Both countries also are fully committed to preserving the CFE "flank regime" that establishes a special subset of limitations on Russian forces in their North Caucasus Military District -- a vital Confidence and Security Building Mechanism for both the Black Sea and Southern Caucasus.

Nonetheless there are still differences that inhibit Romania and Turkey from developing a fuller collaborative process in the Black Sea region. While Romania wants a more inclusive political regime that would strengthen both the voice of the smaller states and the influence of European and Euro-Atlantic institutions, it sees Ankara as more cautious regarding potential Russian reactions and concerned with the impact on Turkish management of the complicated access through the Bosporus Straits, or greater maritime activity in the Sea itself. In that regard, Turkey is not at all shy about expressing its displeasure in Bucharest at Romania's eagerness for a larger NATO (and U.S.) presence in the Black Sea.

Romania sees the issue as one of the essential components of a comprehensive energy security policy, especially given the need to diversify sources of supply away from pipelines carrying Russian gas across Turkey. Strong reservations from Ankara on Black Sea security issues beyond Operation Black Sea Harmony and BlackSeaFor factor very much into Romanian frustration on development of better energy routes from the Caucasus to the rest of Europe--a trade issue that gives advantage to Romania,s strategic location on the Sea and access to the Danube. Nonetheless Romania is on track to sign soon all of the protocols for its full participation in Operation Black Sea Harmony, a significant forward step in Turkish-Romanian Black Sea security relations. The Romanians have a proverb that describes their situation perfectly, "a goat must graze where it is leashed."

The political transformation of the Western Balkans continues to be a vital national security interest for Romania. The MFA is aware that not only is the work far from finished, but there is a serious risk of political regression and ethnic divergence. Romania holds a rather legalistic view of Kosovo,s independence, which they will only ever recognize if Serbia does. For Romania, there can be no internationally recognized imposition of special collective rights for a group; only individual human rights, as enshrined in the Declaration, carry legal weight. Romania denies international recognition of secession on the basis of collective rights and without the consent of the losing sovereign state. This legal view has everything to do with the ethnic Hungarian minority located in two counties in the center of Romania.

This view applies as much to Serbia-Kosovo as it does to Republika Srpska-Bosnia and Hercegovina. Romania does not believe the further fragmentation of the former Yugoslavia is in anyone's interest and risks becoming a prelude for further fragmentation, when the goal should be integration into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions. Romania knows it is in a minority position on this point among EU members, and it wants to stay fully engaged in the multinational processes to encourage inter-ethnic and inter-state reconciliation for the region, provided it does not need to compromise its legal principles. Not only does this position accommodate Romania's domestic concerns regarding Transylvania, but it also avoids an internal political debate over autonomy and the impact this could have on relations with Hungary, or the dangers associated with Transnistria in the Republic of Moldova.

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Page last modified: 17-02-2017 19:32:21 ZULU