Romania celebrated Saturday 10 years since its accession to the North-Atlantic Alliance (NATO). Since 1993, when it formally expressed its intention to accede, it would take Romania 10 years to see its dream come true in 2004, after a failure in 1997. On 29 March 2004, Romania acceded to NATO by submitting the ratification instruments to the State Department of the USA, the depository state of the North-Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
After the finalization of negotiations between Romania and NATO, negotiations that set the general obligations, teams of experts from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization engaged in sectorial talks with Bucharest over different aspects and specific reforms. The candidate states signed the Accession Protocols in Brussels during an extraordinary ceremony of the North Atlantic Council on March 26, 2003. After the signing process, the ratification process began, France being the last country to ratify the documents pertaining to the seven states’ accession. The ceremony occasioned by the submission of the accession instruments to the North-Atlantic Treaty by the prime ministers of the seven countries invited to accede to it: Romania (represented by PM Adrian Nastase) Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia and Slovenia – all of them represented at prime ministerial level, took place in Washington on March 29, 2004. In an interview with the CNN, the then NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, was pointing out that this really significant, historic event, ‘a dream has become a reality’ for the new members. As far as Romania and Bulgaria are concerned, NATO Secretary General declared that the latter are quite adequate and ready to accede to NATO, their situation in the relations with the EU differing owing to the large acquis communitaire to which they have to adjust themselves.
The Washington festivities will be followed on 2 April by the flag-raising ceremony at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. The flag – hoisting ceremony as well as the performance of the state anthems will take place in the presence of NATO Secretary General, of the 19 foreign ministers of the member states and of the 7 foreign ministers of the new member states.
The flag-raising ceremony will be followed by a festive meeting of the North-Atlantic Council with the participation of all the 26 foreign ministers. On this occasion, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana will deliver a message on behalf of Romania, for the first time in our country’s capacity as a full member of the North-Atlantic Alliance.
Romania misses the ‘97 enlargement, but one year later becomes the “air bridge” of NATO to Kosovo
On 8 July 1997, at the Madrid Summit of NATO, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland receive the invitation to join the Alliance, while Romania is nominated among the candidate states for a future enlargment. Three days later, US President Bill Clinton pays a “consolation visit” to Bucharest, after Romania was not received to NATO, as it hoped. “The door of NATO is open. It will stay open and we will help you enter it. NATO committed itself to reanalysing the candidacies in 1999. Romania is among the most serious candidates,” Clinton said at that moment.
In October 1998, the Parliament in Bucharest approves the NATO request to open Romania’s airspace for possible NATO operations against Yugoslavia, only “in exceptional and urgent situations,” a decision confirmed on 22 April 1999, when the authorisation is granted to open the airspace for the operations in Kosovo.
11 September and the historic expansion
As a consequence of the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001, the Romanian Parliament adopted the decision that Romania should participate, as a de facto NATO ally, to the fight against international terrorism with all means, including military ones. Romania was to offer NATO access to its airspace, airports, land and maritime bases in case NATO required it.
On November 21, 2002, Romania was invited, along with six other candidate countries, to start accession talks, at the NATO Summit in Prague, as part of a historic decision to expand the North Atlantic Alliance by welcoming seven former Communist bloc countries.
Two days after the historic decision in Prague, US President George W. Bush visited Romania. In Bucharest’s Revolution Square Bush promised that NATO will stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Romania in case it was threatened or attacked. He started his speech by saluting the crowds in the Romanian language. The American President looked several times towards the rainbow that appeared in the skies, saying that “God smiles today.”
Ruling leaders: 10 years of NATO – stability and security
The day when Romania joined NATO became a landmark moment in our national history, meaning that we reached a new level of stability and security, Prime Minister Victor Ponta said in his message occasioned by the 10th anniversary since Romania joined the North-Atlantic Alliance. Minister of Foreign Affairs (MAE) Titus Corlatean also voiced his enthusiasm for the 10th anniversary. ‘Gaining the NATO membership represented a historic moment for Romania, both from the viewpoint of the reaffirmation of its affiliation to the Euro-Atlantic values and from that of obtaining the most powerful guarantees of security in the contemporary history of Romania, to the direct benefit of the Romanian citizens,’ said Corlatean, as quoted by Agerpres. Speaker of the Senate, Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, believes that, in the context of Romania celebrating today its 10th anniversary since becoming a member of the North-Atlantic Alliance (NATO), and also in the context of the recent developments in its region, Romania should become like a ‘catalyst’ for strengthening the NATO and EU borders, as well as for promoting such policies related to the cooperation process in the Black Sea area.
How the leaders from 2004 marked the moment
Mircea Geoana stated in an interview for Mediafax that ten years after Romania’s NATO accession, an accession that took place while he was Foreign Minister, membership in the North Atlantic Alliance represents the first real security guarantee that Romania has in its history. Ioan Mircea Pascu, Defense Minister at the time of the accession, also stated in an interview for Mediafax that Romania’s NATO membership helps citizens live a quiet life, “defended by Article 5,” despite the delicate situation at the border with Ukraine, and the Alliance can be seen as “a society of assurances.” Current Romanian Intelligence Service Director George Maior stated in the same series of interviews that he had “the most dramatic” discussion in the negotiations for NATO accession as head of the Ministry of Defense’s Euroatlantic Accession Department right on September 11, 2001, when he had the feeling we will join the Alliance. Sorin Ducaru, Romanian ambassador to the US in 2004, recalled that he celebrated Romania’s accession at the White House, along with his 6-month-old baby girl and the representatives of the Romanian community in the US. Petre Roman, the first Romanian Prime Minister that visited the NATO headquarters, stated in his turn that Romania should thank former American President George W. Bush for her accession to the Alliance in 2004, because the decision was mainly his.