Conferinţe, declaraţii, briefinguri

The foreign policy priorities of the Romanian EU Council Presidency. Address by the minister of foreign affairs of Romania, Teodor Meleșcanu, at the European Policy Centre


Distinguished audience,

Paying tribute both to the European ideal and to our recent centennial anniversary in 2018, I would like to begin my intervention by quoting I. C. Brătianu, statesman and longtime prime minister of Romania, who played a significant role in the modernization of the Romanian state.

Being a staunch promoter of European peace and cooperation, he used to think of Brussels as „the best seat in the orchestra hall for understanding the whole European concert”.

Since for the next 5 months Romania will be in the seat of the conductor, in many ways, our duty is perhaps best described by our ability to always indicate the right tempo. Allow me, on this account, to appreciate this opportunity to share with you the vision of the conductor on some compositions more or less known to you.

One might argue that any time is challenging for our Europe in this fast-changing world, but this particular time unfolding before us reveals a strategic importance.

The reflection on the future of the Union, the fate of Brexit, the negotiations for the Multiannual Financing Framework, the transition towards a new institutional cycle are just a few of those elements which will mark our Presidency because they impact our Union as a whole.

From a broader outlook, challenges on the international scene mean that the Union must take on an even more active role in global affairs, and we have the principles underpinned by the Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy to do just that.

While our agendas are ever so full with major issues, it is crucial that we never lose sight of the primary reason for which we can speak and act today as a one strong actor: cohesion – which is the keyword of the Romanian Presidency.

Strengthening economic and social cohesion by reducing disparities between us is an asset for our long-term strength and for our positive evolution in the inside. On the outside, it is our political cohesion which is a prerequisite for our credibility and capacity to act. Cohesion is part of our smart power, if you want. The last thing Europe needs today is to unveil new cracks in our construction

For this reason, under the motto „cohesion, a European common value”, our Presidency agenda for the next months will focus on four dimensions. It aims at more convergence, a safer Europe, a stronger global posture and, last but not least, more robust common values.

We truly believe that these priorities do not only reflect Romania’s vision, but, more importantly, respond to EU’s potential and needs.

However, long-term efforts and coordination are needed to reach our aims, while reaching out with those aims to our citizens.

We have engaged in cooperation with the EEAS, the Commission and our Trio partners, Finland and Croatia, in order to pave the way for implementing our common European priorities. Yesterday, I attended the first Foreign Affairs Council meeting during the Romanian Presidency and I outlined to my colleagues the main areas where we stand ready to contribute and achieve results.

Today I will make a statement in front of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Development Committee of the European Parliament, hoping for a meaningful partnership during the next months, albeit a limited one, due to elections in May.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Beyond old and new certainties, there is a feeling we share about the multiple dimensions of today’s interconnected space. Sometimes this closer interconnection is positive - human mobility, digital integration, social communication, energy connections or economic corridors, but it also has downsides, in the form of multiple challenges and menaces.

This state of the world calls upon a more joined up union, meaning more coherence between the internal and external dimensions of our policies. The key principle that underpins the EU Global Strategy has been confirmed by reality so many times in so many areas.

With this in mind, Romania plans to support the High Representative and her team, in full coordination with other member states and the COM, along the following four priorities of the external European action: effective means and tools for pursuing CFSP, Western Balkans, the consistency of our policy in the Eastern neighborhood and the European commitment to multilateralism.

What instruments are needed for the EU to position itself as an even stronger and more visible   actor in areas of strategic interest? How can it make better use of existing instruments in the pursuit of European aims and policies?

In our view, for EU to become a centre of gravity in itself, it has to both formulate its own strategic purposes - based on the EU Global Strategy and beyond - but also to pursue them efficiently.

CSDP is the main tool at our disposal. It has already made significant progress over the last years. New initiatives like the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) were agreed and implemented. Moreover, the European Defence Fund of the Commission reinforces defence planning and the processes of CARD and PESCO.

It is essential to enhance the ongoing initiatives which inter alia further develop the European Union’s defense capacities. For acceding to this level of ambition, we have to raise our level of research and development, including the progress made in the defense industrial cooperation.

Yet, as security should be envisaged in a greater sense with the integrated approach, a consolidated civilian CSDP will be sought to complement the progress on the military dimension.

I have tremendous respect for what EU has become and achieved by itself. However, I am even prouder when I think about what EU has achieved by working with its partners. Strengthening the EU-NATO partnership will guide our actions in the spirit of the synergy and complementarity efforts of the two organizations. Our transatlantic relationship with US needs shared responsibility, wide opened channels and strategic dialogue.

Switching from tools to means, it is now of utmost importance to provide the necessary amounts and effective financial instruments for our overall external action.

In the context of the discussions on the future Multi Annual Financing Framework, the Romanian Presidency will be responsible for leading the negotiation process on the external component and on the future external action financing instruments, with a focus on their efficiency. Matching our finances with our goals in CFSP will top our attention.

We stand ready to advance negotiations as an honest broker on the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument. The guiding view is to optimize the architecture of financial instruments for external action, whilst ensuring coherence with the level of ambition of the EU, in the neighbourhood and globally.

Distinguished audience,

During our Presidency, particular attention will be devoted to EU’s action in the Western Balkans. We will continue attaching great importance to the process of enlargement, by making use of the next key moments to advance our vision.

I am confident that there will be political will to support the Western Balkans region in addressing more effectively the requirements of the accession process and increasing its pace. The Western Balkans have to become part of the Union in a reasonable timeframe and we commit ourselves to developing a positive enlargement narrative.

Convinced that the prospect of EU membership offers a strong incentive for democratic and economic reform to the region, we intend to support the advancement of the negotiation process, so that the accession fatigue does not exhaust us all.

In June 2018, the Council of the EU adopted an ambitious Enlargement package and we strongly believe that the EU has to deliver on its promise, if those conditions are met.

We hope that our common support, coupled with the ownership of the process by our partners and with concrete tangible results in the reform process, will create the favourable context for being able to agree on launching accession negotiations with FYROM and Albania in June 2019. EU's interest in initiating the accession process is linked to its credibility.

We would be more than pleased if Bosnia and Herzegovina would be able to find the necessary resources to conclude the complicated internal political processes and to be in the position to receive a positive recommendation from the Commission.

We will also continue to support the advancement of the accession negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro. Competing models of integration in the region should be a driver for our reinforced European engagement.

From our perspective, beyond the enlargement process, the regional reality calls upon a special attention to youth, as it has a key role to play in fostering a culture of dialogue and slow down brain drain. Stimulating civic engagement of young people will be of major interest for us, including through the organisation of a conference in Bucharest on this topic.

Turning now to Turkey, our overall objective is to keep all possible communication channels open, bearing in mind that it is a candidate country and a strategic partner of the EU in many key areas.

I dwelled upon the Western Balkans, but our equal attention will be devoted to our Eastern Neighborhood. The positive narrative of the EaP throughout its 10 years of existence requires proper visibility. Romania plans to work with EEAS and COM to mark this anniversary in a manner which is acceptable to all Member States. We will also use various other occasions to foster a reflection process on the future EaP after 2020.

In order for the EU’s policy in its neighborhood to be consistent, the effective implementation of the Eastern Partnership requires a special focus on extending the benefits associated with the free trade agreements. We will keep in mind the importance of the next electoral moments in Ukraine and Republic of Moldova.

Undeniably, Romania is a member state with a diverse, yet complicated neighborhood. This is why our Presidency will bring up elements of Romania’s specificity and expertise to the European Union – like the Black Sea region, where, under the circumstances, we need to continue building on particular areas where maritime cooperation could work, but also Central Asia, which became even more relevant since the EU’s Strategy for Connecting Europe and Asia.

Allow me, distinguished guests, to conclude my presentation by echoing the outstanding Romanian diplomat, Nicolae Titulescu, who served twice as president of the League of Nations.

As the future requires us to remember the past, one of the lessons of the history of League of Nations is that when national egoism prevails over intergovernmental solidarity, the price is our peace.

We all made a pledge in favour of a rules-based global order. We have to respect that pledge. In order to produce the results the world needs today, the international community must not give up on multilateralism. It remains the only road to peace.

During its Presidency, Romania will contribute to honouring EU’s commitment to multilateralism, as part of our „raison d’être” on a regional and global scale. In this respect, it is worth stressing the importance of consolidating international law, prioritizing EU’s coordination in multilateral fora, but also enhancing the EU-UN partnership, given our shared goals in terms of improving global governance, fostering sustainable development and promoting peace.

Advancing multilateralism also means responding to current global trends in international cooperation for development based on UN key principles. We will support EU’s efforts to implement the sustainable development goals/ 2030 Agenda and the new European Consensus on Development, including particular focus on youth, the role of private sector, addressing climate change.

Distinguished audience,

EU was born to be special. In time, it has proven to be unique. It is more than a Union of states: it is a union of histories, values, purposes and resources. I hope it will also be a union of efforts so that a unique EU becomes an indispensable EU.

Nicolae Titulescu used to say that „an ideal by itself is already a reality to become”.

The simple act of reflecting and debating on our common future is already a foundation for decisions and for a reality to come true.

I am privileged to be here with you today, as I am among those who share our ideal of shaping a better Europe. I could say that my aspirations feel at home in this place.

By saying so, I look forward for our exchange of views. Thank you!