Within a Europe where the EU members seem to line-up based on their national interests, despite the calls for cohesion launched by Jean Claude Junker, the President of the European Commission, Romania seeks the proximity to the ‘core’ of the Union.
And today the idea of unity seems to be built around the need for collective defense touted to be realised by a single army. An idea which, again, we sustain.
A discussion with former Foreign Minister, Cristian Diaconescu, also brings to light the important greys that compose the European framework in which Romanian is trying to find the best possible place.
cursdeguvernare.ro: President Johannis stated that Romania’s wish in the new European context after Brexit is to be close to the core of the European Union. What would be the consistency and the image of this core?
Cristian Diaconescu: I believe that the President’s intention was to devote Romania to that decision core that jointly offers answers to many categories of risks and threats facing Europe – from the refugee crises to the euro crisis, through the information warfare, the hybrid war, the fight against terrorism.
All these challenges involve solidarity, and from my point of view, and I think the president has thought in the same direction, the European future belongs to those who build bridges, not to those who build walls.
Beyond this metaphor, I believe that the only coherent answer should be a common approach of these challenges.
European solidarity is deeply fissured. Approaching the Eastern vicinity as buffer zone is wrong
cursdeguvernare.ro: Can we talk about unity in Europe today, identify the core, the ideal to which to adhere to?
Cristian Diaconescu: The European manner of reacting to the series of crises caused, on one hand, mistrust in the European institutional system – very serious result, as Europe has been based on institutions.
The best example is the refugee crisis – we have the legal framework that can be used in this situation but it did not work.
On the other hand, citizens’ suspicion towards the efficiency of the European policies is growing.
I believe we should assume that the European solidarity is deeply fissured and in terms of Romania’s interests, this solidarity must be restored.
cursdeguvernare.ro: The Summit from Bratislava proved that this mistrust has a solid foundation …
Cristian Diaconescu: We have strong arguments for criticism and major European decision makers should have solutions which must be explained, clarified with all EU members and implemented afterwards.
A clear and most of all a common answer is needed. If things are left to the national policies, we shall have all sorts of reactions.
I do not know what the solution should be, but a paradigm shift in the way the European leaders think should happen. From the political point of view, cohesion should be restored inside the EU.
cursdeguvernare.ro: Cohesion seems difficult to attain in times when we hear theories such as the two or three-speed Europe…
Cristian Diaconescu: Multi-speed Europe is in my opinion a very big problem.
I believe, for instance, that the countries from the Central Europe will not be spared from the immigration crisis as long as the states from the EU border will not have the security ensured.
A clear and solidary decision from Brussels is actually needed: to what extent the Western Balkans and the EU’s eastern vicinity will still be considered as an area where stability, security and good governance are promoted – and this option seems wrong to me – a EU buffer.
The difference is not just semantics; it is a fundamental problem of political approach.
It’s premature to join the single European army initiative, as long as Europe does not have a common security policy
cursdeguvernare.ro: A fundamental current need is the establishment of a European army, an idea which we support – said Klaus Johannis.
Cristian Diaconescu: I have a rather reticent opinion regarding the idea of the European Command, launched by the Defense Ministers of France and Germany. It seems to me that the topic is not sufficiently processed.
I do not see the usefulness of such a decision as long as Europe has not been able yet to have a common defense and security policy.
From this point of view, before seeing the benefits of a military reorganization, we have to see the fundamental pan-European policy that would form the basis for such reorganization.
To join such an initiative seems premature to me for now. To discuss it, of course, but in terms of financing, it seems now quite complicated.
In another train of thoughts, Europe cannot afford today to ensure its own security by itself, given particularly some major risks and threats from the military point of view.
cursdeguvernare.ro: Could the support announced for the French-German military initiative also mean, in fact, an erosion of what we used to call the Washington-London-Bucharest axis?
Cristian Diaconescu: I believe that quite a few understand what this axis meant and may mean today.
The project, we should recall, was launched in 2005-2006, at a time when Romania, along with the US and Britain, were among the main contributors to the antiterrorist coalition.
Until the terrorist attacks in France, this country clearly distanced itself from the coalition and the global approach promoted by the US and the UK. Following the dramatic events, Paris’ approach has changed.
Romania sympathised with the US and Britain, countries that participated in military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. We shared certain approaches regarding the stabilization processes applied at the source of the problems. It would be strange today to deny the validity of those assessments.
Besides, there is a matter that also has value now: in terms of perception of risks and threats in the vicinity of NATO, the US and Britain were and remain Romania’s main support.
Again, we also want an advanced projection of the military forces. From the political point of view, NATO takes consensual decisions, but when it comes to operationalize the decisions, here, for instance the issue of the Black Sea basin, we expect that the armed forces of the USA and Britain to join Romania’s armed forces – it is also a matter of actual military capability.
We should not forget that the military and intelligence structures have developed in time a very deep partnership with the US and Britain. And such examples may continue.
I would like to look at things from a more realistic perspective: we have strategic partnerships with both countries which have proven effective, at least on the defense and security component. From this point of view, I think we should be more careful …
cursdeguvernare.ro: Do you feel though a concern towards identifying a new European strategic partner?
Cristian Diaconescu: Romania, in most of the times, promoted an inclusive foreign policy, not one that excludes someone from the game.
Good cooperation with the United States and Britain does not exclude cooperation with someone else. It would be a big mistake to exclude Germany, for instance, as an economic partner.
However, I would really like us to have a regional security project, beyond those partnerships. It is a matter of foreign policy as normal as possible and also a request from the two partners that we were talking about.
It seems strange that each of the states from the region to go, when feeling threatened, either to Washington or London or Brussels to ask for a bilateral support. This makes no sense.
From this point of view, cooperation in the region with emphasis on the Black Sea, should primarily be a national project, then a regional and ultimately a multilateral project.
Unfortunately, there is no coherent project in our region; I believe this is a big matter for our political capacity and even for the capacity to inspire projects regionally.
Why the idea of a Black Sea fleet did not work
cursdeguvernare.ro: It might be also about the ability to negotiate and implement them.
Cristian Diaconescu: Especially so, given that we don’t have today interests opposed to these risks and threats. Of course, to the extent of the national interests, the values are the same in Sofia and Bucharest, Budapest and Belgrade.
Obviously, everyone wants stability in the Black Sea region, no one wants a confrontation between the EU zone of influence and the Russian Federation’s zone of influence.
We all wish to have open communication channels with the Russian Federation, but don’t support, for instance, the annexation of Crimea. Beyond coincidences regarding the shared perception, there is no project to be put on the table.
cursdeguvernare.ro: One of the projects had to be the Romanian Black Sea fleet. What did not work?
Cristian Diaconescu: Negotiation and agreements of bilateral solutions are most often more complicated than a multilateral formula. To avoid failure, there are usually two types of procedures applied.
First, the security interests of the dialogue partner are evaluated as carefully as possible. Secondly, the level of the agreement is raised up to an appropriate threshold.
I mean, if we wish to strengthen the military component in the Black Sea region, we shall strictly weight Romania’s representation in the military area. If we wanted a multinational presence in the area, then we would bring the matter to a multilateral approach.
If we wanted a certain political cooperation format, then, I would ask again: do we have a project?
If yes, that project would have been negotiated in a reasonable time.
My feeling is that the problem with Bulgaria was due to a haste – the desire to pick a theme not enough digested and raise it to a level too high for the partner’s capacity to agree on it.
cursdeguvernare.ro: Can the project still be done?
Cristian Diaconescu: I am sure that the project can be materialized.
Again, we share the same assessments with Bulgaria and about the same kind of military capabilities and regardless the complicated time that Ankara is facing, the partnership with Turkey is a project equally supported and sympathized by Ankara.
Waiting for the moment, weighting the steps, Turkey might remain a partner in a coherent project. We just need to be careful and weight the requests and the ability to approve.
A very good sign would be for France and Germany to wish to involve in setting up the Multinational Brigade in Romania
cursdeguvernare.ro: Going back to the European military initiative. Are we in a hurry?
Cristian Diaconescu: From the national perspective, I think President Johannis meant to support the idea that we shall debate, I hope, and discuss. I repeat, there is nothing materialized today, as we speak.
After Bratislava, there was no substantive point of view, agreed by all Member States regarding this initiative.
cursdeguvernare.ro: The EU defense ministers will meet though on September 26 to 27, to discuss.
Cristian Diaconescu: As things will shape, we can get an idea. Of course, we can support an idea insofar as solutions and answer options are integrated.
The problem may become interesting to the extent that aspects of security and defense of all Member States are properly taken into account.
From Germany’s or France’s point of view, the risks and threats category is somehow different than the one facing Romania. It is obvious that the two countries are not at the confluence of crisis areas and frozen conflicts, as Romania; lucky for them.
Any European defense initiative should take into account all the risks that would have to address.
Let’s see first whether such an initiative is appropriate to the matters that concerns Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria today…
cursdeguvernare.ro: The novelty is that we face the need to quickly move troops within the EU.
Cristian Diaconescu: I agree, in one way or another this issue has to be solved; as the duplication of the military decision must also be solved.
It may seem individualistic, but the matter is worth to also be discussed from a national point of view: for the moment, we do not have a very positive history in terms of reporting, other than the general politic one made by some European countries on the security issues directly facing Romania.
A very good sign would be for France and Germany to wish to involve in setting up the Multinational Brigade in Romania; or to play a role as clear as possible regarding the headquarters from Romania; or to join Romania for the necessary clarifications and answers regarding the defensive nature of the shield.
We are talking about attitudes that totally missed until today.
Cristian Diaconescu was Foreign Minister in three governments and Advisor to the Romanian President