H. E. Anton Pacuretu: Europe Should Look Beyond Framework for Ukraine
An interview of Novinite. com with Romania's Ambassador to Bulgaria, H.E. Anton Pacuretu, on general developments in Ukraine and on the future of Europe's Eastern Partnership, but also on bilateral relations between Bulgaria and Romania, which he clearly believes have common interests in the region.
1. Romania is one of the staunchest supporters of sanctions against Russia. Could such a joint EU move also lead to negative repercussions for the country?
EU and its Transatlantic partners have taken a set of sanctioning measures that generated consequences, generated effects. Romania had no hesitation in coordinating and engaging in the decision-making process together with its European partners and North Atlantic allies, condemning in very firm manner Russia’s violations of the international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of another state – namely, Ukraine. In coordinating at European and Euro-Atlantic level, Romania has very clear, very strong expectations that Russian Federation will engage itself in a political process and dialogue aimed at avoiding escalating further the tensions. No one has the interest to reach a confrontation level even more severe than the political one already perceived between the European Union and the Russian Federation. The interest is to find a political solution, that’s why the political channels of communication are of paramount importance in allowing a substantial decrease of the tension.
2. Is it less economic dependence on Russia (compared to other EU countries) that drives this position or there is another reason? In comparison to other EU countries, where is Romania in its energy affairs regarding dependence on Russia? How could the country ensure its energy security?
There is no doubt that in taking position in relation to a complex situation like the one in Ukraine, policy makers must take into account all considerations relevant for those they represent, including the economic relations with the countries concerned. But in our opinion, complying with the international law principles should prevail, having in mind that we're talking about the great European family and common values that should be promoted.
From an economic perspective, although Romania has no trade relations with Russia at the same level as it has with other European countries or countries from the region, in the last years the bilateral trade has constantly increased, especially our exports to the Russian market. So, Romanian companies would also feel the effects of sanctions and of possible Russian countermeasures, but at a lower intensity compared to others. Also, Romania’s energy dependence on imports from Russia is not as high as in other European countries, for instance, in the case of natural gas, imports from Russia cover less than 20% of domestic consumption.
3. What is Romania's contribution to negotiations of Ukraine and Moldova with the EU?
Romania is and will continue to be the staunchest supporter of Moldova's European path. We contributed in generating the critical mass within the European Union in order for Chisinau to achieve two important objectives this year - travel visa liberalization and the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU, respectively.
The first goal has recently been achieved: as from 28 April 2014, the citizens of the Republic of Moldova do not need visas to travel in the EU. The political decision adopted by all 28 EU member states, plus the extremely important support by the European Commission and the European Parliament, to eliminate visas for the citizens of the Republic of Moldova and to ensure their free movement within the EU, is really a historic achievement. Now, the citizens of the Republic of Moldova benefit from one of the fundamental EU rights – the freedom of movement. This is a very tangible form of European integration.
As regards the signing of the Association Agreement, there is consensus within the EU for this to happen no later than the end of June 2014, so the ratification by the Parliament in Chisinau could take place before the summer holidays. The Association Agreement brings a new sense of interaction between Republic of Moldova and EU, with a substantially higher degree of integration - including an economic one - and the assimilation of the European standards, norms and regulations.
Regarding Ukraine, Romania, within the EU, NATO, OSCE, Council of Europe brings its contribution to the international initiatives for stabilizing the situation and identifying a diplomatic and negotiated solution to the current crisis. The efforts for the internal reforming and modernization must meet our support and we need to have the courage to look beyond the current cooperation framework - the Eastern Partnership. On 3 March 2014, EU foreign ministers decided that the signing of the AA/DCFTA would not be the final target of the cooperation with Ukraine. The same logic also applies for the other two partners, Georgia and Republic of Moldova, particularly for the most performing partner of the EU - Republic of Moldova. The European integration has been and remains the most powerful incentive in assuming and implementing bold economic, social, political reforms challenging both the society and the government.
4. A Romanian MEP said that not accepting Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen area could pose a threat to European security. Are there good reasons for putting the two countries on an equal footing, or is it rather a technical issue for the EU?
It is well-known that Romania and Bulgaria have met all the criteria for Schengen membership set in the acquis, as confirmed by the European Commission, the EU Council and the European Parliament, and recognized by the European Council. Joining the Schengen Area is a right and an obligation for the two states, deriving from the EU Accession Treaty (Article 4 of the Protocol on the conditions and arrangements for the admission of the Republic of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union, as annexed to the Treaty of Accession of Bulgaria and Romania).
The accession to the Schengen Area remains a priority and a legitimate goal for the fulfillment of which significant human resources were mobilized and substantial financial efforts were made, including for acquiring last generation equipments to ensure border security and control at European standards. From our point of view, a positive decision on joining Schengen is fully justified taking into account that Romania is already acting de facto in the logic of a Schengen member state with full rights and obligations, participating in all activities undertaken to ensure the European area of freedom, security and justice.
Recent developments in the EU's Eastern neighborhood reconfirm the timeliness and relevance of this objective, as it is in the interest of the whole Union that Romania and Bulgaria fully apply the Schengen acquis in order to contribute effectively to the effort of strengthening the security of EU's external borders. Also, we should not neglect the positive effects of the Schengen enlargement, both for Romania and Bulgaria, and for the other Member States in terms of improving the effective functioning of the internal market, which can generate investment opportunities and economic growth.
5. Romania and Bulgaria are currently ranking at the top positions of countries with high-speed Internet. Both countries have recently been praised as tech start-up hubs with great potential. In your opinion, is it possible that steps be made toward a more active bilateral cooperation in the high-tech sectors?
One of the documents signed at the joint meeting of the two governments, held in Ruse on 7 March 2014, touched precisely upon the bilateral cooperation in the field of information technology. There is a huge potential for cooperation between our countries identified by the relevant ministries. I'll give you as a concrete example the establishment of a broadband network in the South-Western region of Romania and in the North-Western part of Bulgaria. Also, we are ready to launch various joint projects which will allow the use of advanced technologies in the field of data transmission.
6. What more could be done in the field of bilateral infrastructure projects?
After the inauguration of the Danube Bridge at Vidin - Calafat, the attention is turned towards other major bilateral projects. In the middle of this year, the gas interconnector Giurgiu-Ruse will become operational. The idea to build a third bridge on the Danube was also launched in the context of the discussions on the possibility of building a hydroelectric power plant at Turnu Magurele - Nikopol, which, besides the positive impact on regularizing the navigation on the Danube river, on the agriculture in the surrounding areas and its relevance as an energy component, will also ensure the road interconnection between our countries.
At the same time, through the Romania - Bulgaria Cross Border Cooperation Program dozens of projects were and are implemented, including in the field of transport, rehabilitating roads, developing port infrastructure, environmental protection etc.
7. Romania has a common border with Bulgaria's North-West, the poorest region in the EU. How can bilateral cooperation contribute to overcoming that problem?
According to the statistics, after the inauguration of the Vidin - Calafat Bridge, the interest for cooperation between the Romanian and Bulgarian businessmen in the North-Western region of Bulgaria increased significantly. In March, a business forum was held in Vidin under the patronage of the bilateral Chamber of Commerce Romania-Bulgaria, at which both parties presented their offers in several fields with high potential for collaboration, such as agriculture, industry and services. Also, there is a substantial increase in the number of the Romanian visiting the touristic attractions from Vidin area, such as the natural sites of Belogradchik or the Magura cave.
8. In your opinion, are Bulgaria and Romania facing similar EU challenges in the years to come?
Romania and Bulgaria have many similarities in the economic and social development. We have common interests in promoting the region and its potential within the EU. We work very close together to promote jointly a number of important projects in the framework of the Danube Strategy and the Black Sea Synergy. Both countries are interested in developing the energy sector, agriculture, tourism etc. Together, we represent about 30 million European citizens with a significant growth potential, also reflected in the dynamics of the bilateral trade, which, during the last years, have tripled, reaching 3.5 billion euro.
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Traditionally, Romania never had much commercial connections with Russia and this has been intentional ever since, asserting that such dependencies would make it vulnerable. This has been costly for Romania, but now it pays off. In the frontline, NATO and EU need countries that can not be blackmailed.
Go Romania! Our neighbours and brothers will lead the way in isolating that dictatorship and pariah state that God unfortunately placed next to civilised Europe.
Please continue to develop your shale gas and soon Bulgaria will be able to import from you and will be free from the slavery to Gazprom and that mafia infested cockroach nation called Russia.
"Romania...together with its European partners and North Atlantic allies condemns Russia’s violations of the international law [!!!] and has strong expectations that Russia will engage itself in dialogue aimed at avoiding escalating further the tensions [in Ukraine]"---to make, "together with European partners and North Atlantic allies", a mess in Ukraine, to instigate the Coup d'Etat, to bring the neo-Nazis to power in the country and then to "strongly expect" Russia to put things right. Shattering logic! The cheerful Romania's Ambassador is merely the unattainable ideal of Professionalism......"Romanians: not Nation but Profession"/Otto von Bismarck(?)/
Thanks for the interview, Novinite. A hell of pleasure.