I should start by saying that someone at the Austrian Embassy in Bucharest had a really bad day at the office this Sunday… In short it seems someone from the embassy’s staff has leaked a memo, written by Ambassador Martin Eichtinger in which he surmises Romania’s position on thorny diplomatic issues concerning energy security, EU-Russian relations and Turkey’s accession to the EU. The document reveals not only Romania’s foreign policy agenda and positions, but also possible future decisions the government will take in the near future regarding the Nabucco gas pipeline, the PEOP project (Constanta-Trieste oil pipeline) the national energy security strategy, the current situation in Moldova, relations with Russia and Ukraine. All the informations in the leaked document are taken from statements which president Traian Basescu made to EU diplomats or from his meetings with various European and regional leaders. In essence the document is nothing more than a diplomatic report which every embassy has to send back home to the foreign ministry. This particular document was destined for the Austrian foreign ministry and for the Austrian embassies in Chisinau, Bruxelles, Kiev and Moscow.
Energy security tops the foreign policy agenda with Romania trying to convince the EU and its neighbors of the importance for Europe of two major pipeline projects: Nabucco (gas) and PEOP (oil). President Basescu has accused the European Commission of not doing enough to facilitate the rapid building of the Nabucco pipeline and has asked the Turkish prime-minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to use Nabucco as a bargaining chip in his negations regarding Turkeys accession to the EU. The Romanian president has acknowledged that negotiations with Qatar are under way in order to import natural liquefied gas through the port of Constanta in order to diversify supply. Traian Basescu was disappointed by the fact the European Union is not interested in the building of Constanta-Trieste oil pipeline. Regarding national energy security, Traian Basescu has disclosed that the current government intends to create three major energy companies, not a national energy champion, as former prime-minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu envisioned, to foster competition on the internal market.
In its relations with the EU Romania is signaling that it would like to play a more prominent role and would like to obtain after the next European elections a better position in European executive. Traian Basescu would like is eying the post of Commissioner for Agriculture in the next Commission, as the current position lacks in clout and resources.
Concerning Moldova, Romania seems committed in the long run to achieve some sort of reunification with its former province. In a heated exchange with a German diplomat president Traian Basescu argued that the Romanians have the same right as Germans to live in one state. Romania is going to accelerate its program of granting citizenship for Moldovans who want it and it will also grant free access to Romanian universities to Moldova’s youth.
In regard to Russia, Romania is concerned with the latter’s aggressively defense of its sphere influence and president Basescu pointed out that Transnistria has become a Russian enclave, like Kaliningrad. The Romanian president also disclosed that in the recent espionage row with Ukraine, Russia was involved and consequently three Russian diplomats had to be declared persona-non-grata.
Romania’s relations with Ukraine continue to be strained, Traian Basescu identifying three issue areas were progress is not forthcoming: the building of the Bystroye canal despite mounting international pressure, the implementation of the verdict given by the International Court of Justice concerning maritime delimitation around the Serpent’s Island and disregard for the minority rights of Romanians living in Ukraine. Relations have been strained further by an espionage row that led to the expulsion of two Ukrainian diplomats and three Russian, as well as changing all the communication frequencies used by the Romanian Armed Forces.
Media leaks are seldom unintentional or coincidental. It is no secret that Romania in the last couple of months was on the wrong side of the fence within the EU. First in a CAGRE meeting Romanian foreign minister Cristian Diaconescu blocked the consensus regarding energy security when Germany tried to cut the funding for the Nabucco project. Furthermore when the protests in Moldova over the result of the legislative elections erupted, Romania was quite vocal in asking the EU to condemn the violent reprisals ordered by the Moldovan government. Also Romania’s policy concerning the granting of Romanian citizenship for Moldovans, has raised eyebrows in European chancelleries, many fearing an influx of immigrants from the east. Therefore this leak can constitute some sort of retaliation by some in Vienna who feel that Romania has stepped out of line.
Whatever the truth concerning the leaked document, it shows an embattled Romanian diplomacy, that it is struggling to convince its European partners to support its interests. It also shows how strenuous and conflicting is the EU’s foreign policy making process. Romania seems to look with one eye towards the future and the other towards the past. On the one hand it seems concerned with securing its place within the EU and creating a secure future for its population, while at the same time trying to undone the wrongs of history. From a European perspective Romania’s efforts of achieving energy security and securing its borders to the east are legitimate, but what surely puzzles many on the continent its her aspiration of regaining a lost territory something that is not congruent with the current status quo in Europe. In clinching to Moldova or Bessarabia, as it is known by most Romanians, Romania may lose some standing within the European Union.
The leaked report also shows the difficulties Romania faces with regard to Russia and Ukraine. Romania considers Russia a threat and is trying to convince other states of the gravity this threat. Russian involvement in the recent espionage scandal with Ukraine proves that its intentions towards eastern members of the EU are less than peaceful. Ukraine and Romania seem to be engaged in a dangerous tug of war regarding sensitive economic and political bilateral issues. Ukraine is the ignoring pressure from the international community regarding the building of the Bystroye canal and delays the implementation of an ICJ verdict. The EU should address the non-compliance of Ukraine with international norms in its neighborhood policy and support Romania more vigorously. EU member states should also be more forthcoming in supporting Romania’s position in its relations with Russia. Unfortunately Russia has managed to create within the EU a powerful lobby that supports its foreign policy and a more forceful EU policy in regard to Russia is unlikely.