Finger-pointing in Europe’s battle to manage the debt crisis repeatedly raises questions of capacity and discipline — in euro states and others. Romania still has its own currency. It joined the EU the latest, with Bulgaria, in 2007, after joining NATO. Economically poor, it is challenged to meet standards. Finland and the Netherlands feel it’s still too early for Romania to play its part in the Schengen open-borders area. euronews asked Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi about key matters for Romania today.
Rudolf Herbert, euronews: Even though Romania is not a member of the euro, is the currency zone crisis having consequences in your country?
Teodor Baconschi: Certainly. There is a negative impact: GDP has contracted, as industrial production has fallen in the past two years, but thanks to steps taken by the current government in Bucharest we have stabilised things from a macro-economic point of view. Inflation is under control. It is already certain that we have modest growth this year, with a more optimistic outlook for next year.
euronews: Has the crisis changed the relationships between the members of the euro zone and the other members of the EU?
Baconschi: There is quite a big risk that we will see a two-speed Europe of core euro zone countries and peripheral ones, and we are concerned. We need to avoid fracturing Europe along the imaginary border of the euro zone. We need solidarity, cohesive policy that can lessen the gap between the new members to end up with convergence and an enlargement policy that doesn’t end.
euronews: What obstacles have appeared in recent months that stopped your country from joining the Schengen area?
Baconschi: Except for two countries, everybody is in favour of this enlargement. We have been working with, and continue to work with the two sceptics, to persuade them that all our arguments are solid, that this is a responsible state, that we have the technical capacity and the political will to guard ourselves while guarding the common borders of the Union.
euronews: When does Romania hope to enter the Schengen area?
Baconschi: We hope to get out of the impasse next year.
euronews: How would you describe the role of your country in this new political and geographical context? Does Romania have a certain role to play?
Baconschi: Given the dimensions of the territory, the country’s resources and its geopolitical situation, I think that Romania’s vocation is, in effect, to anchor eastern Europe, while guaranteeing the stability of candidate countries and countries associated with the European Union — the predictability of our eastern neighbourhood.
euronews: What are Romania’s relations with Russia?
Baconschi: I would say they are getting better. There is an openness on both sides, and also a responsibility that is not only circumstantial. In the old days we had good relations. There weren’t only disputes. Therefore we need to envisage, in a responsible way, on the basis of mutual interests, a common future in the region.
euronews: What do you think about the Arab Spring?
Baconschi: It is a historic phenomenon, comparable, within certain limits, with what happened in eastern Europe with the fall of the communist bloc. It is a fantastic aspiration towards freedom, fundamentally. I think that the European Union must become active, get involved much more. The day after these revolutions we saw the happy case of Tunisia which went on to hold nearly impeccable elections, whose purpose is to build a functional democracy.
euronews: What are your foremost concerns for Romania’s foreign affairs?
Baconschi: We have stable priorities: keeping our transatlantic link lively is essential, also the dialogue between the European Union and NATO, the strategic partnership with the USA, keeping possible problems with our neighbours to a minimum, a constructive role, a positive projection of democratic values in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood. It’s a very active role in terms of thinking and action where the continent’s energy security is concerned. We also have this Black Sea opening. And we conceived and pushed for the adoption of this European Union strategy for the Danube River region, which began with Austria and Romania and will, in the end, map out a macroeconomic region in Central Europe which is extremely important among the new members and the founding members.