POLITICS

Interview with Eduard Hellvig, director of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) (II): Romania cannot allow itself half-measures in applying the law and respecting democratic values

Eduard Hellvig, director of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), stated, in an interview granted to Agerpres, that in order to fulfill its purpose of protecting national security, the SRI must remain outside any political games.

“There were situations in the recent past in which it was attempted to draw the Service into political games and credit is due to the team of SRI professionals for maintaining the political neutrality of the institution. As such, we can notice that the professional reform conducted over the past years has proven its value. I believe that this reform must be deepened in the coming period, so that the political equidistance of the SRI cannot ever come under fire”, said the SRI head.

He also speaks in the interview of the risk of Romania being used as a transit territory for European citizen combatants to and from the Islamic State bases, but also of the crisis in Ukraine, which, in his opinion, does not represent, at this time, “a direct and imminent military threat for Romania, its impact being rather indirect, through the viewpoint of the risk of tensions upon our country’s borders”.

Furthermore, Eduard Hellvig shows that terrorism, that has now reached the dimensions of a global threat, can only be fought through a unitary reply, based on existing political and military alliances.

 

What are, in your opinion, the main challenges that the security environment brings this year from an internal perspective?

 

One of the fundamental priorities of the SRI is to counteract threats to national security that are associated with the phenomenon of corruption, given that, despite recorded progress, it is necessary to continue to consolidate the administrative capacity to stop cases of large-scale and minor-scale corruption. We will also have in view deficiencies in accessing European funds. The absorption capacity and administration of these resources continues to represent a sore spot on the public agenda.

Against this backdrop, I have participated, in the first weeks of activity, in the presentation of activity reports of some important institutions Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) and Ministry of Administration and Interior (MAI). I believe that these public discussions and the direct analyses done with institutional partners have configured the elements of a common action strategy for the strengthening of the rule of law. I believe Romania is in the phase of an unprecedented effort in the past 25 years, meant to ensure the supremacy of the law in a fully functional rule of law state. And the motives are simple. We, in our part of the world, have but two options: either we definitively anchor ourselves in the space of Western democratic values, or we fail as a state. Ukraine’s case must be, in my opinion, a permanent alarm signal that proves there is no middle ground. That is why Romania cannot allow itself half-measures in applying the law and respecting democratic values.

 

How do you deem the collaboration with the institutions in the judiciary, especially DIICOT and DNA ?

 

The SRI’s responsibility to combat criminal phenomena that gravely affect national security determines us to constantly act to ensure the consistency of the data put at the disposal of the law enforcement institutions. We grant, in this sense, particular attention to the promptness of transmitting them, to avoid dysfunctions in probes.

Cooperation is all the more necessary given that corruption crimes or those associated with them, tax evasion that generates major damages to the state budget and the constituting of crime rings raises, sometimes, problems in procedural law, especially given the context of a fluctuating legislation. And the success recorded in punishing serious crimes wouldn’t have been possible without a partnership consolidated in time, with efforts often coming within inter-institutional teams for the solving of cases relevant in the national security realm.

 

How do you evaluate the security situation in the context of the situation in the area – Ukraine and Russia? Does it involve internal risks?

 

The crisis in Ukraine does not represent, at this time, a direct and imminent military threat for Romania, its impact being rather indirect, through the viewpoint of the risk of tensions upon our country’s borders, following the increase in military capabilities and, implicitly, Russian pressure in the Black Sea area and the entire eastern flank of NATO. Though aggressive actions are less probably, in the form of a “hybrid war”, we do not exclude demonstrations of force and provocations on the part of Russia. For example, there is possibility of the national air space being violated or espionage being committed regarding Allied exercises in the Black Sea.

The current crisis in Ukraine affects the strategic interests of Romania in the region, in their entirety – and I am thinking of the matter of securing the EU and NATO borders, the Europeanization of the Republic of Moldova, the situation of Romanians in Ukraine, the democratization of the extended Black Sea region and ensuring energy security.

The direction taken by the Ukrainian crisis – “a new Transnistria on the Black Sea” – is a gloomy perspective we do not want. That is why we are concerned especially with the risk of plunging into a spiral of tension in the Black Sea area and the consequences for Romania of a possible return of Russia to the mouths of the Danube. On this background, I would like to emphasize that the strategic profile of Romania and its role in the security architecture are well defined, as an important member of some powerful political-economic and political military structures – the EU and NATO and as a strategic partner of the U.S., capable of ensuring national security in the current tense context.

 

Former SRI head George Maior declared that Russia is conducting “a neo-imperial type policy” that is slowly but surely pushing us towards a “new Cold War”? What is your opinion?

 

The Kremlin’s decision to arbitrarily and unilaterally retrace the borders of Europe through the annexation of Crimea, infringing thus the sovereignty of Ukraine, as well as all treaties assumed over time by the Russian side, has provoked the most serious security crisis in the Euro-Atlantic space since the end of the Cold War. Obviously, the actions of the Russian Federation are inducing a climate of instability and are pushing us back to the logic of international reports specific to the Cold War.

 

Is terrorism a threat to Romania?

 

Terrorism is, presently, the most concerning risk in the category of asymmetric risks to the security of the European space and, in general, to the entire international community. The growth of ethnic and confessional conflicts in the Middle East and the settling-in of chronic instability in northern Africa have favored, in the past years, the intensification of the activity of terrorist groups, especially those of Islamic fundamentalist nature.

The Islamic State Organization has rapidly become a pole of the jihadi movement, position from which it launches a dangerous defense of generalized violence, including appeals to attack Western countries, objectives and citizens. I believe terrorism, now reaching a global threat dimension, cannot be fought without a unitary reply, based on the existing political and military alliances, that should use all the discouragement mechanisms possible. In this context, I envisage an increase in the exchange of information and expertise with our partners, given that there is a risk for Romania to be used a transit territory by European citizen combatants to and from the bases of the Islamic State. Furthermore, Romania, as a border state of the EU, has an important role in stopping illegal migration from the Balkans, given the increase in the flow of refugees, especially from Syria.

 

The post of Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) director is vacant since before the presidential elections. Do you believe this service should also have a new head nominated soon?

 

I do not wish to comment upon the subject. The naming of intelligence service heads is part of the prerogatives of the President of Romania.

 

 

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