A tough Choice for Romania to Make : NATO or EU? 1

Apparently Romania is faced with a stark choice in terms of its foreign and security policies since it has joined the EU: should it continue with a foreign policy that emphasizes a strong atlanticist commitment or should it take a 180 degree turn towards a foreign policy oriented towards the EU?

I will argue that making such a choice now is senseless and that the Romanian government should develop a foreign policy that will emphasize both its strong NATO commitment (especially cultivating a strong relationship with the United States) as well as trying to better coordinate its foreign policy with EU member countries under the framework of the ESDP.

Romania needs a strong partnership with the United States for several reasons. First of all because the alliance with the United States is the best security option Romania has at this moment. Second because NATO remains the most viable political and military alliance in Eurasia. These two reasons are strong enough for Romania to further its ties with the US and NATO. Other reasons that sustain this commitment are linked in particular with Romania’s geographical location at the Black Sea and with alliance and US interests in Central Asia and in the Black Sea region itself.

The EU offers Romania prospects for prosperity as well as an institutional framework which allows for the management of globalization. However Europe cannot offer Romania security in the traditional sense. That is because it is virtually impossible to coordinate the foreign policies of twenty seven sovereign national states. They may agree on some issues; however they will disagree strongly on other issues. What is called European Security and Defense Policy has more to do with crisis management, diplomacy and peacekeeping missions, than traditional security and foreign policy. There is also the issue of EU’s credibility as a foreign actor in the international arena due to its preference for dialogue, diplomacy and international law. In some cases this approach works, in other is less effective (see for example the issues of the Middle East, especially the Arab-Israeli peace process). Furthermore there is the ongoing debate between countries which want the US and European alliance embodied in NATO (Great Britain, Netherlands, Poland) and those countries who want to see a more independent Europe in terms of security from the United States ( France, Italy, Belgium and to a certain extent Germany). These ongoing debates raise serious questions regarding the viability of an integrated EU foreign policy in the long term.

EU can help Romania and also Romania can help EU in terms of an energy policy that will ensure autonomy if not independence from Russia as well as increasing the security of EU’s borders on the Black Sea. Romania can also contribute to the ESDP with its extensive expertise in terms of peacekeeping.

However to make now a hard choice between these two seemingly contradictory alternatives in terms of foreign and security policy is a mistake, which would have serious consequences later. It is a mistake because Romania should make the most out of both alternatives, as they in reality complement each other. Romania should instead develop an active foreign and security policy which combines both NATO ( the relationship with the United States) and EU (ESDP). This is quite a challenge which Romania’s government and diplomacy must meet in the near future.

George VIŞAN

One comment

  1. Interesting article. How do you see things as changing if/ when ESDP becomes more coherent and unified and how does the EU’s new Black Sea Synergy initiative feed into this? Should be noted perhaps, that older EU/NATO members have problems also when it comes to their ‘double-hattedness.’

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