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Romania: RFE/RL Speaks With Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan

Romanian Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungurea Romanian Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungurea speaks to RFE/RL about his country's role in resolving the Transdniester conflict, the expansion of the negotiation format, and Romania's efforts to been seen as an exporter of democracy and to join the EU.

RFE/RL: At the beginning of this year Romania was very active in its diplomatic efforts to resolve the Transdniester conflict. Since then it seems to be working more through intermediaries -- the OSCE and the EU. Why has Romania pulled out?

Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu: It's not a pullout. On the contrary, we have gained much space and managed to advance on this subject infinitely more than any one else has ever done before us. But let me start with a very brief history. First of all, the Transdniester issue no longer contains a Romanian presence. In 1992, at which time we were asked to participate in the mediation format, which back then was composed of OSCE, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine, unfortunately the then-leadership -- the executive, the ministry, the prime minister -- decided that Romania should not become involved. That step was later followed by a long -- and I will use now a word that unfortunately does not make reference to our passivity -- period of indifference to this issue. This went on until the Transdniester issue became equally worrying and obsessive. Why am I using these words? Our present geopolitical identity is greatly changed, both in terms of content and strategic projection, as compared to the Romania of 1992 or the Romania of 2001-2002. Romania is today a member of NATO and shortly is to become a EU member. Under the circumstances, it will become, by virtue of cumulative circumstances -- that is. a NATO member and EU member -- the border country to the east of these two security clubs. This also means that we have to take on the risks, or the consequences, of this immediate vicinity. And, as an aside, this is why we are greatly interested in the way in which the Ukrainian society becomes more democratic, and to what extent. Also, the way in which the Republic of Moldova is pursuing its stated policy of Europeanization, and, obviously, the way in which the Transdniester issue develops. There are just over 200 kilometers between Transdniester and Romania's eastern border, which renders the Transdniester problem an integral part of our interests rather than just a side issue to them. We cannot come between the mediators unless we have the agreement of the parties. The Transdniestrian side does not seem to be willing to accept Romania as a mediator. It is not totally certain whether the Transdniestrian side would accept an expansion of the mediation format in general. The Russian Federation is not very happy with this idea either.

RFE/RL: In any event, it seems that in the fall, upon an initiative coming from Ukraine, there will be a re-launching of the discussions on exactly this topic -- expanding the negotiation format, which is to include the European Union and the United States.

Ungureanu: This doesn't bother us at all and does not represent a diminution of our success, because this is a success. First of all, we have managed to present to important international decision makers Transdniester as a problem, and then we expressed our willingness to participate. This availability of Romania can be perceived on an individual basis, and then Romania could be invited to participate in the mediation format, and we are ready for that -- or, alternatively, Romania, along with the other EU states, could be represented by the European Union itself. And in the final account the EU, just like the United States, relies -- and this has been confirmed to us repeatedly -- on Romania's expertise and capacity for political action. This is why, and I am saying this for the first time now, in April we started consultations with people who have the authority to represent the interests of the mediating states. We have very good ties with Ambassador Adrian Jakubovicz of Szeged, who is the EU representative for Moldova and with whom I am having a frank and relaxed personal dialogue. I received in Bucharest Ambassador Dmytro Tkach, who is Ukraine's representative in the mediation format, and tomorrow I will meet with Ambassador Valerii Nesterushkin, who represents the Russian Federation. These contacts are not being made only because Romania wants it, as one might think. This is the outcome of an intention stated by both parties. The OSCE and the Russian Federation and the Ukrainians and the EU believe that Romania has the potential to become involved, the capacity to reflect the situation objectively, and, not less importantly, the opportunity to have a positive influence on finding a good solution. As evidence for my last statement I should mention the fact that the parliament in Chisinau passed, not long ago, three well known resolutions, that describe the conditions that Moldova sets out before any plan can be implemented, whether it be called Yushchenko or any other way, to solve the Transdniester issue. These conditions are the following: the democratization of Transdniester, secure borders between Moldova and Ukraine, and the identification of an acceptable compromise within the current constitutional bounds of Moldova. These are the three points that, in fact, Romanian President Basescu expressed during the meeting of the GUUAM states in Chisinau. So, as you can see, things look fair and can be presented in a systematic way and show that Romania is undertaking continuous, firm, precise, and very well-targeted actions. The only difference is that of style; that is, the Romanian diplomacy is a systematic and European diplomacy -- less smoke screen and more action.

RFE/RL: Minister, in the extended Black Sea area, as you define it, Romania wants for itself the role of a regional leader, exporter, a leader of security and democracy. Lately, Ukraine has been seeking the same thing. Recently, Ukrainian President Yushchenko was speaking about exactly this thing, about the achievements of democratization in Ukraine and about the fact that the countries in the former Soviet space can look to Ukraine as an example and regional leader.

Ungureanu: I will answer very frankly to this question. The extended Black Sea region faces too many problems to organize political beauty contests. I believe that it is not the title which is the relevant detail or the determinant factor of political success. Both Ukraine and other states bordering the Black Sea -- Romania too, obviously -- are interested in ensuring the security of the Black Sea area. This means an enhancement of cooperation and the interest to, for example, stop organized crime or illegal human or arms or drugs trafficking. This also means the Europeanization of the solutions to the issues generated by this region, such as the Bystroe [canal] case, and this also means the internationalization of the Black Sea. Because for now the Black Sea is quite far from the open, permeable, very constructive, and modern status that -- and here is an example off the top of my head -- the Mediterranean Sea has, where the links and dialogue are fundamental, strong, and continuous on both sides of the sea. From north to south there is the Euromed dialogue, from east to west there is interest in the Middle East issues, and so forth. The Black Sea, however, still possesses a historic residue, and we are against this type of anachronism. We tend to our interests, which match perfectly the interests of the EU and NATO. We are not becoming engaged in a game of etiquette because we don't like it and because it cannot replace effective political action. Hence, the thing that we did was to state this fact and start mentioning the issue in a systematic way starting in January 2005, in all political dialogues and at all levels. Transdniester is -- for example in the bilateral dialogue between Romania and Moldova -- an issue of direct dialogue between two partners, but from a regional point of view, in the Black Sea context, the Transdniester issue is similar by its origin and noxious effect to the issues of Ossetia, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and so on. We started our actions based on these premises. The first thing was to show our willingness to participate and recognize that after 13 years of a relative interest towards the Transdniester issue the three mediators -- OSCE, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine -- have failed to produce an acceptable solution to the issue; acceptable both for the parties involved, that is, Tiraspol and Chisinau, as well as for the international community as a whole. The situation has become more complicated in the meantime, because Transdniester also means the resolution of a pending problem regarding the compliance with the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, and this is linked to the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Transdniester. In the meantime, as we showed this willingness we did something else, too: we started to provide in a systematic way political information and projections on Transdniester and possible developments of the situation there to our partners in Brussels, be it NATO or the EU, and directly to our dialogue partners, whether it be the State Department or other agencies of the American executive; or the NATO secretary-general; or [EU foreign and security policy chief] Javier Solana; or Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission; or in the legislatures of the states interested in the security of the Black Sea.

RFE/RL: Why do the Romanian politicians react so nervously to any declaration made by the old EU members about a possible delay of accession by one year? They react even to declarations made, as the case was in Germany, in the heat of elections.

Ungureanu: My free spirit makes me answer in the following way: I too am surprised by this nervousness, as are all those whom I spoke with on various occasions: colleagues, friends, decision makers from Western Europe and from EU member states, who showed very frankly and with a sort of explicable innocence as much surprise regarding our high sensitivity that borders on nervousness. I would say that one of the main reasons, if we were to go beyond the temptation to provide a psychological explanation, is that there is an extremely high level of political expectation in Romania toward the way in which the Romanian Euro-Atlantic project is to come to a close -- a project that started with NATO and is now closing with the European Union. This expectation is generated by the significance of 2007 and the domestic political tension that amplifies and reallocates meanings to any external declarations concerning the chances of Romania and Bulgaria to join in 2007. And, less importantly, administrative expectations are amplified, too. The degree to which Romania is ready for integration is reflected superficially instead of being shown through a thorough analysis of the intimate processes triggered by the administrative reform. And here, unfortunately, I have to touch on a painful spot: the degree to which the public knows relevant details from the integration processes to which Romania is subject, or which Romania will follow until 2007 and beyond, is quite low. An awareness campaign is as natural as it is absolutely normal to try and explain the benefits and the possible risks. This sensibility sometimes appears on the rough surface of the domestic political life, on local party, executive, parliamentary, or independent turf, and contributes, since Romania is a huge amplification box -- sometimes the informal becomes news -- for everything that is an event in foreign policy even if it is lacking in size or content.