Article, written for the purpose of the internal electoral campaign for the position of vice president for international relations of the youth structure of Union Save Romania
Ioana Abăseacă is a 24-year old member of the youth structures of the Union Save Romania (USR), which is the third largest party in Romania. USR belongs to the liberal family of parties in the European parliament, which is called Renew Europe. It is also a party, which has been empowering new generations in Romanian politics ever since its foundation. Abseacă has published this article in the times of the electoral campaign for the position of vice president for international relations of USR Youth (March-April 2020).
I have written this pergament-long text in which I pinpoint at where I think lie the problems of Romania’s IR problems. It’s a soul-out one. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. Or, if you want to, we can have more structured talks about one of the topics touched upon here.
Enjoy the reading!
Romania is rather stuck with respect to how it should grasp international relations. The current generation of politicians needs to understand and allow for our presence in the world to be felt. The next generation of politicians (you, we) must be ready for the time when it will be in the spotlight.
We have a few constant lines of action in Romanian foreign policy. We focus mainly on the West and ignore the neighbours at our borders. We might sometimes take a look at what is going on in Chişinău. Romania is preoccupied in its foreign policy with a constant set of priorities over the last three decades: good and very good relations with the United States of America, which is priority number 1, EU and all it means to be a member state, NATO – the assumed task of having 2% from GDP for defense and international military drills as part of it (in Romania, Poland, the Baltic countries and in general in Eastern Europe at the border with the Russian Federation). Finally, the Republic of Moldova. These have been the general Romanian priorities in foreign affairs for some time. They are constant.
However, despite good direction, the situation is rather grey. I don’t want to exaggerate, but Romania is too much troubled by the “whatever” philosophy as far as the politicians, who make foreign policy are concerned. They should be the ones to enrich the Government Foreign Affairs Strategy and represent well Romania internationally. In contrast with them, there is an elite diplomatic corps, who are well prepared, professional diplomats but are oftentimes gridlocked because politicians are decision-makers. Technocrats should obey and put in practice what politicians are saying.
Why do I say that things are grey? I will give you a few examples.
Romania didn’t have an ambassador in Belgium , the European country which hosts the EU institutions, for three years (2016-2019). We didn’t have a representative in Bruxelles, even when Romania was the rotational president of the Council of the EU. We have this habit to delay payments of our international commitments towards the UN, something nobody really speaks publicly. Nonetheless, it strains the ambassadors and heads of delegations, who find themselves often called in to give explanations. While I was doing an internship at the Romanian delegation to UNESCO, I only scratched the surface of the problem. One day I reached the bureaus and the secretary of His Excellency the ambassador said that the ambassador was basically almost being evacuated from his rent, because the Romanian state hadn’t paid any rent for a few months. So she had to negotiate with the landlord and activate her Ministerial network, in order to save the ambassador from being thrown on the street. It is a banal example of lack of care and commitment.
We don’t seem to have a special relation with our neighbours in the region neither. Bulgaria has asked us to partner up for the construction of a third bridge over the Danube. The prime minister in Sofia – Boyko Borisov, has said that publicly and has already put pressure on Bucharest. Last year, the topic was discussed a few times in the media. But neither Viorica Dăncilă, nor Ludovic Orban have reacted in any way. Romania shrugs and goes on. Queue on the border at Giurgiu-Rousse? Whatever… We are not that interested by Republic of Moldova neither, our only Romanian speaking neighbour. Besides Traian Băsescu, no other president has made any special effort in that direction. Klaus Iohannis went to Chişinău once in 2015 and refused an invitation of the Moldovan president Igor Dodon in 2019.
Romania said that it was a good idea to have cooperation in the Black Sea region. Then left the things at destiny’s will. Of course, it would have been desirable to have an active cooperation within the EU strategy for the Danube Region. But there, we don’t even send representatives at meetings, which exasperates Germans, Austrians and other partners. And the list of shame can go on.
But we do have a network, position and necessary resources to surpass this deadlock
For example, we have an Institute of Romanian language, which deals with teaching Romanian abroad, especially to Romanian children in the diaspora. This institute has a network of soft power, which can be used much better in our interest. For example, there is a department for Romanian language in the University of Karaganda in Kazakhstan. I don’t know whether you know, but there is a community of Romanian-speakers there. They were at origins deported from Moldova in the times of Stalin and their grandchildren live there still today.
We also have various branches of the Romanian Cultural Institute. But we lose often the chance to do things through them because we don’t fund them sufficiently, or give managerial positions to personal connections instead of hard working employees.
Being a member of a political party does not change what I believe or feel. These things would have been pinpointed by me even if I were not politically engaged. However, yes, I admit that I joined a political party with a very clear IR project in my mind. I think that every generation has to serve its role in society. The role I would like to be trusted with after this campaign,is like a small piece of a puzzle, is to try to form around me a group of people, who are interested to understand where exactly Romania positions itself in this globalised and interconnected world. So when you reach key, decision-making positions, you will be prepared and you will be wise.
Read in Romanian language!
Read in Bulgarian language!