Rede des rumänischen Ministerpräsidenten: Romania – Contributor to the European Solidarity

Mai 27, 2002
18:00 - 21:00 MESZ/MEZ

Romania – Contributor to the European Solidarity
Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,
I am particularly pleased to be here today and to address such a distinguished audience on a topic – European solidarity – that represents one of the major political goals of our continent. I believe your Institute is among the best placed to host a debate on European solidarity, precisely because the Danube has for so long been a symbol of unity and cooperation. I had the honour this morning to attend the launching ceremony for the Danube Cooperation Process. This project, initiated by Austria, Romania, the European Commission and the Stability Pact, comes to substantiate the role of the Danube basin countries in building up solidarity in Europe, in the interest of its citizens.
First of all, let me thank you for the opportunity to share with you some ideas about Romania’s role as a contributor to European solidarity, on one hand, and about Romania’s expectations from it, on the other hand.
As you might be aware, Romania has concentrated all its potential on achieving our main political target – integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic structures. Our people are fully aware that there is no other solution for Romania: we will steadfastly pursue reform as the only way to consolidate Romania’s standing as a stable democracy and to ensure decent life standards for all the Romanian citizens.
The road since 1990 has not been an easy one. Decisions called for to turn a rigid State-controlled regime into a democratic system were sometimes painful and unpopular. Progress has not been dramatic enough for some, while others fear we are going too fast. Challenges arise from our historical legacy; from a hesitant transition; from integration and globalization. We have had to deal with the side effects of embargos, the violent disintegration of Yugoslavia and the blocking of the Danube, our main river route.
But the one factor that has kept us going has been the thought that all our sacrifices will have been worth it when Romania becomes a full member of the EU and NATO, thus anchoring ourselves once and for all; when we can benefit from access to the single market, to new technologies, to enhanced security and to a collective and committed source of support. Today 70% of our exports, now at a record level, go to EU markets. The economy is growing at a rate of 5%. Democratic capitalism is today a reality in my country. Remember that public support for NATO membership is running at some 85%; so is support for EU membership. And this is not based on ignorance of the costs or obligations. This support is based on a very clear understanding of where we belong.
We are not conducting reforms solely because the European Union requires that we should, but mainly because they are of the utmost necessity for the development of a democratic, stable and prosperous Romania. We want to complete reforms so as to establish a modern European Romania, with a healthy business environment, capable of generating trust among potentially successful investors. Some of the most important Austrian banks – RZB, Volksbank – are already present in Romania, and there are over 2,300 commercial companies registered where an Austrian capital is involved. The economic forum that is taking place this week in Vienna opens new investment opportunities, especially for small- and medium-sized enterprises. The Östfond is a valuable support to the continued process of restructuring and reform in Romania, and we hope in a stronger participation of Austrian ventures in investments in the energy, road and railroad infrastructure, and telecommunications sectors. We also count on the potential of our bilateral trade to soon reach the level of 1 billion USD and on an increasing number of Austrian companies competing in this year’s privatization bids in Romania.
We bring with us in the EU a population with a high level of education, natural competitiveness, courage and determination. As committed Europeans and firm believers in a strong transatlantic relationship, we believe we can contribute to the development of the EU as a true global actor, in partnership with the US on the international stage.
This is why we in Romania view joining the EU and NATO as mutually reinforcing processes, based on common values and responsibilities. After the hard legacy of communism, our national identity – our European identity – is defined by an unwavering commitment to pluralistic democracy, free markets, respect for human rights and the rule of law, good relations with our neighbors and an integral dedication to EU and NATO integration.
We belong to a historic generation in Central and Eastern Europe marked by the revolution for democratic values. Together with the other Central and Eastern partners we are completing a historic cycle that has transformed the political map of a Europe once divided by the Iron Curtain. All of us, each in our own way, have shown the determination to introduce massive change in pursuit of the values that are the very essence of what European solidarity stands for.
Let us not forget that Europe’s main competitive advantage is the richness and diversity of its cultures and national capabilities. It is this very diversity and mobility that will make Europe more cohesive as far as society, culture, interests and competition are concerned. We have found the solution to many of our internal concerns in the European spirit, values and norms. It is on this basis that Romania has become a regional axis of inter-ethnic balance and respect. A durable and politically sophisticated structure of ethnic agreements has been developed in the relations between Romania and Hungary, an example unique in the region that is supported by all of the major parties.
We want to contribute to shaping a Europe of the future that adopts a social model, pursues deregulation, and takes advantage of the new mobility and flexibility of labour. We want to cash in on the benefits of the European solidarity taking advantage of new markets, new knowledge, and a new prosperity for our citizens. Romania represents a market and an important anchor for expanding Western trade and investment toward Eastern Europe and the Black Sea region. Our geographic position is a hub for connecting the Danube Area with the Black Sea markets and the Central Asian resources.
A new solidarity in Europe is made possible by both enlargement and deepening of the Union. The Nice decision to launch a broad debate on the Future of the Union opened an opportunity for relevant contributions from the accession countries. The Romanian vision of the Future of Europe can be summarized as synergy and competitiveness in a cohesive society built on cultural diversity. This approach advocates the elimination of economic divisions by encouraging equal opportunities and free access regardless of national identity.
In the first place, this calls for responsibility and serious commitment from us, the candidate states, in implementing reforms. Secondly, it calls for a new ever-closer structural convergence between the EU and the newcomers to remove economic disparities, especially with support from the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund. On such a basis we will shape a future Social Europe. A Social Europe means not only reinforcing our common identity or enjoying new opportunities. A Social Europe also implies meeting obligations, such as regulating competition, or integrating the labour market.
But we also define European solidarity through the necessity of an equal treatment for all the candidate countries, according to the principles stated by the European Council in Luxembourg, which launched the accession process with 12 candidates. This will not allow a splitting of candidate states in different groups and their evaluation as “first and second rank countries”.
We want 2002 to be the year that marks Romania’s firm re-anchoring to the West. We hope a long historical cycle of prosperity has opened for our nation to fulfil our potential as an important competitive European player. From this perspective we’re speeding up our accession process and expect a positive signal from the Seville Summit in the shape of a clear road-map with a definite time-table for EU membership.
As the Commission stressed in its Regular Report last autumn, Romania has made important progress under all four criteria. Since then, we have consolidated our political and economic performance and the transposition of the acquis has been accelerated since January. The administrative capacity to implement and enforce this acquis and to manage Community funds is subject to a recent Strategy of the Government and we believe that this year significant progress will be made under this criterion as well.
Our society needs encouragement and solidarity now in order to keep this momentum and enhance the strong political motivation of our citizens for reform. This could comprise areas of interest for all the candidate countries, such as: involvement in the process of drafting of the Accession Treaty, involvement in the debate on the future financial framework of the EU as well as in the future IGC, possible participation in the European elections in 2004 and involvement in the activities of the future European Parliament.
We are firm believers in a European defence identity. It is natural that Europeans should strengthen their capabilities in military crisis management. And it is a means to promote better burden-sharing. So we have already made a pledge to the European rapid reaction force of both personnel and equipment that is commensurate with our size.
Accession to NATO is not our end goal but rather a step further on our road to shared responsibility in bringing about greater security in Europe. As we approach the Prague NATO Summit, the goal of aspirant countries to NATO membership is two-fold: to prevent the deepening of discrepancies in security and stability levels between the two halves of Europe; and to respond effectively and in partnership to the new threats facing us all.
Action against terrorism puts into a new context the strategic process of enlargement. I believe that the further enlargement of NATO is now more valid than ever. Extending the boundaries of NATO will bring to the Alliance greater predictability and operational robustness, in particular on the Southern flank.  Speaking for my own country, we have already proved with action as well as words that we stand by the Alliance unconditionally.
Romania was the first candidate country to make a concrete offer to NATO’s operational activities. Our airfields and port facilities are available to the Alliance.  We are sharing intelligence. Our C130s are carrying soldiers to Afghanistan, soldiers that include our own elite mountain troops. Romania has offered to deploy troops in Afghanistan as early as December, while simultaneously fielding peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo. This was not a one-off decision.
It was a natural response consistent with our strategic foreign and defence policy goal to assume the responsibilities of a NATO Ally and to defend the Euro-Atlantic values.  We will continue to do so, in the conviction that membership carries with it obligations as well as benefits.
Military cooperation through the Multinational Peacekeeping Force in Southeastern Europe, and political collaboration within the Southeastern Europe Cooperative Process and the Southeastern Europe Brigade, are examples of how countries in the region can contribute to building lasting peace and stability.  NATO’s Southern expansion will strengthen the European barriers against criminal and terrorist activities flowing from Central Asia and Caucasus.
The lessons learned in 2001 show that each of us has a unique role to play in fostering stability, security and freedom, from the Black Sea through the Adriatic and the Caspian to the Baltic.
We know that the healthy way to security and stability in Europe is to promote inclusiveness and to bridge divisions, to bring together partners in adjacent areas in a commitment to our basic Euro-Atlantic values, and to project shared solutions to shared problems. This is the gist of the Charter of good neighbourliness relations, stability, security and cooperation in Southeastern Europe, a document underlying regional solidarity. And this is the sense of the Initiative for the Danube cooperation inaugurated today in Vienna.
I strongly believe that any new project that would approach the Balkans in isolation from Europe must be ruled out. Europe no longer needs walls, whatever noble intentions their builders could have. Instead of new barriers, Europe now more than ever in its history must rely on the solidarity and unity of all those prepared to assume a European identity.
I believe it has become crystal-clear to every citizen of South East Europe that nationalist temptations will always close the door to prosperity and freedom. Let us spare no expense to repudiate and confront any forces of disintegration that act to create black holes of crime and ethnic cleansing through hatred, extremism and intolerance. We still have to face in the Balkans the business of organized crime and trafficking of all kinds – in drugs, human beings, weapons.
Together with our SEE partners, we can make better use of regional mechanisms of cooperation based on European solidarity. The SECI Regional Centre in Bucharest for fighting organized crime is the first example of real practical and operational cooperation between the countries of South East Europe.  Working alongside the FBI, Interpol and law enforcement agencies of other European countries, the SECI Centre is making headway in tackling cross-border problems like human trafficking and illegal drug operations.
While the European Union is assuming the lead in tackling outstanding issues in the Western Balkans, countries like mine are being encouraged to be more pro-active in promoting regional ownership of the solutions – as Dr. Busek, the Coordinator of the Stability Pact rightfully advocates.
With the valuable support from the Stability Pact, the SEE countries have identified a set of priorities for regional co-operation in 2002, aimed at consolidating our synchronism with Europe and our global participation. I will mention only some of the projects that Romania strongly advocates.
Completing the network of bilateral Free Trade Agreements by the end of 2002, removing obstacles to private investment and improving the overall investment climate are priorities not only for the region but also for an enhanced European cohesion.
Building up regional energy cooperation, based on a commitment to bring about a regional energy market, involving local and extra-regional private business in the reconstruction and in regional infrastructure projects will improve social welfare for local communities. I firmly believe that that Danube Cooperation Project launched today will open new opportunities for business in Central and Eastern Europe and will nurture new partnerships for future investment projects in transport and telecommunication infrastructures.
The Graz Process initiated by Austria within the Stability Pact is a valuable instrument in promoting wider access to education for the youth and sustained investment in their chances for professional achievement at home. Also, the e-Content initiative of the EU, disseminating e-trade, e-government and e-business through the region and making these tools familiar for as many individuals as possible are the best barrier against the emergence of an IT educational divide in Europe. As implemented by our Government also, such tools are best suited for promoting transparency, preventing corruption and enhancing governmental responsiveness to citizens’ and business community’s needs.
Reaching sub-regional agreements on functional cross-border issues (border management, infrastructure) is another I strongly commend in this context the valuable support Austria is providing to our country for improving cross-border management. I also underline the role of the Stability Pact Fighting Organized Crime Initiative and of the SECI cooperation in this respect.
What we need is real politics beyond arguments, and international support oriented towards the real Balkans, not the schematic, cliché-ridden Balkans of history. If “Europe whole and free” is our common dream, the chance is for all of us to realise that the Balkans has the genuine potential for offering Europe a new vision and new strength.
Belonging to Western organisations doesn’t mean we should or will neglect our Eastern neighbours. However difficult it may be to draw them in, the European circle cannot be completed without them. Romania and the other young democracies in Europe feel a moral and historical obligation to spread the values that rescued us from the darkness of totalitarianism and communism.
Our regional experience can contribute to the process of reconnecting the Western Balkans to the European spirit, helping the Republic of Moldova to regain its European vocation and irradiating the values of European unity through the Black Sea area to the Caucasus and beyond.
Enhancement of the West-East strategic relationship will be no less beneficial in terms of building a new confidence and pragmatic partnerships with Russia and Ukraine.
We, Romanians, are clear about our European identity. But we know that moral arguments alone are not enough for a true solidarity of the European Union.
We share the same values, aspirations and responsibilities. We have the same fears about the future. And we hold the same view about how best to ensure European security and prosperity. That is, through solid alliances and partnerships based on common goals, built on common standards and bringing mutual benefit.
We have a historic opportunity to enter a new cycle of stability and security on our continent that will deliver a Europe whole, free and at peace. We cannot afford to let it slip away.