Alocuţiunea Președintelui României, domnul Klaus Iohannis, și transcrierea dezbaterii „20 Years After – The Relevance of the Romanian - U.S. Strategic Partnership in the Current International and Security Context”, organizate de Heritage Foundation

15:00 | 07 Iunie 2017 | Statele Unite ale Americii

Președintele României, domnul Klaus Iohannis, a susținut miercuri, 7 iunie a.c., la Washington, D.C., o alocuțiune în cadrul dezbaterii cu tema „20 Years After – The Relevance of the Romanian - U.S. Strategic Partnership in the Current International and Security Context”, organizate de Heritage Foundation.

 

Vă prezentăm în continuare textul alocuțiunii și transcrierea dezbaterii „20 Years After – The Relevance of the Romanian - U.S. Strategic Partnership in the Current International and Security Context”, organizate de Heritage Foundation, în limba engleză:

„Thank you so much, President Feulner,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear fellows and friends of the Heritage Foundation,

Dear friends of Romania,

I am delighted to be here in Washington, to share with you my thoughts around this milestone moment for our bilateral relationship: 2017 marks the 20 years’ anniversary of the United States-Romanian Strategic Partnership.

One thing is very clear to us and we are proud to say it! The Strategic Partnership between Romania and the United States has been a key factor in shaping my country’s strategic profile as a NATO ally and EU member.

And I am happy to share our success story with President Trump on Friday, when we will hold talks at the White House. Our meeting will be important not only on a political level, but it will have a major positive impact on the Romanian public back home, on the vibrant Romanian community in the US, on the business communities in both our countries and on all those who have put longstanding efforts making our relationship more solid.

To further underscore our enduring friendship, I will mention that this 20 years’ anniversary comes in our 137th year of diplomatic relations, established in 1880. In addition to this, in 2018, my country is celebrating the centenary of its Great Union, an event which would not have been possible without the President Woodrow Wilson’s principled commitment to democracy and national self-determination.

Dear participants,

This Strategic Partnership with the US is and will always be a core pillar of Romania’s foreign and security policy.

Its remarkable success is due not only to our two countries’ shared vision and political commitment, but, most importantly, to the genuine sympathy and friendship between our two nations. My country is the most pro-American country in the European Union. Over 70% of Romanians, this is what polls show, have positive feelings towards the US, and this is translated into concrete action.

These positive feelings also originate from the consistent support provided by the USA after the fall of the Iron Curtain. This support was enhanced after the Strategic Partnership was launched in 1997. It was a real catalyst for progress and modernization efforts and for Romania's deep democratic, economic and social changes, which resulted in Romania's joining NATO and the European Union.

We have achieved, throughout these 20 years, tangible results and concrete progress to give substance to our Strategic Partnership. Romania stands now as one of America’s most reliable NATO ally in Europe, an active and committed partner in the efforts to ensure stability, security and prosperity in the region and beyond.

We face today’s geopolitical challenges shoulder to shoulder, we stand together in the battle against terrorism and our soldiers train and fight side by side. We have successfully worked together in areas such as security, defense, law enforcement and the rule of law.

Dear friends,

Security and defense represent a key component of the US-Romanian Strategic Partnership and has brought substantial results. I would like to once again underline the unity of vision between the United States and Romania on virtually all major international security aspects.

As a dependable ally, Romania is doing its share. This year we have fulfilled our objective, as you mentioned, Mr. President, assumed under NATO auspices, of allocating 2% of GDP for defense expenditures.

This makes us the first Ally to reach this target in the current US Administration’s mandate and the 6th NATO member to do it. I am happy to mention that this was one of the top priorities on my agenda, when I assumed office.        

And it was adopted with virtually unanimous political support. We aim to maintain the 2% as a minimum level for at least a decade. It will enable Romania to continue major acquisition programs, expanding the potential of long-term cooperation also with the US defense industry.

At the same time, we are aware that fighting international terrorism is crucial. That is why Romania firmly supports the US in combating this worldwide plague. Romania is engaged in the anti-ISIS coalition. Our country has pledged military trainers and other resources in Iraq, including stabilization and communication support.

We stand together in Afghanistan, where the Romanian troop contingent is the 4th largest among NATO Allies, with almost 700 troops on ground.

My country is also proud to host the first Aegis Ashore missile defense site on its territory - capable of countering ballistic missile threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area. This is one of the most important political-military projects of our Strategic Partnership.

The site in Deveselu - this is how the place is called - hosting around 200 Navy troops, has become operational last year and was integrated with the NATO Missile Defense System. It is highly important to continue and finalize the European Phased Adaptive Approach and, based on it, the NATO Missile Defense System, since Iran continues its ballistic missile program.

We conduct intensive joint training of US and Romanian forces in some of the best equipped forward facilities on Romanian soil, such as the Mihail Kogălniceanu base, very important for the pre-deployment of US troops and military equipment.

In addition, the recent acquisition of U.S. F-16 fighter jets has increased Romania’s capabilities to contribute to the security of our regional allies and it has laid the ground for potential long term cooperation with the U.S. defense industry. Our cooperation extends in critical fields such as cyber-security, intelligence and energy security.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Romania shares the U.S. commitment to transatlantic security, and fully supports endeavors to improve the effectiveness of NATO and strengthen its capabilities to address all current challenges. This can only be done by reinforcing the core pillar of the Alliance, which is collective defense, backed by a robust and credible deterrence.

Thus, we are particularly grateful to our U.S. ally for its strong political support and substantial concrete contribution to projects such as the multinational brigade hosted by Romania, the enhanced maritime presence in the Black Sea or the Combined Joint Enhanced Training Program.

The presence of US troops in Romania, complementary to the NATO’s Forward Presence, is, for us, the strongest signal of support and solidarity. That is why we welcome the Trump administration decision to consistently increase funding for the U.S. European Reassurance Initiative. It is a very advantageous investment in our collective defense.

It has enabled Allies, such as Romania, to upgrade and expand their own infrastructure and capabilities, increasing the scope and size of cooperation with our US partners. However, NATO is not just about capabilities – its foundations lie in allied unity, political commitment and strategic vision. The current security situation in Europe is the most challenging in two decades and clearly underscores the need for transatlantic solidarity.

We face threats and challenges on both the Alliance’s East and South. They must be addressed in a coordinated and cohesive manner and this is a challenge in itself.

In the East, Russia attempts to carve out its own sphere of influence by force, through the invasion of Georgia, illegal annexation of Crimea and its heavy militarization, aggression in East Ukraine, military posturing on NATO’s borders and malign influence from the Balkans to Western Europe.

Against this background, we believe we need dialogue with Russia, but based on a strong deterrence.

Our own approach must be strategic, coherent and coordinated. We need to keep our unity, inside the European Union, but also within the US – EU relations.

The Black Sea area has an important pivotal role for the transatlantic security. NATO’s Eastern flank must be treated, in this logic, in a unitary coherent manner and adequately reinforced, from its North to its South, on all main components – land, sea and air.

Romania is acting within NATO, but also together with its strategic partners Poland and Turkey, to keep the region safer. That is why Romania has developed, together with these two countries, a Trilateral format on security issues. Romania is also, together with Poland, the initiator of the Bucharest Format, including all the 9 Allies on the Eastern Flank. This format is relevant for the U.S. interests in NATO, and for the security of the Eastern neighborhood.

NATO must also continue to support its partners, such as Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova.

This is essential for ensuring security and stability in the Eastern Neighborhood.

Romania has strongly supported, at the same time, a close NATO-EU cooperation, on the basis of complementarity. There is simply no alternative to the most powerful and successful alliance in history. The EU can bring a significant contribution to capacity building, supporting research and development, to areas such as cyber or energy security. But a more substantial commitment to common defense by European allies must not result in weakening the transatlantic security link.

Romania remains a faithful Atlanticist EU member – a position that may prove even more important now, as the UK has decided to leave the Union. We will continue to work for the further development of the transatlantic relation, which is, in our view the central pillar for the stability of the overall international system. Romania is, thus, ready and able to strengthen its role to this end, as we are dedicated to both the European project and the Strategic Partnership with the United States.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Besides security, our nations need shared prosperity. Let me thus return to our bilateral relations and focus on our economic engine. Trade and investment are crucial dimensions of our Strategic Partnership, with a high potential for development, providing benefits not only for Romania and the US, but for the region as a whole.

Romania will soon rank the 6th EU’s largest country after UK will leave the EU, in terms of population. We are strategically positioned at the crossroad of all major commercial and energy routes in the region, a potential gateway to the EU’s common economic space, regional hub for Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Greater Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Romania has experienced a constant upward economic trend over the last seven years, with positive perspectives ahead. Last year we had the highest economic growth in the European Union.

This growth pattern is anchored in a number of highly competitive economic sectors. Romania is one of the largest vehicle manufacturing bases in Central and Eastern Europe. This includes, of course, the Ford plant in Craiova, a partnership that saw its first iteration in 1935. The IT sector is one of the largest and most dynamic in the EU. 

Romania is also the least dependent country in the region on gas imports and can become an energy supplier with our resources in the Black Sea.

Dear friends,

As the final and most important enabler of US-Romanian partnership, one must mention the people-to-people connections. Romanian-American friendship has endured and, indeed, flourished, even during some of the most challenging moments of the 20th Century.

Our almost 1 million strong Romanian-American community inside the United States, be they students, professors or entrepreneurs, are proud of this close relationship and work every day to make it stronger.

On the governmental side, working together on Romania’s inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program will further strengthen this bond and help us advance on the path to shared prosperity.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I want to end my intervention by underlining, once again, that Romania is able to act as a hub for advancing our joint transatlantic agenda in the region. We are at a strategic crossroad, at the Black Sea, and we very well understand to act as a security provider in Europe and beyond.

At the same time, the region is counting on the continued US commitment for its security. For us, the US support means security, prosperity, freedom, democracy and, last but not least, the guarantee that Romania will not go back to some Eastern sphere of influence.

Thank you very much and I look forward to your questions!”

Q&A session

Edwin Feulner, President of Heritage Foundation: Those were not only encouraging, but informative words, Mr. President. Talk to us for a moment, if you would, about anti-corruption. In February, you said that Romanians needs a Government that is transparent, that governs predictably by the light of day, not sneakily at night. What does that mean in terms of internal governance, what should we take away from it, especially as we have our own controversies in this country at the moment?

Klaus Iohannis, President of Romania: Mr. President, thank you! Romania is very determined to become a solid, very well functioning democracy, but our start has been difficult. Romania had its own dictatorship, the communist regime, till December 1989. This heritage we have is partly very vicious one. Part of what we inherited is corruption. Corruption destroys everything in a democracy. Corruption destroys the roots, foundations, trust, it destroys businesses, it destroys visions and it inhibits the progress of the entire country. So, we understood pretty soon that we have to fight corruption. Obviously, this was a common understanding, but this was not the understanding of the corrupt politicians. So, Romania designed a system which fights corruption and I have to say that during the last years it was very successful. But, on the other hand, fighting corruption draws a lot of attention to corruption. Sometimes, if people talk about Romania and they hear so much talk about corruption, they get the impression that Romania is a very corrupt country, which is not the case. It is a country which is very determined to fight its inherited corruption. And this is what we do. We are successful. We have so many corrupt politicians and public employees convicted, we have a well functioning system, but, on the other hand, we still have some corrupt people around and they try to fight back, which I don’t like, which Romanians do not like at all, and if somebody tries to turn back the clock of anti-corruption fighting, we react. And at the beginning of this year, Romanians reacted very visible, very clear and very outspoken. We are in a position where we can say “we continue!”. Personally, I am very committed to continue the fight against corruption. A lot of other politicians are committed as well. Romanian people expect us to continue, they want to get rid of corrupt politicians and this is what we will do in the end.

Sometimes we hear voices in the public saying that this fight is too much, it brings too much nervousness in the public debate, it draws too much attention. And there are even some who say “this is an idea of President Iohannis”, or some politicians, some diplomats. But it’s not, fighting corruption is vital! It is vital for Romania, it is vital for the people of Romania, it is vital for our future, for the democracy, for the economic environment. It is a tough fight, but it’s absolutely necessary and we will fight it.

Edwin Feulner, President of Heritage Foundation: You mentioned in your opening remarks the whole question of missile defense, the Aegis site in your country, which is part of the NATO defense system, and how it has now become operational. Your neighbor Russia is not too pleased, shall we say, with this activity on the part of your Government and we commend you for your courage. Talk to us a little bit about why is that important both for you and the neighborhood.

Klaus Iohannis, President of Romania: I dare say it’s important for NATO, not only for the neighborhood. Let me detail a little bit. NATO is a very strong alliance, but being strong does not only mean because of the military alliance, it does not only mean that it has to be strong on a political level, it has to be strong on a military level. So NATO has to be in a position to handle any situation, any threat, any security threat. Specialists found out that some in our region are working on ballistic programs, and that this is a major threat for NATO countries and designed ballistic missile program which is purely defensive. It is defensive, it has several components. It has a component in Spain, it has a component in Turkey, a radar component for obvious reasons, because the threat comes from that side, and it has now the actual missiles in Romania. The program is designed to be extended. Another facility in Poland is planned. And so on. It is important to be prepared against any kind of threat coming from the larger Middle East region. And the line is purely defensive, a purely defensive program, a purely defensive system of facilities. I have to underline this because indeed a lot of Russian politicians tried to come up with the idea that the missiles are prepared for attack. Which they are not. It’s a system which is designed to shoot down basically ballistic missiles originating somewhere in the larger Middle East region.

Why Romania? For a start, being a system designed against ballistic missiles coming from the Eastern side, it is important to have a geographic position as far as possible East, so geography recommend us. But geography recommends others too, but we accepted and we promoted this program, because we believed this is vital. Romania accepted to host the missile facility near a place called Deveselu, in Romania, and I have to admit that we are proud to have it there and we are proud to be part of this program, which is a very high technology program, very complicated military strategic system. So, we are, of course, aware of the fact that our neighbors in the East try to describe this as an attack, which is not defense. On the other hand, we fully understood that being in that position, having this opportunity, we want to play a role in NATO.

Edwin Feulner, President of Heritage Foundation: You may know this institution was very much at the centre of Ronald Reagan’s initial conception of the strategic defense initiative.

Klaus Iohannis, President of Romania: The only thing that has changed is the name, it was called, if I well remember, Star Wars System at that time. Now we called it enhanced missile defense system. It is necessary and we very well understand this. It took some years to develop it and it is in place now.

Edwin Feulner, President of Heritage Foundation: Turkey is one of your major neighbors. Last time I’ve checked, Turkey had the second largest army in all of NATO. Turkey’s internal political development should be determined by the Turks, but talk to me a little bit about your relationship with Turkey. Is it alright, is it stable, is it future oriented?

Klaus Iohannis, President of Romania: I would say yes. We have good economic links with Turkey, we have a trilateral format, which I have mentioned in my speech, Romania with Turkey and Poland being on the exposed side of the Eastern Flank, and we share, obviously, the common interest in the Black Sea area and the larger Black Sea region, which is vital for us, it’s vital for NATO, and I am very glad that, recently, NATO accepted the importance of the Black Sea region for NATO security, because, until one and a half or two years ago, the approach of NATO was rather like “Ok, Black Sea area, that’s borderline, that’s on the other side”. But we are on that side, we are not on the other side. So we had to work on this, we had to convince our Allies, which we did, that the Black Sea is not on the other side, it’s vital for the security of NATO. This is also one important issue, why Turkey is so important for NATO, why Turkey is important for keeping the region safe. Of course, during the last month, questions came up about how Turkey will evolve in the future. We concentrate rather on the security issues, on our common projects and I am going to say that we are progressing in this respect, and this is good.

Edwin Feulner, President of Heritage Foundation: Also in the neighborhood, you face challenges from the Ukrainian front. In the three years of the Ukrainian war, there been more than ten thousand deaths, a third of them very recently, since the signing of the Minsk II Agreement. Is that working?

Klaus Iohannis, President of Romania: Our relation with the Ukraine is working, it’s improving. I have to admit that when I became President, two and a half years ago, I asked my advisers how is our relation with the Ukraine and they said: “Well, not so good”. Which is too bad because we have a long border line, a land border with the Ukraine, we have common interest on the Eastern Flank and I thought at that time that we should have common approaches. Ever since, we came closer together, we managed to implement common projects, we have common border control points, we have a very important project where Romania is lead nation in cyber security and we work together on more and more issues. But the situation in the Eastern part of Ukraine is very concerning for us because they are now basically in the third year of war, because this is a war going on there, and not so much progress has been made. There have been several rounds of discussions in Minsk, which basically underlined every time the same issues: both have to accept the border line, both have to withdraw their weapon systems, peace has to be reinstalled and people have to be granted a safe life, which will not happen. So we keep working on our project with Ukraine and we very much hope that they will find the appropriate ways to finish the conflict.

Edwin Feulner, President of Heritage Foundation: Tragic, tragic situation. The world should be more aware of. Let me wrap up with the specific reason that causes you to be here, your commitment and your achievement, as you said, the 6th member of NATO to actually achieve the 2% of GDP spending on defense, which has been a long stated objective of all NATO members. Why can you do it and others can’t? It’s just the political will? Or is it that you are closer to the threat or what is it?

Klaus Iohannis, President of Romania: We have been that close before we decided to allocate the 2%, it was a political decision. I have to admit it was my initiative, I asked all the parties to think about this and then come back to Cotroceni and talk about it. We managed in a very few days to find common grounds and everybody admitted that this is what we have to do if we want to be serious. Defense is not something which you can turn on and off, it’s not possible. Defense and security for the nation it’s so important, this has to be a major issue for every government, no matter if it’s center-left, center-right or center whatever. So everybody understood this in the end and we decided and this was a political commitment, to allocate 2% of the GDP for defense purposes. And this is what we are implementing as of this fiscal year, 2017, we have started a number of very important acquisition programs, Parliament approved that, the Minister of Defense is working on it, the Government is supporting this, I am of course supporting this, so we move on. In my opinion, this political decision showed that the Romanian politicians are not hopeless, they understand very well if the problem is a problem for the nation, which has to be solved. And I am very glad about this.

Edwin Feulner, President of Heritage Foundation: So are we. And I know our President is very glad about it and he will look forward to seeing you on Friday and commending you for your efforts and for your efforts in bringing your country along. On behalf of all of us, not all of us at the Heritage Foundation, but if I may be so bold as to say all Americans, congratulations on the 20th anniversary and on the 100th anniversary as well. 137 years is quite a remarkable achievement too, in terms of diplomatic relations. Thank you, Mr. President!

Klaus Iohannis, President of Romania: Thank you so much!