Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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Diplomatie & Défense
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  S.E.M. / H.E. Teodor BACONSCHI

Bucharest-Paris, a strategic partnership at the heart of the UE

A year after joining the EU on 1st January 2007, Romania has made France one of her major European partners. Ex-Counsellor to President Traian Basescu, H.E. Teodor Baconschi, Romanian Ambassador to France, returns to us to talk of the new impetus given to Franco-Romanian relations and of the synergies the two countries are proposing to develop to face up to the challenges of the construction of Europe.

The Diplomatic Letter: Mr Ambassador, the meeting between President Traian Basescu and President Nicolas Sarkozy in Bucharest on 4 February 2008 was marked by the conclusion of a “strategic partnership” between the two countries.  What major changes does this partnership introduce compared with the « Partnership for Europe » that was inaugurated at the first Franco-Romanian intergovernmental seminar in October 2004? And beyond that, how would describe the benefits French-speaking brings to the quality of your bilateral relations? 

H.E. Teodor Baconschi: “The Strategic Partnership”, the first of a kind concluded between France and a central European country, reflects a different approach to that of the “Partnership for Europe”. It represents France’s welcome to Romania as a member of the EU, a true partnership at all levels, but more particularly in the fields of politics, energy and defence. The political agenda aside, the partnership aspires to rekindle bilateral relations and give a new impetus to our bilateral trade.
As to what French-speaking brings to the quality of bilateral relations, before giving you an answer, I would like to point out that the case of Romania represents the most eloquent example of how common values can be shared. For, unlike the majority of French-speaking countries, Romania has never been colonized, subjugated or annexed by France. Romanian intellectuals chose freely to use French as the language of liberty, modernity and membership of the Europe of free nations.  This foundation, strengthened by nearly 200 years of shared culture and civilization, has endured the very precarious conditions imposed during the years of totalitarianism.
The relations between our two countries are without doubt excellent, as their “strategic partnership” quite naturally demonstrates. The French-speaking world affords an international arena in which Franco-Romanian cooperation can showcase its achievements in several domains: politics, culture, education, linguistic exchanges, etc. Romania and France share the same values, a common vision, and support, within the French-speaking world, the same principles and programs. Let me give you an example, to convince you.  Faced with having to decide on a direction for the future of French-speaking, and the strategic choice between spreading it far and wide or encouraging its in-depth study, our two countries have realized that they share the same vision, that is, a harmonized blend of the two approaches, achieved buy pursuing both goals simultaneously.
Bilateral relations are growing within the International Organization of La Francophonie, which is a very dynamic structure that allows bilateral exchanges to be broadened to include other geographic regions, such as the countries of the South. Our common interests and preoccupations with regard to the promotion of French speaking serve only to increase the quality of our bilateral relations and to enrich them. Thus, each common stand, each initiative taken within the French-speaking movement, gives a new impetus to bilateral relations between Romania and France.

T.D.L.: Launched during Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu’s visit to Paris on 23 April 2008, the road map of the Strategic Partnership between France and Romania covers several areas of cooperation. Which are, in your opinion, the most promising? How will the two agreements on cooperation in the field of energy signed on that occasion articulate together, particularly in terms of scientific, technical but also human exchanges?

H.E.T.B.: The road map developed by the two governments and agreed to during the Romanian Prime Minister’s visit to Paris contains a number of concrete and promising measures: I can cite as examples the exchange of information and transfer of experience in the areas of political dialogue and of justice and internal affairs, in which there is close bilateral cooperation.  Nor should we forget the economic cooperation in the sectors of energy, nuclear included, agriculture, transport, tourism, the environment and research.
In particular, we have signed a framework-agreement on research in the fields of nuclear energy, the treatment of radioactive wastes, and the dismantling of installations (between the French Atomic Energy Commission and the Romanian Institute for Nuclear Research). This was followed by a second agreement, between the Romanian Agency for Energy Conservation and ADEME, the French Environment and Energy Management Agency, to enable collaboration in the setting-up of projects aimed at improving energy efficiency.

T.D.L.: The enhancement of Franco-Romanian relations also opens up new possibilities for the development of economic exchanges and trade between the two countries. In the light of your country’s interest in extending the Very Fast Train line to Bucharest, in what fields could other common projects be envisaged? What sectors seem to you the most likely to attract new French investments onto the Romanian market? 

H.E.T.B.: During the French President’s visit to Bucharest in early February 2008, Romania and France signed a “strategic partnership” by which both countries expressed the will to rekindle their bilateral economic endeavours in various fields:
– energy, first of all, with a view to achieving the EU’s objective of ensuring energy security;
– agriculture, so that Romania may benefit from the French experience regarding the absorption of European funds and the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP);
– transport, the development of trans-European road and rail networks being in the common interest of both countries;
– construction and urban planning.
Moreover, French expertise in all these fields can prove extremely useful as much at an institutional level, for the creation and operation of the framework needed for the absorption of European structural funds, as for enterprises, to develop eligible projects and then implement them.
Furthermore, save for the trade in goods, which, we hope, will increase with better exploitation of both economies, it is tourism that offers to French companies, and to French people, an enormous potential for collaboration. We would like to see again groups of French tourists in our resorts, as we used to in the past. Moreover, I am convinced they will not be disappointed, in view of the variety of what is on offer and the improved services which we are now putting at their disposal.
Finally, I would add that Romanian and French enterprises could do more to take advantage of the opportunities of collaborating on regional projects, particularly in the Mediterranean Basin and the Middle-East. 

T.D.L.: One year after Romania’s accession to the EU, the Romanian economy continues to display a sustained increase in its GDP, which reached close to 7.5% in the first half of 2008. How would you summarize the economic impact of joining the EU? What directions are advocated to support this growth?

H.E.T.B.: This rate of economic growth is principally sustained by the domestic demand in investments, which has shown a record increase since 1990 of about 25%, placing Romania ahead of European member countries in this respect. Our country’s relatively high trade deficit (21.6 billion euros in 2007) could cause concern, but in fact it reflects essentially the increased importation of investment equipment, which will in the medium and long term contribute to an increase in the profitability and competitively of Romanian products.  
For 2008, Romania has adopted a true budget for development. In the transport sector, one can cite the rehabilitation of rail transport infrastructures, the modernization of stations, the linking of the Romanian road network to the European one and the continuation of the motorway construction program. In the health sector, a substantial allocation of funds will go to finance the construction of hospitals.
Agriculture has also had its budget increased (2.7% of GDP), to finance, together with European funds, the major task of agricultural reform, including rural development, the modernization of agricultural training and the establishment of infrastructures.
Romania will absorb in 2008 between 2.5 and 3 billion euros of European structural funds. In the environment sector, Romania hopes to achieve a number of priority investments which will enable her to both attain the objectives of the national strategy for the environment and meet Community obligations. Projects given priority include: the quality of water (modernization of water treatment systems, construction and reconstruction of potable water access and distribution systems), the treatment of wastes (collection, sorting and recycling), and air quality (alternative energy sources).
In parallel, Romania is endeavouring to bring her own enterprises to the mark by means of the Economic Competitiveness Operational Program, in order to support Romanian exports and European integration. The goals we have set ourselves are: improve market access for enterprises, particularly SMEs (support productive investments and enterprises’ efforts to globalize), promote research and innovation (speed up the development of the knowledge society), improve energy efficiency and develop energy resources.

T.D.L.: On 28 April 2004, your country formally applied to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Negotiations having begun on the expansion of the organization to include Estonia, Slovenia, Chile, Israel, and Russia, how do you explain that Romania is not a member of this group? How would you define the advantage to be derived from her joining the OECD?

H.E.T.B.: In its evaluation of membership applications, the OECD took account of each country’s past relations with the organization, its level of economic development, the extent to which it shares common values with other member countries of the organization, the likely mutual benefits to be derived and its relevance to the global economy. In the light of these criteria, and also of the organization’s capacity to welcome new members, the Council of OECD Ministers, which convened in May 2007, decided to launch a process of expansion limited to 5 countries. With regard to other candidate countries, like Romania, the prospect of membership remains a possibility, and their memberships will be evaluated case by case.
In joining the OECD, Romania could benefit from its expertise with regard to social and economic policies. At the same time, the process of accession to the OECD would complement that of joining the EU.
The OECD is an association of the most developed countries and as such offers a framework that allows members to compare their experiences with regard to social and economic policies, and facilitates access to the best practices in these areas.
The areas that Romania considers important for the future and in regard to which she envisages developing future strategies and policies with the support of the OECD are infrastructure, education, research, immigration, health, public governance, agriculture, foreign investments, and also energy and the environment.
I would add that joining the OECD is one of the most important objectives of Romania’s foreign policy. This aim is also stated in the current Government Program. Romania did indeed submit an application to join the OECD on 28 April 2004. Moreover, I believe Romania is well positioned with respect to the criteria for accession to the OECD.
In January 2008, the Romanian ex-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Adrian Cioroianu, met with Ms Thelma Askey, Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD, and reaffirmed this objective of  joining the OECD, by stressing the Romanian’s government firm commitment to achieving this goal.
As a member or observer on important committees (Steel, Naval Constructions, Investments SMEs, Development, Competition, Tourism, etc.), we have developed excellent collaborative relations within the work structures and initiatives of the Organization, not only as a result of our achievements in the reforms and economic development undertaken as a member of the EU, but also because of our strong regional involvement and our national policy on cooperation for development, which are key elements for the Organization.

T.D.L.: Your country’s accession to the EU has required having to undergo a period of 3 months during which Brussels will be monitoring the reform of the justice system and anti-corruption measures. How would you evaluate the progress accomplished in these two areas?

H.E.T.B.: The Romanian government has made the task of reforming the justice system and of fighting against corruption one of its priorities, in order to obtain results that will lead to the eradication of the phenomenon as soon as possible, during the French Presidency of the European Union and the mandate of the current Commission.
Romania has begun developing new Procedural Codes, both civil and penal, which are at present subject to public consultation. The Penal Procedural Code will progress reform by preventing the parties from returning files to attorneys and by establishing a preliminary chamber to study the validity of the request, and decide whether or not to allow a penal action. The establishment of the National Integrity Agency will bring new means of combating and preventing corruption.
As an independent administrative authority, the Agency will not hesitate to investigate public servants’ and dignitaries’ declarations of assets and interests. Also, we are in the process of defining a human resources strategy for the judiciary, which, once implemented, will, together with the new procedural codes, lead to an improvement in the efficacy of magistrates.

T.D.L.: Despite the fact that Romanians are amongst the most euro-optimistic citizens within the EU, only one out of three turned out to vote at the first European elections organized in Romania in November 2007. To what factors do you attribute this disaffection? What lesson can you learn from this statistic in the lead up to the legislative elections which will be held in November 2008? 

H.E.T.B.: For most Romanians, euro optimism and a high rate of participation at the European elections do not necessarily go hand in hand. A few particularities of Romanian political life are pertinent in explaining this apparent contradiction. First of all, euro optimism has its roots in history, as evidenced by the strong political, cultural and economic ties between Romania and Western Europe over the last two centuries and, above all, the extremely effective relations with France between the two wars. A half century of communism has not shaken this European consciousness, on the contrary; all the layers of the nation felt the injustice and the grotesqueness of a forced affiliation with the Soviet Union, when the public interests and sympathies leant to the West. For this reason, the events of December 1989 instantly provoked a reorientation of the people towards the West.
The European Union represents, for the Romanian people, not only a return to a family to which it has belonged for a long time, but also a guarantee of economic development, social readjustment and diplomatic reintroduction into a world with familiar landmarks.
However, the arguments I have just put forward do not necessarily constitute a mechanism capable of directing the electorate on European issues. This is because the domestic political reality takes over, the turnout in legislative and presidential elections in Romania being greater than that registered for the European legislative elections. The presence of elected Romanian representatives in Brussels or Strasbourg is not perceived as essential for the moment, because European debates have a less direct and less immediate influence on the daily lives of Romanians.
At the same time, it must be stressed that the standard of living in Romania has not changed dramatically, as was hoped in 2007, a fact that has diminished the people’s focus on European institutions, without altering, however, their confidence in the success of the construction of Europe in its entirety.
As to the Romanian legislative elections in November 2008, I do not believe that participation at the European legislative elections is indicative, because the stakes are different. The Romanian electoral competition is in great part a visual and passionate display while the same event at the European level is a much more abstract, more profound, affair and consequently less spectacular. The attendance rate will therefore be different in each case, which in no way changes, for all that, the pro-European attitude of the Romanians.  

T.D.L.: The partnership sealed between Romania and France has taken place on the eve of the French Presidency of the EU. What do you see as being France’s priorities in pursuing the construction of Europe, particularly in the aftermath of the rejection of the treaty of Lisbon by the Irish in June? How do you feel about Frances’ diplomatic initiative for a Mediterranean Union? How are Franco-Romanian talks progressing on the issues of migration control and the Common Agricultural Policy?

H.E.T.B.: My country has welcomed the priorities announced by France for her Presidency. We agree that it will be a pivotal Presidency, punctuated by big meetings, especially in the new context created by the Irish people’s rejection of the Treaty of Lisbon. France’s task will no doubt be very difficult, because it will be necessary to adapt the perspective of the Presidency to these circumstances and to rethink the EU, taking into account the citizens’ concerns.
The Irish hitch has clearly demonstrated that there is a big divide between the discussions taking place in Brussels and the citizens’ concerns. That there is insufficient information and only a partial understanding of Community regulations means that we need to find another way to communicate with the people. I think therefore that the connecting thread adopted by the French Presidency – reconcile the citizens to Europe – could not be timelier and is a necessity within the EU. At the same time, France proposes to pursue the process of ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. This is also what we believe, that Europe must continue to consolidate the construction of Europe.
It is in this same spirit that we support also the implementation of the concept of a Europe of Defence. We see as very useful the process leading to the updating of the European Security Strategy, and we think it important to stress in this context the need to take up the challenges and risks for the EU that are emerging from the Eastern reaches of the Union, and in particular the Black Sea Region, which serves as a border both to Romania and to the EU.
With regard to the Barcelona Process-Union for the Mediterranean, we feel it is necessary to consolidate the achievements of the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation commenced in 1995, into which new energy must be injected with a view to overcoming existing deficiencies.
We have discussed with the French government the issue of immigration while respecting the principles of freedom of movement for European citizens and Human Rights. We support the French initiative for the creation of a European “Immigration Pact”.  
In this context, I wish to stress the importance and the priority accorded by the Romanian government to the enhancement of the European Integrated External Border Management System (approximately 2300km) to control migration from the Former Soviet Space and the Afro-Asian Region. 
Like France, Romania has concerns about agriculture; there will therefore be close discussions on this question. President Sarkozy has mentioned some directions for reform to modernize the CAP post 2013 and has expressed the wish to use the French Presidency of the EU to open the dialogue on the objectives of the future CAP. Romania welcomes this initiative. We rally to the position concerning mechanisms of market intervention aimed at protecting and encouraging European farmers. Romania can only share France’s position insofar as she retains her traditional role as protector of the CAP’s achievements.

T.D.L.: Featuring among a number of priority issues for France, sustainable development and the fight against climate change are issues on which there is already strong cooperation with your country. What initiatives have been taken by both countries in this area? How does Romania propose to achieve an increase in renewable energies to 24% of its total energy consumption by 2020? 

H.E.T.B.: In the field of sustainable development and the fight against climate change, which is one of the priorities of the French Presidency, Romania would like to achieve, before the end of the year, a common position, an agreement, on the climate-energy package. With regard to cooperation between our two countries and the initiatives taken, I would mention our cooperation on environmental standards, particularly in the context of joint projects in progress: renewable energy, reinforcement of the cooperation between ADEME and its Romanian counterpart, cooperation in the field of biodiversity conservation and in the area of tertiary education in “environmental engineering”. I would mention also the support in methodology given to decentralized Franco-Romanian cooperative endeavours, first and foremost the water and waste services, which draw a great deal on the French expertise in these fields.
I could not omit to mention our collaboration in the nuclear sector, which aims to reinforce the security of installations and the development of technologies, including for the treatment and storage of new technologies.
With regard to the target of 24% renewable energies in our total energy consumption by 2020, we are optimistic, taking into account the, as yet, untapped potential of renewable energy sources. Recent studies show that Romania is capable of producing annually about 36 terawatt-hours (TWh) from her hydraulic resources, compared to the 16 – 18 TWh produced currently. The same applies to wind sources, for which the target is 23 TWh compared to less than 1 TWh today. Of course, these figures are purely theoretical, the true possibilities being in a way constrained, particularly because of environmental restrictions.
Another source that has yet to be exploited to its full potential is biomass. In order to encourage its use, we have put in place a system to encourage the consumption of electric energy produced from biomass, which is based on mandatory quotas and on the trade of green certificates, as well as on a series of incentives for projects in the investment phase, including non-refundable structural funds.

T.D.L.: Your country would like to increase its nuclear energy production capacity. How do you perceive the risks of this technology for the environment and the debate it is giving rise to in Europe? Beyond that, what approach does your government advocate in the face of what some observers describe as the “third petroleum shock”?

H.E.T.B.: The second nuclear reactor started being used in the second half of 2007. Consequently, we now have two Candu 6 reactors in use, which account for about 17% of our national electric energy consumption. Our intention is to complete two other similar units towards 2014-2015, and thus to increase the proportion of electrical energy derived from nuclear sources to more than 30% of the total production. Of course, nuclear technologies have an impact on the environment, but this impact does not affect climate change and the emission of greenhouse gases is practically non existent. From this perspective, we consider nuclear energy to be much cleaner than using fossil fuels. Furthermore, renewable energy sources have a limited potential for use, which makes nuclear sources not just an alternative solution for securing electrical energy for future consumption, but a component of the only solution possible. The limited potential of renewable energy sources and the present technological limitations to their use are such that in 2020 Romania would not be able to supply more than 25% of her energy requirements from such sources. With regard to electrical energy, the national energy strategy for the period 2007-2020 envisages a realistic target of 38% of gross electricity consumption by 2020. Having regard to the limited supply of renewable resources, we consider nuclear energy to be an inevitable part of the energy mix of the future and we are convinced that more and more States will come to the same conclusion.

T.D.L.: A transit country for the Nabucco project, Romania is directly concerned by the diversification of the EU’s sources of energy supply. How do you perceive the controversy over the participation of Gaz de France in this project? How could the EU, do you think, strengthen her involvement in the Black Sea Space in order to increase her energy security and enhance cooperation in the face of the latent conflicts which characterize the region? 

H.E.T.B.: In contrast with other projects, Nabucco provides two solutions at the same time: the possibility of diversifying natural gas suppliers and of diversifying the supply routes. The security of supply afforded by this project is thus greater to that afforded by other complementary projects, such as South Stream or Blue Stream II, for example.
The national company TRANSGAZ SA, as a member of the Nabucco Group and holder of  20% of shares in the project company “Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH”, has upheld the cooptation of Gaz de France as an additional shareholder in the company developing the Nabucco project. Accordingly, the General Assembly of Shareholders of SN TRANSGAZ SA approved, in February 2007, the transfer of shares in “Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH” owned by TRANSGAZ to Gaz de France. We stress that in accordance with the status of “Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH”, the decision to co-opt an additional partner within the Nabucco Group must be unanimous. Turkey has exercised her right of veto, blocking the entry of Gaz de France into the Nabucco project.
In the absence of a consensus within the group concerning the offer by Gaz de France, the partners later agreed to co-opt the German company RWE as the sixth associate in the Nabucco Project, a move which was finalized in February 2008.
As to the EU’s involvement in the Black Sea Space with a view to enhancing energy security, we think it would be possible to repeat the positive experience derived from the process of creating a South-East-European energy market. The countries of this region have, by treaty, committed to the creation of an energy community based on the principles applied in the European Union and to applying mechanisms that conform to the appropriate directives. Of course, in the Black Sea Basin, the process would be much more delicate, but with a few simplifications, it could be achieved. 
In the context in which energy security emerges as a global concern, the need to increase EU cooperation with other energy suppliers and with transit countries in the East is a must. I think that, with this perspective, tracing secure routes of transport constitutes a real priority, which can only be achieved through regional cooperation – the royal road to enhancing energy security.
At the same time, the potential of the Black Sea has been in my view under-exploited until now, whereas it represents a relevant link between the EU and energy supplying countries. What we would like is to attract attention to the fact that the Black Sea is the shortest route to Europe. 

T.D.L: The issue of the EU’s energy security remains inseparable from EU-Russia relations, which should be rekindled by the Summit that was held in Siberia on 26 June last. Considering the adoption of the American anti-missile shield in Europe, and also the question of Georgia or that of human rights, how do you think the tensions hindering political dialogue between Brussels and Moscow could be overcome?
Indeed, energy security is one of the priorities of the future French Presidency of the Council of the EU, and remains a strategic issue in relations between the EU and Russia and also in the political dialogue between the two parties. This dialogue registered a marked evolution with the decision, taken on 26 May by the 27 Ministers for Foreign Affairs, to begin negotiations for the conclusion of a strategic EU-Russia partnership.
The negotiations for a new Cooperation and Partnership Agreement were launched during the 21st EU-Russia Summit at Khanty-Mansiisk (Western Siberia), on 26 and 27 June, and they focused on several topics, of which energy took pride of place. We support the establishment of a new ambitious judicial framework between the EU and Russia, one that benefits both parties and is based on more trusting relations. Moreover, the French Presidency attaches great importance to it and hopes to advance this process.

T.D.L.: From 2 to 4 April 2008, Bucharest welcomed the NATO Summit, which concluded with an expansion to two new Member States, and also with the hindering of Ukraine’s and Georgia’s accessions. How do you see the geopolitical dimension of these decisions? Also, how does your country perceive the redefinition of the Atlantic Alliance and its missions?

H.E.T.B.: We are happy with the results of the Summit. They have answered our expectations and the interests of Romania, whilst highlighting the fact that the North-Atlantic Alliance remains an organization with a clear and important role.
Let me remind you that among the achievements of this Summit, there have been: the invitation extended to Albania and Croatia to engage in talks for their accession to the Alliance, a decision which marks the beginning of a new chapter for the Western Balkans; the invitation to Bosnia-Herzegovina and to Montenegro to begin a more in-depth dialogue with NATO; the adoption of a strategic politico-military plan for Afghanistan; the recognition of the strategic importance of the Black Sea Region; the re-affirmation of the support of the Allies for the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of States affected by “frozen conflicts”.
As regards Georgia and Ukraine, the result cannot be defined in terms of a “hindering”: the North-Atlantic Council has stated that Georgia and Ukraine will join NATO when all conditions required for their accession have been met. The Bucharest Summit Media Release states clearly that “today, we have decided that these countries would become members of NATO”.
Moreover, the request by both countries to be handed the Membership Action Plan (MAP), which represents the next step on the path to membership, will again be considered by the Member States’ Ministers for Foreign Affairs during their meeting in December 2008.
This decision represents an important achievement for Georgia’s and Ukraine’s relationship with NATO. Despite the fact that the Allies have not invited the Ukraine and Georgia to join the Membership Action Plan, the official message of the Summit has been strong and encouraging, since it has unequivocally stated both countries would become members of NATO.
Romania is interested in the stability and security of its Eastern neighbours. This is the reason why we support the Euro-Atlantic integration of both countries and their efforts to be included in the Membership Action Plan. The MAP does not guarantee integration, but it does represent an incentive for both States to give impetus to domestic reforms and to the process of transforming into a democracy.
The Bucharest decision took account of the desire of both States to progress in their relationship with NATO, and reflects the Allies’ consensus concerning an issue which is not for Third States to decide upon. We wish to mention as well that the possible inclusion of two countries into the MAP is in no way directed against other States.
The requests of Ukraine and Georgia will again be examined in December 2008, during the formal meeting of NATO Member States’ Ministers for Foreign Affairs. Their assessment will rest upon the practical aspects and to a lesser degree on political statements. 
The decisions adopted at the Bucharest Summit have reinforced the importance of NATO for Euro-Atlantic security, and its ability and will to take up the challenges of the 21st century. The Allies have made a commitment to continue the process of transformation, a promise that is particularly manifest in operations under way, in political decisions about relations with partner States as well as in the development of military capabilities.
At this point in the discussion, it is important to mention that NATO’s relationship with the EU will continue to represent an essential part of the process of transformation of the Alliance. Romania will persist in stressing the need to ensure that both organizations complement each other and develop relations in the greatest number of areas of common interest. It is of prime importance that these areas extend beyond the limits of the present framework for cooperation, which relates mostly to operations and the development of capabilities.
NATO and the EU act at present as natural partners in Afghanistan and Kosovo. The success of the international community’s interventions in these complex matters will depend as much on the individual efforts of the organizations involved as on the relationship of cooperation between NATO and the EU.

T.D.L.: Alongside the idea of France rejoining NATO’s integrated command, President Nicolas Sarkozy has made consolidating the efficacy of a “Europe of Defence” a priority of the French EU Presidency. How do you understand this double ambition of the French Head of State? What means does your country advocate in order to strengthen the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP)? How can the EU regain unity on the issue of Kosovo’s independence, when Romania does not recognize it?

H.E.T.B.: France’s return to NATO’s integrated command, just as the priorities of the French Presidency of the EU, are decisions with particular consequences, which have been raised on many occasions by the Romanian President and by members of the Romanian Government. We consider that NATO needs France and that, in the same measure, France needs to be recognized, quite rightly, as an integrated member of command. Similarly, a “Europe of Defence” will not progress without initiatives, which will necessarily include France’s contribution.
I must point out that, for Romania, the ESDP is an issue which is doubly important: firstly, European construction, which we support, cannot be complete without developing the security and defence dimension; then, there is a practical dimension, because the ESDP gives Member States the possibility of resolving issues relating to the concrete management of crises that may occur. 
To progress on both dimensions, it is necessary, in my opinion, to gradually address not only issues of a general nature (by developing strategic documentation), but also those bearing on resources and capabilities (by developing adequate capabilities to achieve the objectives set by strategy) and operational issues (by launching missions and operations where the EU and Member States’ interests demand them).
The key-word of this sentence is “gradually”, because it stresses the need to be pragmatic, to favour inclusive solutions that allow all Member States to participate. For our part, we are interested in all three dimensions and we try to contribute to them as our resources and potential permit.
On the question of Kosovo, a distinction must be made between the question of status, per se, and that of the EU’s intervention in the Balkans in general, and in Kosovo in particular. Once this differentiation is made, it will become clearer that the unity of Member States is stronger than one might think. On the question of status, there are different interpretations among Member States of the Union regarding the legal basis for recognition of a new Member State. At any rate, the recognition of an entity remains a national prerogative.
On the operational front, all Member States of the European Union agree on the role of the EU. Furthermore, all Member States agree on the objective to integrate the whole region of the Balkans into the Union. Therefore, there is a sufficiently large and concrete basis for common intervention of the Union in the Western Balkans. In our opinion, it is on these geopolitical dimensions that we must focus our present intervention.

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