The Senate plenum adopted on Monday, in a 108-1 vote, the bill on the procurement of the first Patriot surface-to-air missile battery, after the bill received the Senate Defence Committee’s endorsement also on Monday.
The bill will enter the Lower House on Tuesday, to be debated and voted under an urgent procedure.
Earlier on Monday, the Senate’s Defence Committee unanimously greenlighted the government’s Army endowment bill providing for the purchase of seven Patriot surface-to-air missile systems.
Defence Minister Mihai Fifor and Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu took part in the committee meeting. Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu met U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week, while the latter paid a quick visit to Romania after the issuance of an endorsement of the Patriot procurement bill was postponed.
The government’s bill on the Ground-based Air Defence Capability to be accomplished under the key endowment program “Long-range surface-to-air missile system” was registered at the Senate on November 9, with the request to be debated in a fast-track procedure. The bill provides for the purchase of seven Patriot surface-to-air missile systems plus the auxiliary equipment, for a total of about 4.62 billion US dollars, VAT included. Four systems will be assigned to the Air Force and three to the Land Force.
DefMin Fifor: Acquisition of Patriot system makes Romania part of select European and global defence club
Defence Minister Fifor stated on Monday, at the Senate Defence Committee debates on the bill concerning the procurement of Patriot missile batteries, that equipping the Romanian Armed Forces with this defence system makes Romania part of a select European and global defence club, adding that in the upcoming period the Government will come up with other bills on the procurement of other systems too.
“We received the U.S. Government’s letter of acceptance for the procurement of seven Pac-3+ batteries. Also included is related equipment, spare parts, maintenance equipment, training services, special communications equipment, as well as initial logistics support package. We are discussing this bill in the framework of the strategic partnership between Romania and the U.S.,” the Defence Minister told the committee members.
“It’s a collective effort that makes Romania part of a select European and global defence club through the procurement of the Patriot system,” he added.
Mihai Fifor also stated that for the Romanian armed forces this represent only the first step, only the first of seven batteries being procured this year.
“The system is set to be operational in 2020 and only serves to open the line of large procurement programmes for the Romanian armed forces. In the following period we will come up with other bills on the procurement of other equipment, approved within the CSAT [Supreme Defence Council] and, of course, with the prior agreement of the Romanian Parliament,” Fifor added.
Present at the debates, Chief of the General Staff Nicolae Ciuca said the Patriot surface-to-air missile system allows the tackling of air threats, in the framework of modern war, while they are still outside the country’s airspace.
“Likewise, it’s important to underscore that it allows the planning of the air defence strategy on the long term, thanks to the fact that the hardware and software side can be upgraded. Likewise, it allows an integrated operational planning in line with the needs of the air and land forces,” Ciuca added.
ForMin Melescanu: I told Tillerson that once in a while there are quorum issues in Parliament
Foreign Affairs Minister Teodor Melescanu says he has reassured United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the Senate’s Defence Committee will give the green light to the Government’s bill for the Army endowment, providing for the procurement of seven Patriot missiles, with the possibility for the Higher Chamber plenary to vote for the piece of legislation on the same day.
Asked whether during the 15 November meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson he also discussed about the Patriot missiles acquisition, Minister Melescanu stated on Monday: “No, but he asked me about the quorum [in the Defence Committee – ed.n.] last week and I told him there are quorum problems every once in a while. By no means does it refer to the issue at hand and the current governing coalition holds a comfortable majority in Parliament, as I told him, next week, that is today, we will have the Committee greenlights, and possibly its adoption in the Senate’s plenary.”
Minister Melescanu specified that blocking the acquisition was never a question.
According to the Foreign Affairs Minister, other topics were tackled during the discussions with Tillerson such as “bilateral relations, issues of interest in the relations between Romania and the US, related to political dialogue, the development of economic relations, our contribution to NATO’s security system.” “Also cooperation within international institutions, I even requested support for Romania’s accession to OCDE [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] during the current year. It was a relatively short talk occasioned by a technical stopover in Bucharest, but in my opinion it was a great sign. The atmosphere was very good and one of the first things I did was to invite Mr Tillerson to pay an official visit to Romania,” Melescanu added.
Last Wednesday, the US Embassy in Bucharest informed that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson halted in Bucharest on the way back from a trip to Asia. He was welcomed by Foreign Affairs Minister Teodor Melescanu.
The Social Democratic Party (PSD) Chairman Liviu Dragnea had stated last Thursday evening, in Baile Herculane, that the members of the Senate’s Defence Committee were “attending an event at the invitation of the head of an important institution” when the procurement of the first Patriot surface-to-air missile battery should have been discussed, but that there will be no problems with the adoption of the bill. After it was discussed within the Committee, the bill was set to be discussed by the Senate plenum on the same day, and to enter the Lower House on Tuesday. Asked whether an attempt is being made to block the bill, Dragnea said: “Let’s be serious!”
Defence Committee Deputy Chairman Ovidiu Raetchi (PNL) informed the Social Democratic members of the committee on Sunday, the day before the report on the procurement of the Patriot surface-to-air missile battery was to be discussed, that Liviu Dragnea’s personal interest cannot override national security and the country’s credibility at international level and that it is essential for the bill to be green-lighted on Monday regardless of any unofficial political directives.
Raetchi’s call came after PSD and ALDE Senators were skipped the committee meeting early last week.
“Esteemed colleagues, your absence as a group from Tuesday’s meeting that should have endorsed the Patriot bill has surprised and concerned the Romanian public opinion. No explanation proved credible and satisfactory, considering that this topic represents, via a national political accord, a security priority. The fact that your absence came only a few hours after the appearance of an extremely grave dossier on Liviu Dragnea’s name raised legitimate question marks, the media openly talking about blackmail. In this context, on the day before a new meeting that cannot register another fiasco, I wan to inform you, esteemed colleagues, that none of Mr Liviu Dragnea’s personal interests can stand above Romania’s national security and its credibility on the international plane. Any suggestion, no matter how discreet, regarding the blocking or delaying of the programme to modernise the Romanian Armed Forces must be firmly rejected and publicly denounced,” PNL’s Lower House member pointed out in his call.
He added that if the PSD President chooses to throw his party’s image into ridicule by issuing “conspiracy-fringe and isolationist messages” that is, after all, his right, but it is a grave problem if Dragnea “is playing personal games in connection with national interests.”
“This is why it is essential, esteemed colleagues, that tomorrow, regardless of any unofficial political directives, you should adopt one of the modernisation projects that will turn the Romanian Armed Forces into a credible and respected regional force, as well as a NATO partner that takes its commitments to completion,” Raetchi told the members of the Senate Defence Committee.
Deputy PM Ciolacu:Romania must honor its NATO commitments, Patriot missile system to strengthen country’s security
Romania must honor its commitments to NATO and its strategic partner – the US, Deputy PM Marcel Ciolacu said on Monday, adding that the planned purchase of the Patriot missile system will strengthen the country’s security.
“Romania must honor its commitments to NATO and its strategic partner, the US. The purchase of the Patriot missile system will strengthen the security of our country and of NATO’s south-eastern flank. It is important that the bill on the purchase of the Patriot missile system, which was adopted by the government on November 8, also clears Parliament this week, so that we are able to observe the calendar negotiated with our partners,” Ciolacu wrote on Facebook.