Does Romania Have to Choose Between the United States and Europe on its Way to Democracy?
In Romania, the talks concerning the Iraqi war are tackled from a different point of view. It is not so much an issue of the necessity of the war in this moment nor of the way it should be avoided by the United Nations Council of Security, nor, still, of the existence of an international consensus.
The Prague time - November 21, 2002, the moment when Romania was invited to join NATO - is not too long ago. For us, with war negotiations, what matters most is the way in which Romania is supposed to act within this alliance. Because now, only three months later, Romania is required to take a stand regarding a problem of international importance: its participation alongside the United States in the war against Iraqi.
There is no doubt about Romania's allegiance to NATO and its support of the interest of the alliance. Almost unanimously, political parties, churches and the institutions of the civil society decided to support the decision of Romanian authorities, that is, to adhere to NATO. On the other hand, the Romanian people think the US has the greatest merit in Romania's invitation, looking over some lacks of the political, economical and legal criteria. So, it is unanimously acknowledged that Romania is obligated to the US from this point of view (just as much as Bulgaria). One should also remember that Romania and Bulgaria were considered late-runners in the process of admission to EU and at Copenhagen (December 2002), only 2007 was set as the possible year of admission.
Consequently, all of Romania's measures, taken in this respect, are politically and socially supported:
- Hosting NATO troops at Constantza and Timisoara
- Sending off utility troops in the Gulf area
- Calling in the Romanian Embassy in Iraqi
- The expelling of members of the Iraqi Embassy in Bucharest
However, political analysts and the most important representatives of the mass media question whether or not Romania's behavior is somewhat exaggerated. Moreover, taking into consideration that Romania owes its support to the US at any moment the U.S. might ask for it* (NATO is greatly assimilated to the USA), its behavior raised the suspicion and criticism from French and EU officials, which see Romania firstly as a European country and only secondly as a NATO member.
Thus, if until three months ago there were only some hopes for Romania in the NATO and EU admission processes, after its invitation to join NATO, Romania's role turns out to be a difficult one.
Some say that the present Bucharest authorities act like those of the Communist regime. NATO and the EU have replaced the USSR and the Warsaw Pact. At the moment, its increasing closeness with the U.S. is not well received by the biggest European powers (Called by Donald Rumsfeld "the old Europe"). What is the best way for Romania to act? The president of the U.S., George W. Bush visited Bucharest two days after Prague only to emphasize the American contribution for Romania's admission. How could Bucharest then turn down the Washington call? Has Romania outdone her involvement? Take Turkey, for example. As a NATO member, it chose not to permit U.S. units to attack Iraq from its territory. On the other hand, what is the point of view of Europe itself for Romania to join? On this topic, Europe continues to be divided. If things are so, then Romania has not betrayed Europe. But in a debate between the United States, Great Britain and Spain with France, Russia and China, Romania chooses to side with the former.
One should not forget that Romania is changing its history as we speak. Its actions could be impulsive or hurried, but Bucharest politicians want to prove that they are moving beyond Romania's past. Fifteen years ago, Romania w as a friend of Russia and an important European friend of the Arabian countries. At this moment it is together with the U.S., NATO and in the front line of the war against Iraq. Is this option only circumstantial or the final engagement on a one-way road to democracy and the civilized world? Only time can answer this question. In any case, this decision proves to be a hard one for Romania to take at this moment of crisis in the international relations.
The author is an expert attached to the Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs of the Romanian Government. The views here are his own and do not necessarily represent the official positions of the Government of Romania.
* Romania took a similar controversial decision in the summer of 2002 as the first country (followed only by Israel, Uzbekistan and East Timor) to sign an agreement with the US against the International Penal Court.