Bulgaria and Romania are due to enter the European Union on the first of January. Romania’s President Traian Basescu speaking to Euronews in Bucharest explains the challenges of an EU with a border on the Black Sea. He wants to see stronger ties between the European Union and the United States.
Euronews: Mr. President, large numbers of people in the EU are expecting Romanians to swamp their towns and cities as from the 1st of January. Why the fear?
President Basescu: The fear that Romanians will invade Europe is, in my opinion, unfounded. Most Romanians who want to leave have almost all already left. Romania currently has a labour shortage itself.
Euronews: EU membership is clearly a source of enthusiasm just before entry. But that sense of involvement tends to decline afterwards and there can be scepticism, euro-scepticism. Do you feel Romanians are really aware of the full implications of membership?
Euronews: Romania’s politicians have been very careful on this point. We have repeatedly told people that EU membership will not change the country overnight nor give them the productivity levels you see in Germany, France, the Netherlands and other founder EU states. But, even with this, opinion polls show Romanians are among the most optimistic about EU membership.
Euronews: Yes, but this is the pre-accession phase.
Persident Basescu: True, but Romanians are aware that there will be a costly integration process once they have become members. They are aware that they will be able to secure their prosperity within the EU’s legislative, economic and social framework once membership has gone through.
Euronews: What kind of geo-political impact do you feel Romania’s membership will have?
President Basescu: Romania and Bulgaria’s accession will give the European Union a border on the Black Sea for the first time. Problems faced in the wider Black Sea region will no longer be solely for NATO to deal with. They will become a part of EU foreign policy. There are problems to deal with which will make the EU a major player in the wider Black Sea region. There are statehood conflicts bubbling away in the north east of the region, there is arms trafficking, and there is drugs trafficking. The Black Sea region is a point of passage from parts of Asia to the EU for the drugs trade. With this is mind, Romania – once it is an EU member state – plans to back EU membership for western Balkan countries and Moldova over the medium-term.
Euronews: How will membership affect relations with NATO?
President Basescu: Our foreign policy, after entry, will adapt to EU realities, namely the need for a ratified constitutional treaty as quickly as possible. That will, at least, give Member States common foreign policy and a common security policy. More specifically, as an EU member state we will give continual backing for the need for extremely solid transatlantic ties. It would be hard to imagine a Europe cut off from the United States, just as it would be difficult to see a power such as the United States cut off from Europe. As we see it, we are more or less condemned to strong transatlantic ties.
Euronews: Sticking with that subject, Romania’s strategic partnership with the United States hasn’t all been good. The case of secret CIA flights and prisons damaged Romania’s image abroad. Do you see NATO membership as more important than membership of a group of European nations who are members of the Council of Europe and concerned about respect for human rights?
President Basescu: Both are vital. You know, a country on the Atlantic Ocean sees national security differently compared to a country with a border on the Black Sea, with all the problems that the region has. I am talking here about the need for security for a country which does not have the most democratic countries in the world in its backyard. These two approaches have nothing to do with secret flights Romania was or is suspected of. We have placed our territory, its air bases and military, at the disposal of those who wish to verify claims about secret facilities for themselves.