When Internal Politics Affects Foreign Policy 4

Hans Morgenthau, one of the most remarkable thinkers in international relations, argued that the difference between internal politics and foreign policy is not a difference of kind, but of degree. Another great theorist of international relations, Raymond Aron, argued that a political unit, meaning a state defines itself partially by being capable of external action – foreign policy. Using these two theoretical benchmarks as starting points for this article I will argue that the current crisis in Romania’s internal politics have affected its foreign policy in a negative way. This article is the third instalment in the series of articles dedicated to Romania’s foreign policy.

Since summer 2005 Romania has seen a political struggle between its President Traian Basescu and Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu. Originally they were both political allies, being the leaders of the coalition that managed in 2004 to take the power from the social democrats. The rift between the prime minister and the president has affected the conduct of foreign policy in many ways. As a result Romania’s foreign policy has become less effective and efficient. Their differences concerning foreign policy can be put also on their opposite views regarding international politics: president Basescu is an atlanticist, while Tariceanu has been a firm supporter of EU positions concerding major issues of international politics.

The rift between the president and the prime minister had become evident for the first time in June 2006 when Calin Popescu Tariceanu decided to withdraw Romanian forces from Iraq, circumventing the normal chain of foreign policymaking and failing to inform Romania’s allies.

A second instance when the conflict between the president and the prime minister affected Romania’s foreign policy occurred when the minister of Foreign Affairs Mihai Razvan Ungureanu was forced to resign at the request of the prime minister. Mihai Razvan Ungureanu had been perceived by many, including colleagues from his own party as a supporter of the president. Calin Popescu Tariceanu asked for his resignation when he failed to inform the prime minister about an incident in which two Romanian workers were involved and had been detained by US forces. His replacement, Adrian Cioroianu has been a continuous source of controversy, the Romanian press never missing an opportunity to criticize him. Even president Basescu had reluctantly accepted Adrian Cioroianu’s nomination as foreign affairs minister, the liberal Government having to put his nomination before the Constitutional Court and accusing the president of not properly discharging his functions.

The replacement of the foreign affairs minister had come at a crucial point for Romania’s diplomacy. During his term in office Mihai Razvan Ungureanu began a process of reform and renewal of the institution, with an emphasis on improving consular affairs and human resources. Adrian Cioroianu has become notorious as a result of his behaviour in a number of occasions and his lack of experience. The most recent cases when the behaviour of the foreign minister has come under scrutiny of the press regard his unguarded comments on television regarding the fate of Romanians who commit crimes abroad and a perceived braking of the protocol while accompanying the Romanian president in a visit to Spain.

Romanian foreign policy has been affected by the current internal political crisis in its substance, not only in terms of leadership. Recently Romanian foreign policy has come under attack by Moldova’s president Vladimir Voronin, who is leaning strongly towards Moscow now and never misses an opportunity to attack Romania for alleged imperialist tendencies. Ukraine has continued its policies regarding sensitive issues such as the Bastroe canal and the establishing of the maritime border between the two states. In a recent visit to Bucharest president Iushcenko declared that the construction of the Bastroe canal represents a vital interest for its country and is not subject to negations. Furthermore he visited the Serpents’ Island whose status is subject of a litigation in the Hague between Romania and Ukraine.

Romania’s image in Europe and the defence by state officials of the rights of Romanians working abroad have come under heavy criticism after an incident in Italy, which led the Italian government to enact a law that allows the expulsion of EU citizens without due process. Furthermore a few days ago Italian energy giant ENI signed an agreement with its Russian counterpart, Gazprom signed a deal for the building of the Bluestream gas pipeline, which threatens the Nabucco project.

Romanian foreign policy reacted slowly to these events and has not come up with proper responses. The causes for this incoherence may be found in the inner workings of the system however a great deal of responsibility must be placed on the current political crisis which makes almost impossible the formulation of a coherent and consistent foreign policy. It is vital that the current political crisis Romania be solved as it offers opportunities for rivals to compromise Romanian interests and credibility abroad.

George VIŞAN


  1. I think the problem is slightly more inherent to the whole Romanian society rather than just this very moment in time, with Basescu and Tariceanu caught up in their feud. And I say this because even back when Social Democrats were the ruling party in all branches of government, our foreign policy was just as weak and innefective. So, yes, while the current situation is a further stumbling block, the main problem lies elsewhere. The Foreign Ministry has become a hotbed of political cronyes and sycophants, its members largely hired on political or personal connections rather than on merit.

    Furthermore, the lack of ability on behalf of political parties from across the board in Romania to agree on long-term strategies for our foreign policy (as they also should on healthcare, education and other national interest topics) betrays a severe disinterest in our common national interest. Our foreign policy has been chaotic, at best, when not dealing with the most very basic needs (euro-atlantic integration). This, coupled with weak Ministers and unprepared Foreign Ministry employees, has brought us where we are today.

  2. The facts pointed out by you are true, yet a do not see a causal connection between the internal political struggle between Basescu and Tariceanu and the foreign policy issues. Perhaps it would be best if you were to underline these causal connections.

  3. @bamse
    The causal connection between these events is the institutional conflict within the executive branch. Would there have been any anoucement of withrdrawal of Romanian troops if Tariceanu would had not believed he will score some points against Basescu, who was underminig his position? Probably no.

    Furthermore the link between the institutional conflict and the downward course of foreign policy is furhter reinforced by the replacement of Ungureanu with Cioroianu. After Cioroianu took over the office of foreign affairs, the quality of Romania’s foreign policy has diminished grately. The institutional reform process started by Ungureanu has stagnated and foreign policymaking has not improved overall.

    Basicaly your right. The lack of consensus in key policymaking areas is characteristic to the Romanian political system. However I chose to highlight the conflict inside the executve branch of the Government, because this is were foreign policy is produce and therefore affected by the conflicts within the administration.

  4. sorry, and a bit of semi-spam here, since it’s your last posting:

    We would like to inform you that you blog has been listed on Codex Politicus, a noncommercial project on the influence of new media in romanian politics. For a bird’s eye view of the romanian political blogosphere, please visit http://digitallights.net

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