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February 25, 2021

A great man and a great diplomat

The first visit I made in 1990 was in Rome. It was natural, with me being, as the first head of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) was about to say later, “the Italians’ man”… Joking aside, I cannot but remember the private meeting I had with the Italian Prime Minister back then, the great politician Giulio Andreotti.
Apart from the situation in the country, questions related to Stefan Andrei were among the first he asked. “When we used to meet abroad – he told me – we were talking like we are talking now. Openly and without any kind of diplomacy. It was a real pleasure to talk with him. It was more of a talk between friends than one between diplomats.”
I became close to Stefan Andrei ever since he started working at the foreign affairs section of the Romanian Communist Party’s (PCR) Central Committee as first deputy. Being a foreign affairs commentator, I had an open dialogue with his collaborators, headed by Mircea Anghelescu, who were dealing with the Foreign Affairs Ministry. I remember even now what he told me when I was sent to an international summit in Moscow, as representative of the peace movement from Romania, along with academy member Dumitru Dumitrescu. “Mind you, I cannot reproach him with anything because he was my professor in faculty. So you are responsible for everything you will do there.”
I met him several times in Italy when I was the Rome correspondent of “Agerpres,” the Romanian press agency. Once I accompanied him to Milan and Turin, where he had meetings with important leaders of the Italian communists, on which occasion we saw an exciting football game in Milan. And on holiday, every time I went, I did not forget to bring to him as many books on Italian political life as possible, a subject he was extremely passionate about. When the network of foreign correspondents was canceled in 1977, Stefan Andrei had become Foreign Affairs Minister. In what concerns me, I returned to an old passion, that concerning security and cooperation in Europe, an issue I had handled until the autumn of 1972, when I started to get ready for my departure for Rome. The head of the department was Ambassador Valentin Lipatti. He was already getting ready for the European Security and Cooperation Summit in Madrid, which was due to start in September 1980, the longest post-war diplomatic marathon.
I remember even now the dialogue I had in Stefan Andrei’s office. It was evening and the usual chat was ongoing for well over half an hour. At one point, Stefan Andrei asks Mircea Anghelescu, more or less seriously: “Mircea, what do you think, is Radu a good chap?”, “Yes, of course,” Mircea Anghelescu answered. “Then let’s send him in delegation at the summit in Madrid.” After several weeks I was appointed member of the Romanian delegation, whose head was ambassador Ion Datcu. My experience as a “diplomat” in Madrid, the lessons received from illustrious diplomats like Ion Datcu, Constantin Ene, Nicolae Iordache, Ion Diaconu, Constantin Nita, marked me both professionally and on a personal level. In parallel, of course, I worked as a journalist. “Romania and the problems of European security” and “Spanish diary” were two books consecrated to these years spent in Madrid.
In the last year of the conference, 1983, I was no longer able to leave for Madrid because I no longer received the visa allowing me to leave the country. Dissatisfied by my refusal to offer information to Postelnicu (former head of the Securitate) when I was sent to Madrid by Stefan Andrei, one of the members of the delegation who had been detached from Geneva blacklisted me, and so I no longer received the visa. In the open style characterizing him, Stefan Andrei told me that there was nothing he could do. In fact, it was well known that nobody wanted to create problems with “Mrs. Leana” (Elena Ceausescu), who was practically in control of Ceausescu himself, not just of the Interior Ministry.
“Inspiration” led me on the right track once again. I turned to Gogu Manea, who had worked in Rome and who, after Pacepa’s defection, had been appointed head of the passport service. He explained to me in detail what the “accusations” were and asked me which of the three heads of the Interior Ministry I knew – Plesita, Postelnicu or Homostean. I remembered that in 1978 I had accompanied, at the Italian Socialist Party Congress, Dumitru Popescu and Gheorghe Homostea, the latter having been at the time First Secretary in Alba Iulia and in the meantime having become Interior Minister. I sent a letter to the latter, dismissing all the accusations brought against me. Meanwhile, Gogu Manea had informed me that my phone had been put under surveillance. Don’t forget, this was happening in 1983.
I remember even now how, exactly a month afterwards, I was called at the Interior Ministry’s Information Bureau. The two colonels who met me asked me to be careful and to avoid situations of this kind.
I still remember that from there, from the banks of the Dambovita, I walked all the way to the Foreign Ministry, which was back then located in Victoriei Square. When he found out, Stefan Andrei informed Constantin Flitan, the general director of the Directorate for International Organizations and my former professor at the Law Faculty: “Radu Bogdan will leave tomorrow for Stockholm at the conference on disarmament in Europe.”
I wanted to illustrate with my personal example the great humanity of the great diplomat Stefan Andrei, a person I have remained permanently connected to spiritually and to whom I convey, on this occasion, my best wishes and the traditional “Happy Birthday!”. (This article was published at the end of March this year in the ‘Flacara lui Adrian Paunescu’ weekly)

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