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December 9, 2022

George Cristian Maior, Romania’s Ambassador to the US: It is up to us to capitalise on Romania’s geographic and strategic potential

Romania is a cohesive state from an internal viewpoint, and with a clear foreign strategic line, and these things must be further used to achieve our diplomatic, political, economic and military interests, Romania’s Ambassador to the USA George Cristian Maior said in an interview granted to Agerpres. The Romanian diplomat underscored, on the same occasion, that Romania’s inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program is a priority objective of Romania in the relation with Washington and that there are a great number of US Congress members who are in favour of this matter. He appreciated that the partnership between Romania and the US functions extremely well to the benefit of both countries, on a political, economic and security level, and that, regardless of who will hold power in the US in the future – Republicans or Democrats – there are all premises for this partnership to function as well as so far and to respond to the challenges of the 21st century. George Cristian Maior also spoke of the anti-missile shield at Deveselu, as a very important strategic project for Romania, but also of the increase in US investments in Romania, in parallel with a very good dialogue on a political level between Bucharest and Washington.


– These days there have been several position assumptions both on a political and on a judicial level, after the release of the Constitutional Court motivation on the ruling concerning wiretappings. As former director of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), how do you comment on the fears according to which the decision has an impact on national security and the fact that there is the risk of affecting the undergoing cases at different stages in Justice?


– Thank you for the question. Now, in my capacity as Romania’s Ambassador in Washington, I would not want to comment upon this matter which I have commented upon in more detail at another time. What I can tell you is that, in the end, and this is from the perspective of the capacity I have mentioned before, cooperation in the strategic area of intelligence is also an extremely important element of the Strategic Partnership, which, ultimately, is aimed at protecting the national security of Romania and the US. It is exceptional, with all the intelligence institutions of Romania and, of course, the US institutions, and it brings a significant strategic added value to the quality of Romanian-US bilateral relations, and, as I have said, it serves the strategic interests of both states of protecting their citizens from the complex threats of today’s world.


The access for Romanian citizens to the Visa Waiver Program, a priority


– Romania wants to be included in the Visa Waiver Program, this being a major objective of our country in the bilateral relation with the US. US Ambassador in Bucharest Hans Klemm has recently stated he isn’t very optimistic regarding Romania’s chances of becoming a part of the Visa Waiver Program in 2016, taking into account that the Romanian participants in this programme have a higher refusal rate than the legal minimum percentage of 3 percent. What are the measures that the authorities in Bucharest should take in order to obtain in the future the access for Romanian citizens to the Visa Waiver Program?


– This is a priority objective of ours in the relation with the US, which I constantly set forth in the discussions I have within the Congress. I have seen very many Congress members and Senate members being in favour of this idea, although this is a more particular year in the US, too, because it is an election year, as you very well know, and generally speaking the migration issue is a sensitive matter on the public agenda here. From a technical point of view, this autumn we made all necessary demarches to complete the bilateral cooperation framework on this topic, the last necessary agreement in this respect has been signed with the US Attorney General, due to our demarches, and what I can tell you is that I shall continue to support this demarche in a very intensive manner in the months to come.


– What is the perception of Romania in Washington from the perspective of the political, economic and military cooperation relations between our country and the US and what is the outlook on the relation between Romania and the US in the future?


– It is a good question. There are over 6 months now since I am conducting this mission on behalf of the Romanian state. I have been received outstandingly well in the entire architecture ensemble of US institutions, I am referring to the State Department, the Pentagon, the Department of Commerce and the Congress. Our message is well understood here and appreciated, therefore I believe the partnership functions extremely well to the benefit of both states, on a security, political and economic level. We constantly have analysis exchanges on the situations that interest us, from the national interests viewpoint, I am referring to the eastern and southern neighbourhood, which you can see how many challenges pose to Romania’s strategic interests and our national security. On the other hand the communication level between the Romanian and US officials is very good. I would say that what we need to do next is to strengthen this partnership which has many components, economic, cultural, beyond the security ones, educational components, to manage to bring the two societies closer together in communication and relations, and thus have thorough linchpins for the future in an uncertain and extremely complex world in which we have to express ourselves as a state.


‘I am satisfied with the manner in which the dialogue with the US authorities is evolving’


– The development of the economic dimension of the Strategic Partnership is a priority to Romania. Do you believe it is possible to enhance or to expand the US investments in Romania in the period immediately ahead?


– Yes, definitely. I have mentioned before that there will be announcements on the extension of some investments or some new US investments in Romania in various sectors. You will see this thing in the months to come. There are very many companies that approach the Embassy about investment possibilities, they inquire about the legal framework, the fiscal facilities, the fiscal regime, which is very important, I may say that this is the area with the highest growth potential in the months and years to come. We have managed to set up a very good dialogue with the Department of Commerce so that we may also have the intergovernmental communication meant to stimulate the private area to dialogue and accessing investment opportunities. There were also several US economic missions conducted in Romania, which were successful both through the dialogue with the authorities and with the private area. Such actions will also be conducted here, in the US, therefore I am extremely confident that this dimension will attain a much more enhanced profile on the short and medium-term.


– The US has constantly pleaded for the energy independence and security of the Central and Eastern European countries and, implicitly, Romania. In the context in which a large number of analysts are drawing the attention on the consequences on a regional and European level of energy dependency on Russia, how do you see Romania’s situation in this respect?


– It is true, the energy matter has a strategic component, besides the traditional, economic one. In this respect, too, I am satisfied with the manner in which the dialogue with the US authorities is evolving. For instance, the Romanian-US working group on energy was created within the Strategic Partnership. There already was a consistent discussion in Bucharest at the end of February. We communicate on these matters on a permanent basis.

Indeed, energy security is linked with Romania’s national priority interest and this means, on the one hand, a national programme for ensuring energy independence, which is being shaped up and going well from the perspective of the domestic affairs. As you know, Romania is the third state in the EU which secures almost its entire energy from own sources. On the other hand, the diversification of the gas and oil transport corridors is important for Romania. In this respect, there have been significant progresses in achieving the interconnection from our area with Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, which in the future will generate a possibility to expand to the Black Sea complex area.

We also support, together with the US partners, the creation of the southern gas corridor, which will enhance this diversification dimension. We have clear positions in agreement with our interests towards this quite controversial project, North Stream 2, which raises certain question marks in respect to our interests and the interests of other states of Central Europe, but also to the interests of the US concerning the diversification of the transport routes. Last but not least, I am glad that Exxon is continuing its activities at the Black Sea, as strategic investor in Romania. Here we have a good potential in these reserves in the Black Sea and I hope that in the near future, on short-term, Exxon will begin the exploration activities. All these matters to which I would add our concern which is well understood by the Americans about achieving an enhanced connectivity with Moldova, all these matters I believe place us on an efficient strategic path in respect to our interests.


– US analyst Robert D. Kaplan in a recent interview granted to Agerpres was saying that Romania has a competitive advantage from the geographic location standpoint, through its access to the Black Sea, which represents a starting point for trade or for sending troops to the conflict areas in the Middles East. How do you see our country’s position in the current regional political and security context?


– It was a very interesting interview taken over by many foreign agencies, here, included. Robert Kaplan is an intellectual with a great reputation and credibility here, who wrote a book about Romania, which will be translated in Romanian too, with a very powerful message related to Romania’s strategic and political value in the region and in the ensemble of international relations, ultimately. Romania is a linchpin state, at the border of some worlds, on the good side of the border, a cohesive state, from an internal viewpoint, and with a clear foreign strategic line. These things must be further used to achieve our diplomatic, political, economic and military interests. Geography, this time in history is an advantage in my opinion, and I agree with Kaplan, after which, as you know very well, our history also marked moments when geography didn’t work in our favour. It is up to us, however, to the domestic evolution, to capitalise on this potential.


‘We must be strategically prepared to secure deterrence’


– President Barack Obama plans a substantial US military presence in the NATO member states of Central and Eastern Europe, and US Administration officials say that it is a measure meant to deter Russia from other possible aggressions in the region. The Pentagon budget devoted to the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) for the 2017 fiscal year is planned to be increased four times. What will be Romania’s benefits following the strengthening of the US capabilities in the Central and Eastern European area?


– If this budget is approved in Congress, and I believe it will be, as it results from the discussions I had with many Congress members, it will certainly mark the passage from a reassurance stage to an intelligent deterrence stage in relation with the developments in the eastern area. This entails the modernization of the strategic infrastructure related to the defence dimension, it entails a more pronounced operation of the forces that can secure this deterrence in Central and Eastern Europe. Therefore it is a matter of good planning in cooperation with the USA in using this money to strengthen the army capacity and the area in general to move on to this intelligent deterrence phase, as I call it.

– Moreover, the North-Atlantic Alliance decided a month ago to consolidate its presence on the eastern flank, and this measure is, as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, an attempt to discourage a possible aggression on Russia’ behalf. In the context in which, as analysts say, the relations between NATO and Moscow are at the lowest level after the Cold War, following Russia’s action in Ukraine (the support for the pro-Russian separatists of the east of the country, the annexation of the Crimean peninsula), how do you see Romania’s role and position on NATO’s eastern flank?


– These matters are consonant and complementary in the end with US’ strategic decisions. The important Summit of Warsaw is coming up, which will practically ratify these concepts through an evolution of the military centres of gravity, a strategic evolution to the Central European area in terms of command and control systems, in terms of the NATO presence in general in the Central and Eastern European area. The Secretary General uses the same deterrence concept, which I assent to, because there truly are high question marks about the actions of some forces in NATO’s eastern area in respect to the stability in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, the greater Black Sea area. And, naturally, we must be strategically prepared to secure deterrence, in the first place, and then, in our turn, to project stability in these regions.


– Presidential elections will take place in the US this year. How would you describe the cooperation and the relations between Romania and the US during the Administration run by President Barack Obama? And, at the same time, how do you see the further development of the Romanian-US bilateral relations after the elections of November, given that, at present, according to the polls, the favourite candidates are, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on the Democrats’ behalf, and billionaire Donald Trump, on the Republicans’ behalf?


– Referring to the first part of your question, I would say there has been and there is a very good strategic, political and economic relation with the Obama Administration. Significant things have been achieved on all levels. Let us remember this very important project to Romania from a strategic standpoint, the anti-missile shield at Deveselu, its putting into operation will be soon marked at the end of this spring through a ceremony with allied and US presence. The US investments in Romania have increased and the political dialogue has been very good.

Now, in perspective, I would like to underscore that I am positive that there will be a qualitative continuity in respect to the political, military and economic dimension of the partnership with the USA. I am also encouraged by the fact that last year we marked 135 years of diplomatic relations and the two Congress chambers adopted extremely appreciative resolutions in respect to this partnership, with the participation of Democrats and Republicans alike in the formulation of these resolutions, their draw up and their voting in the Congress. Therefore, all data show that, regardless of who will hold power in America in the future, Republicans or Democrats – it is premature to pronounce or say anything, of course, the campaign here is very dynamic – the partnership will function as well as so far in terms of quality and will improve in accordance with the evolutions of the 21st century.

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