ROMANIA: A strategic ally on the Black Sea
Romania’s transition from its past as a socialist state ruled by one of communism’s most ruthless and hated dictators, Nicholai Ceausescu, to a modern, democratic market economy, has not been smooth or easy. As for most central and east European countries after the collapse of the Soviet empire, the initial two main goals of the post-Soviet era were to secure membership in NATO and to enter the European Union, thereby securing a permanent place in the modern transatlantic political, economic and military system. Romania won NATO membership in 2004, and expects to become a full EU member at the beginning of 2007.
Romania’s ambassador to Washington, Sorin Dumitru Ducaru, recently sat down with DiplomaticTraffic.com to discuss what these developments mean for his country, how its relationship with America is growing stronger and a range of other issues, including the unprecedented floods that have hit Romania the past two years. Excerpts follow.
Entry into the European Union
Last year there were reports that Romania would enter the EU behind Bulgaria and, more recently, that Romania would enter ahead. But we are confident that both countries will enter the EU at the beginning of next year.
Dealing with corruption
This is the area where the most progress has been recognized, by the EU. There are things to be done in the fields of Justice and Home Affairs, the environment and competition. But the process of reform is ongoing and will be a focus after accession to the EU. Romania has a transition period after accession: different timeframes for different chapters. We are confident the accession criteria will be met, and we are expecting the decision of the European Council meeting in June.
The impact of joining NATO in 2004
There was a misconception about the cost of joining NATO. No one asked Romania to spend on defense at the level of the US or Britain. The only requirement was that we spend 2 to 2.5 percent of GDP on the military, which we have done for the past decade (between 2.3 and 2.5 percent of GDP).
The sacrifice came in the modernization and restructuring of the army, in the sense that we reduced an army of more than 400,000 at the beginning of the 90s, to about 100,000. It is now a small army, better equipped, with more dollars for the training and equipment of the military. We also abolished conscription, so we have an army of professionals. There was a sacrifice because you had to take care of those people (who left the military).
We had to restructure the army anyway, but it was easier and more efficient in a NATO framework, with targets and a clear scheme of what modernization means. Also, the cost of defense alone is much more than the cost of defense in an alliance.
Romania currently has about 2,500 troops deployed outside the country, in Afghanistan, Iraq (over 900) and the western Balkans. Our concept of defense has changed since the 1990s, from territorial cold war thinking to being able to respond to the new threats, like terrorism, where a country’s defense starts outside its border.
The impact of transition from communism
On the positive side, first: openness and a sense of freedom. We are an open society now. We have freedom of speech, to do business, to travel. During the communist period this was not possible. Romania was like a big prison.
Second: opportunity. In 1989 just 1 percent of GDP was generated by the private sector. Today about 80 percent of GDP is generated by the private sector (a change achieved in 16 years). It is a huge transformation.
Third: a sense of prosperity. We had a decade of declining GDP because of restructuring, and then the last six or seven years we have had growth between five and eight percent a year.
On the not so good side, prosperity is not evenly spread. You have five or six major cities in Romania that have low unemployment. Their GDP per capita would equal the European Union GDP per capita. Then we have the smaller, mono-industry towns where they depended on a chemical plant or steel mill, for example, that had to be closed for environmental reasons, and where they have 25 percent unemployment.
Another difficulty is between the generations. For young people there are good jobs, but there is the problem of pensioners. We have problems with social security and medicare, in a place where everything was run by the state, providing bad services but still services accessible to all. This is no longer the case.
Relations with Washington
The relations have been growing positively since 1989, but over the last seven to eight years there have been accelerated moves, since Romania started its preparations for NATO membership. In 1997 President Clinton launched a strategic partnership between the US and Romania. This was tested by the fighting in the Balkans, and even more so in the fight against terrorism.
Romania is the second largest country (22.3 million) after Poland in Central Europe. The key issue is the strategic partnership with Romania, given Romania’s location in that part of the world. Romania is now a NATO border country and part of the strategic Black Sea and Balkan regions.
There is a close political relationship and cooperation. Defense cooperation, both in terms of the common fight against terrorism and through the agreement Romania recently signed for US military facilities, called the Access Agreement, which creates a framework for establishing American forward operating military sites. They are small sites that can be used in case of crises for rapid military deployments. They are used for training and rapid reaction. These are the new, post-Cold War military facilities. We are speaking of hundreds or thousands of American forces stationed there, not the tens of thousands that populated US bases in places like Germany. There are five such locations in Romania and three in Bulgaria.
Trade with the United States
Since 2003, when Romania was given market economy designation by the US Administration, bilateral trade has grown three-fold, and is now around $2.3 billion a year. The trade is very balanced. You have a US presence in the IT sector, with companies like Oracle and HP. General Electric is building jet engines. Qualcom is involved in telecoms.
Energy security is one of the new areas of bilateral interest. We are looking at developing the southern routes for Caspian energy to reach western markets.
There is also cooperation in the education and cultural fields. There are thousands of Romanian students studying in the United States now.
The Romanian-American community
There are over one million Romanian-Americans. Because of the changes in our country, they have become proud to claim their ancestry, which was not the case during the communist period. They have become a strong component in our work as an embassy. They are a human bridge. They have an amplifying effect on the human connection, beyond politics, mutual defense agreements, etc.
This is the second consecutive year of flooding. Last year we had huge floods on the interior rivers. It was unprecedented. This year, it is the Danube. All the melting snow and rain in Germany, Austria, etc, produced a huge volume of water and probably the worst floods ever recorded. We have thousands of displaced people, especially from the villages built on reclaimed land along the Danube. The Danube returned to its old course.
Curriculum Vitae of Sorin Dumitru Ducaru
Date and place of birth:
June 22 1964, Baia-Mare, Romania
Married, two children
Since 1993 Diplomat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania
1993-1994: Expert in the Policy Planning Division on Euro-Atlantic Integration Issues
1994-1995: Counselor to the Minister
1995-1996: Director of the Minister's office & Spokesman
1996-1997: Head of the Division for NATO, WEU and Strategic Issues
1998-2000: Minister Counselor, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Romanian Embassy in Washington DC;
2000-2001: Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations – New York
1970-1978: German School, Rîsnov, Romania
1978-1982: General Knowledge High-School "Dr.I..Mesota", Brasov, Romania - (Baccalaureate in 1982)
1983-1988: Faculty of Electronics, Polytechnic Institute Bucharest - Graduated in 1988 with a Master in Sciences in Applied Electronics
1990-1992: Post-graduate studies at the Romanian National School of Political Science and Public Administration (NSPSPA), Dept. of International Relations - Graduated with the maximum final average grade
1992-1993: Postgraduate studies at the Amsterdam School of International Relations (ASIR), University of Amsterdam. (TEMPUS scholarship)
- Graduated "with distinction" in June 1993
- MA in International Relations, in July 1993
July 2005: PhD in International Economics
1985-1988: Editor-in-chief of the students' magazine 'ING'.
1988-1990: Engineer at the Brasov Telecommunications Company.
1990-1991: Researcher at the Institute for Automation Bucharest.
Since 1993: Associated lecturer in 'European Studies' at The Romanian National School for Political Studies and Public Administration, Dept. of International Relations.
Languages: Romanian, English, German (fluent), French (good)
Computers: Regular use of word processing, data base, graphics/film editing; software
Music, playing the guitar and keyboards
Photography and film
Sports (especially ski and tennis)