March 21, 2016

Romanian Lesson for Ukraine

Klaus JohannisSince the “Borysfen Intel's” experts' previous analytical article about Romania (see “Uncomplying Dual Power” in Romania /in the Ukrainian Context/” dated September 4, 2015), the situation in our neighboring country has changed significantly as a result, first of all, of a radical change of the trend in the vertical of power (from sharp confrontation between the newly elected President Klaus Johannis and the then “political” Prime Minister Victor Ponta to K. Johannis' real cooperation with the technocratic Prime Minister, former European Commissioner for agriculture Dacian Ciolos) and the national political elite's responsible attitude to internal and external challenges to the Romanian statehood.

Today in the domestic political life of Romania we can observe the process of synchronization of actions of presidential and governmental branches against the background of the leading political forces' active preparation for local (May 2016) and parliamentary (November 2016) elections. It is clear that the government and political establishment's activity in the current year will be aimed at achieving electoral goals, but in the circumstances of the forecasted growth of security and migration challenges in the EU and the Black Sea and the Balkan region, the Romanian authorities in parallel demonstrate their clear understanding of ways to neutralize the latter and the importance of harmony in the actions of the executive structures.

Dacian CiolosFollowing the appointment in November 2015 of D. Ciolos to the post of Prime Minister, we can also see a rapid growth of his rating and credibility in the society and the formation of dominant positions of the “President-Prime Minister” tandem. Thus, according to opinion polls at the end of last year, the ratings of the President and Prime Minister had reached 53 % and 49 %, respectively. K. Johannis, using a system of extensive consultations, managed to establish a constructive dialogue not only with government officials, but also with representatives of the political elite and the public.

Besides, the President of Romania fully supports the program of the government's actions aimed at the development of a democratic society. He hopes that D. Ciolos' technocratic Cabinet within a year will be able to demonstrate constructive approach to the implementation of the government's program and to persuade the Romanian society that a new, pro-European political class is being formed in the country and it deserves the voters' maximum confidence.

Taking into consideration the EU's authority of the head of the Romanian government, the President hopes that D. Ciolos' Cabinet will be able not only to maintain the achieved rate of economic growth, but will also accelerate it first of all through creation of new jobs in the private sector (up to 150 thousand people) and attracting new foreign investments. In particular, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, based on the upward trend of the Romanian economy, better absorption of EU structural funds and the growth of domestic demand and consumption, give optimistic forecasts for growth of Romania's GDP in 2016 — in the range of 3.6-3.9 %.

The struggle against corruption in the higher echelons of power is planned to be continued. In particular, the National Anti-Corruption Agency (NAA) has initiated procedure of criminal prosecution of the leader of the National Union for the Progress of Romania (NUPR), the ex-Deputy Prime Minister and former Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, G. Oprea, against whom the allegations of corruption and abuse of office (personal use of cortege of police and state guard) are made. In this context, indicative is the resignation on February 2 this year of Prosecutor General of Romania T. Nita, who is also involved in the so-called “cortege” case. K. Johannis' quick approving of the Prosecutor General's resignation shows that the Presidential Administration has begun preparations for election of the head of the NAA and Prosecutor General's Office, to be held in April 2016. Appointment to these posts of loyal and highly qualified persons will significantly strengthen the position of the head of State on the eve of parliamentary elections-2016.

Besides, at the final stage is now the consideration of the criminal case of ex-deputy from the Social Democratic Party (SDP) I. Stan, who is accused of receiving undue fee from business circles during the election campaign in 2012 in exchange for access to public sector contracts. In 2009, as Chairman of the county organization of the SDP, he received support for the campaign in exchange for a promise to provide an easy access to profitable government contracts to interested persons.

Holding the local elections according to a new model (in two rounds) will allow local authorities to change the governing structure of executive bodies at the provincial and local levels, and D. Ciolos' government's expected success in stabilizing the socio-economic situation in the country will contribute to the promotion of representatives of pro-presidential forces in the parliamentary elections. This configuration will allow K. Johannis to control all levels of government over the next four years, and in the future to count on the prospect of re-election as head of the state for a second term.

T. BasescuStrengthening of K. Johannis and D. Ciolos' cooperation is helped by the fact that the Social Democratic Party today, which is the main political opponent of the pro-government National Liberal Party (NLP), is in a deep staff and image crisis. As a result, Social Democrats in the mentioned sociological survey were supported by no more than 35 % of respondents. At the same time, human resources of the NLP as a party-candidate for the role of the country's leading political force are expanding slowly, because the Liberals have not yet offered the public their alternative political project acceptable to the vast majority of the population.

V. PontaThe Romanian pro-government tandem should not underestimate the attempts of ex-Romanian President T. Basescu and former Prime Minister V. Ponta to return to active political life. The former, in particular, is trying to play the role of the main oppositionist in the current political environment, wishing that the headed by him People's Movement will get into the next Parliament.

C. Popescu-TariceanuAt the same time, the created by the former Romanian Prime Minister V. Ponta the Black Sea Regional Projects 2020 Association, which includes former ministers from his cabinet, business leaders, as well as the unhappy with the political course of the newly elected chairman of the SDP L. Dragnea, may eventually turn into a political party with which V. Ponta will go to the parliamentary elections. Besides, the leader of the Alliance of Liberals Democrats, Chairman of the Senate of Romania C. Popescu-Tariceanu has officially declared about his support for the latter and readiness to establish with him a new political alliance. Meanwhile, the new potential political ally of the opposition — the leader of the NUPR G. Oprea announced about possible continuation of his cooperation with the renewed SDP.

Taking into account the significant changes in the political and security situation in the region, especially the Russian Federation's occupation and militarization of the Crimea, the ongoing conflict in the East of Ukraine (with the Kremlin's political, economic and military support), as well as the growing threat of terrorism against the background of an uncontrolled flow into Europe of illegal immigrants, Romania's leadership focuses on deepening of the strategic partnership with the United States, active participation in NATO's security measures for strengthening security on its eastern borders and helps to build up the military presence of the Alliance's forces on the territory of Romania.

In NATO, the official Bucharest puts forward new initiatives to strengthen the security situation in the Black Sea region. In particular, it is planned to discuss with partners the prospect of creating the “Allied Flotilla” in the Black Sea under the auspices of Romania. The Romanian government has signed an agreement to purchase 12 upgraded by Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters from its NATO allies (Portugal), which it intends to place in 2016-2017 at Fetesti air base very close to the Black Sea coast. In December 2015, it announced about the technical functionality of the missile defence system deployed at a military base in Deveselu. This year Romanian troops are planned to participate in more than 400 military exercises and trainings of various scale (about 100 of which will be multinational).

The official Bucharest's relations with Moscow are in a state of “deep freeze”, including as a result of Russia's military aggression against Ukraine and the Kremlin's support to separatist movements in Moldova. The latest example of Bucharest's distancing from cooperation with Russia was the Romanian side's refusal to sign with the Kremlin an intergovernmental agreement on the procedure of production in Romania of weapons, military equipment and spare parts to them according to licenses and technical documentation of the former USSR.

Despite the official Bucharest's political support of the EU's sanctions policy towards Russia, representatives of Romanian business circles are showing some interest to cooperation with Russia, in particular in the energy industry (production of equipment for oil and gas exploration of resources and for the construction of PSP and TPP), shipbuilding, construction of oil and gas pipelines, agriculture and light industry.

On the other hand, the Kremlin is trying to take advantage of the radical political forces in the Romanian society, gathering around the supporters of the so-called “ideology of duginizm” among influential politicians such as the former President of Romania, the former leader of the Social Democratic Party, I. Iliescu, former Prime Minister of Romania A. Nastase (a creature of the ex-Prime Minister V. Ponta).

At the same time, the Romanian leadership and diplomacy make great efforts to deepen relations with the official Chisinau and to “economically boost” Moldova's integration into the EU. The Romanian side connects the support of Moldova's European integration aspirations with the implementation by the Moldovan political elite of the “road map” of structural reforms agreed with the EU/Federal Republic of Germany and IMF. In particular, D. Ciolos rejected the request of the newly elected head of the Moldovan Government P. Philip to allocate the first tranche of credit assistance to Moldova in the amount of 60 million Euros (out of the pre-agreed amount of 150 million Euros), announcing the need for the Moldovan side's active and constructive dialogue with the IMF. Besides, the focus is on the importance of reforming the justice system, intensifying efforts in the struggle against corruption, signing with the IMF of the project of loan agreement, as well as on the need to appoint a new head of the Central Bank of Moldova. Great attention in the Romanian-Moldovan relations is being paid to intensification of the bilateral dialogue on Moldova's energy integration into the EU, development of joint transport infrastructure and implementation of joint programs in the spheres of culture and education.

As for relations with Ukraine, the current Romanian leadership supports our state at the international level, at the same time taking measures to curb separatist sentiments and to prevent revanchist manifestations in its information space. After the publication by Bucharest in March 2014 of its official position on the situation in Ukraine, the relevant Romanian authorities carried out work with a number of radical organizations to stop their provocative rhetoric on the return of Ukrainian territories into “Great Romania”, and introduced a strict monitoring of such provocative materials in the media.

At the same time, a certain part of the national political class tries to implement “the Romanian national idea”, using events to expand the Romanian presence in the political, economic, cultural and religious life of the “Southern Bessarabia, Northern Bukovyna and Hertsa region”, involving individual representatives of the state bodies, the business community, Metropolis of Bessarabia of the Romanian Orthodox Church and Romanian educational institutions. In this context, we mean the initiative to create a new separate ministry for communication with the Romanian diaspora, promotion on the international stage of the thesis about the autochthonous Romanian-speaking population of the border regions of Ukraine, its groundless division into Romanians and Moldovans as well as the historical belonging of these territories to Romania, about preparation of the national elite for communities of ethnic Romanians in neighboring countries, as well as about the financing of projects for renovation and construction of the Romanian foreign educational institutions and places of worship.

Obviously, in this case Russia, as the “final beneficiary” will not limit the political, diplomatic and informational activities to strengthen the tensions in Ukraine's relations with neighboring countries, inclusive with speculations about the alleged increasing of social tension and discontent among the minorities whose representatives live in different regions of our country and are subject to mobilization into the Armed Forces of Ukraine (first of all ethnic Hungarians, Romanians, Greeks, Bulgarians).

In general, at the moment in Romania there is complete consolidation of the positions of President K. Johannis and Prime Minister D. Ciolos. This de facto has put an end to a long phase of confrontation between the presidential and governmental branches, and has created the basis for the stabilization of the political situation in the country.

At the same time, taking into consideration the current global and regional conditions, Romania is carrying out the adjustment of its foreign policy priorities in the direction of its recognition as a “new strong” player on the European stage, inclusive of the positioning of the Romanian side in the role of conductor of interests of the official Kyiv and Chisinau in their movement into the EU/NATO as well as securing a dominant position in the Ukrainian-Romanian and Romanian-Moldovan relations.

At the same time, overcoming the political turbulence in Romania and Bucharest's growing attention to the issues of European and regional security in general will have a positive effect for Ukraine. Besides, Ukrainian politicians and officials should, in our opinion, learn from their neighbors and use the Romanian experience of settlement of internal political crises.