Delivery by Mr. Victor Micula, Secretary of State, Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is both a privilege and a pleasure to take the floor at today’s conference. I would like first to thank the organizers for the opportunity to address to such a distinguished audience, and to welcome you all here in Bucharest.
I am delighted to see that this event has brought together so many experts, both from the academic/ think-tank community and from official institutions, and I hope that this blend of expertise will generate interesting debates.
Indeed, the chosen topic – security challenges in the Balkans – is a very timely one, taking into account that the High Representative Federica Mogherini is to submit an EU Global Strategy on foreign and security policy to the European Council, in June, and the NATO Summit in Warsaw, in July, is expected to chart the course for the Alliance’s adaptation to the new security environment. Both evolutions are expected to generate consequences on the Balkans as well.
Without dwelling on what the precise definition of the “Balkans” is, it is clear that the region has an undisputed potential, which stems firstly from its geostrategic position, linking East and West, but also South and West, in terms of energy supply and transit routes, but also as maritime or land trade routes.
A robust accession or association and stabilization process with the Union is undergoing with the members of the region, a process that has been supported by Romania since the very beginning.
As well, several countries in the region are already NATO members, and Montenegro is on the path to achieving full membership, the Accession Protocol being recently signed, and the large majority of the other countries are NATO partners.
The region has developed important internal frameworks of cooperation, the South-East European Cooperation Process being the most comprehensive one.
However, despite all this progress, the region has still to face a complex array of unresolved bilateral disputes, difficult neighborly relations, issues concerning the proper functioning of the state and the rule of law, weak administrations and economic disparities.
Heavy use of propaganda in the Balkans should not be underestimated, since under the cover of freedom of expression and association, media representatives sponsored by third countries do not hesitate to misinform the citizens and to disseminate messages that go against democracy, tolerance or the free society.
To these, one should add the disruptive effect of migration flows, as witnessed in 2015, as well as the open crisis in Ukraine, which is a direct challenge to the basic principles of international law and raises the threat of changing by force the current European security architecture.
All these developments put even more pressure on the region, all the more by taking into consideration that some of them are threats that cannot be dealt with by single countries alone.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Where there is a challenge there is also an opportunity.
As a country that experienced the benefits of EU and NATO membership, we are of the opinion that more engagement from both the Union and the North-Atlantic Alliance are needed in the future, if the region is to continue on a stability, prosperity and democracy path.
Left alone, or without sufficient support, the countries in the region are not well equipped to face the current instability in international relations, which would backfire on themselves, on the region, but also on Europe as a whole.
Romania has therefore clearly advocated for the inclusion in the future EU Global Strategy of a clear political message on the continuation of the enlargement and association and stabilization process, taking into account that the enlargement policy is a powerful tool to strengthen democratic institutions, to boost the economy and promote regional cooperation.
The success of the reforms is key for managing possible risks of destabilization in the region and for ensuring the resilience of the countries involved. Enlargement is valuable in making a country stronger as one of its basic pillars is the fundamentals first principles – hence the promotion and genuine implementation of EU’s values, principles and standards.
At the same time, investing in concrete policies should be a priority. For example, in the energy sector and energy market development, physical interconnections ensuring enhanced trade and energy interdependence would help provide more incentives for reform, along with promoting competitiveness and diversification of sources and routes.
Regional cooperation continues to be a crucial instrument in support of the integration effort by projecting its transformative power in terms of standards and common values in the region. In this context, I would like to welcome the activity of the SEECP (which will celebrate its 20 years in June in Sofia) and which proved itself over these years as a credible and sustainable framework for cooperation and constructive dialogue in the region.
We also expect the strategic partnership we have between NATO and the EU to deepen with concrete results. Defence and security surpass the area of responsibility of a single state and the objectives of both organizations are similar. A truly synergetic NATO-EU approach is thus needed if we want to achieve sustainable development and genuine cooperation.
We live in difficult times and we need to pursue a responsible approach. I hope that today’s conference will provide for intellectually stimulating debates and some answers to the challenges ahead.
I wish you success for the proceedings of this conference and a fruitful debate.
Thank you for your attention.