Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi is, as of yesterday, on an official two-day visit in Paris, at the invitation of his French counterpart.
“We’ve also addressed the very sensitive matter of Romania’s accession to the Schengen Area, but we’ve done it in a calm and amiable manner. I’ve reiterated France’s position on some points. Firstly, there is no ambiguity as far as we are concerned: Romania has the vocation for Schengen accession, once all the conditions for its accession are met. And we support Romania in this endeavour. Secondly, we think that Romania has made considerable efforts in this respect, but, from a French, and European, vantage point, it hasn’t done everything it had to do, there’s still work to be done, to meet all the conditions we consider essential, and we will cooperate, at EU level, to ensure a fast progress,” Alain Juppé told the press, after his meeting with Teodor Baconschi, Mediafax reports.
The French minister refrained, however, from concrete statements as to what measures should be adopted. Thus, when asked to state, explicitly, what France was still awaiting from Romania, to consider it had met all the conditions for the Schengen accession, he replied it was not the most appropriate place to address these matters. “There are a number of criteria which need to be met, and I’ve welcomed all the efforts made, the measures taken in the justice system, in the customs sector. We think progress still has to be made and we will work towards it, on the one hand, by enhancing bilateral cooperation and, then, in a wider European context,” he argued. In his turn, Teodor Baconschi said that Bucharest would like to work together with French experts in order to keep them informed in real-time about the progress made in all areas linked to Schengen. He expressed his hope that the two countries can find realistic and mutually accommodating solutions in all dossiers.
Juppé and Baconschi insisted that there was more to Romanian-French ties than the Schengen topic, as the two countries are bound by economic, cultural and historical considerations.
“I had the chance to reiterate the importance we grant to Romania’s ties with France and the priority that the French Government gives to these ties. (…) There are historical, cultural and linguistic, as well as economic reasons for which France is very active, from an economic point of view, in Romania, whether we speak of investments or trade,” the French minister said. According to a Foreign Ministry release, minister Baconschi also addressed in the meeting with his French counterpart, the progress and the prospects of the Strategic Partnership between Romania and France, as well as topics such as: EU’s financial prospects after 2013, the Joint Agricultural Policy, the Eastern Partnership, trends in the Middle East and the situation in Libya.
Baconschi yesterday started a two-day state visit to Paris, and already met the French minister of European Affairs, Laurent Wauquiez. Today, the Romanian official will meet the French minister of the Interior, Claude Gueant, and Jean-Francois Cope, secretary general of the ruling party UMP.
The Paris visit comes against the background of divergences between Romania and France during the last year. Minister Baconschi’s visit had been scheduled for March 7-8, but it got postponed just two days before its due date, “because of agenda-related reasons,” as the Foreign Ministry (MAE) explained. In the context, it is worth recollecting that last December, the French and German ministers of Interior sent the European Commission a letter asking to delay the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen Zone. According to the document, the decision to admit the two states should be postponed until they prove they made irreversible progress in reform and in the fight against organised crime.
At that time, President Traian Basescu retorted that postponing the accession of Romania to Schengen is “discrimination against Romanians.” Later, Baconschi presented in a government meeting an overview of the efforts in view of the Schengen accession, showing that the letter of the two ministers includes political opinions which go beyond the technical nature of the process, and Romania must continue to fulfill its commitments.
Referring to speculations about Paris’ discontentment over missing an important contract in Romania – the sale of French technology for the construction of reactors 3 and 4 at the Cernavoda NPP – French Ambassador to Bucharest, Henri Paul recently said: “The position of France – and I am sure this is also the case with Germany – is determined neither by retort, nor by a bargain. The spirit of strategic partnership is to act in common, not to negotiate our support.”