President Klaus Iohannis, attending on Saturday as a guest of honor the 55th Munich Security Conference, opened the debates in his capacity as high representative of the state that holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU, alongside Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and President of the Arab Republic of Egypt Abdel Fattah El-Sisi – as High Representative of the State currently holding the Presidency of the African Union.
Addressing the Conference, Romania’s Head of state Said that the multilateral international system is under increasing pressure, pointing out that cohesion is the response to this situation, and the major goal should be an Enhanced European Engagement.
“We are facing concurrent classical and asymmetric threats from various strategic directions, and these are not just the concerns of politicians, the military and strategists. Today, security concerns are the prevalent issue on our European citizens’ minds. At the same time, the multilateral international system is under increasing pressure, and adjusting it to the new realities is probably our greatest challenge. What should our European answer to these challenges be? My answer is ‘cohesion’, in its broadest sense. As debates on the future of Europe are at the forefront of the European agenda of the current Presidency of the Council of the European Union held by Romania, we need a cohesive and inclusive approach by the member states and by the European institutions. Therefore, this message of unity and cohesion fundamentally defines the priorities of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Our approach focuses on facilitating consensus, overcoming divisions and finding common ground on the inclusive ways to consolidate the Union. Security and defense are no exception. On the contrary, they are core components of the future of the Union – they make our external action credible and are a guarantee that we maintain and develop our vocation for multilateralism,” Iohannis said at the 55th Munich Security Conference.
The President of Romania emphasized that in the last two or three years, significant results have been achieved in all areas – defense capabilities, industrial defense cooperation, operational commitments.
“We have also made significant progress in creating the conditions for the European Union to have a more ambitious role in the management of civilian crises. This is just the beginning, but it is a promising one, providing a solid basis for our future work,” Klaus Iohannis pointed out.
In this context, he emphasized that the major goal should be an Enhanced European Engagement.
“The Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, is one of the answers to the false dilemma between efficiency and inclusion and has the potential to generate significant evolution, if we ensure that cooperative projects will help identify solutions to existing capability gaps at European level. Now the focus should be on implementation. We need to maintain the momentum and stimulate further progress. We need to build bridges between various initiatives, making sure that they are coordinated and reinforce each other. We also need to invest more in our internal cohesion, which in this case translates into strategic convergence. The overarching goal, in my view, should be an enhanced European engagement. Enhanced – because we clearly need to do more. European – because such new efforts will be done through the European Union, without excluding other frameworks. Engagement – because our efforts should also result in a renewed commitment to NATO and the United Nations. Along these lines of action, a consolidated input from the European Union for international security will reassure our strategic partners, those partners we need to be efficient and credible. And this leads to the question – is this the right time to be more ambitious?” the Romanian President said.
Klaus Iohannis pointed out that efforts should focus on developing a harmonized approach between NATO and the EU.
“We should achieve this by blending the unique, evolving and comprehensive role played by NATO in our collective defense with the European Union’s integrated approach to crisis management and its unique ability of pulling together a wide range of instruments and resources. In this context, security and defense should be a catalyst for mitigating temporary disagreements across the Atlantic. We cannot afford any misunderstandings on topics of such strategic implications. We have to avoid initiatives that suggest transatlantic competition, and focus on building stronger consensus on the issues that we need to solve together. Complementarity and avoiding duplications between European Union and NATO are the key words in this endeavour,” the President went on to say.
The head of state said the challenges on the Eastern Flank cannot be ignored, showing that NATO needs to further strengthen its deterrence and defensive posture on this flank.
“Romania firmly supports an improved cohesion of the Eastern Flank, between its Northern and Southern parts. Indeed, the Black Sea region, where the security environment is increasingly challenged, as we have seen recently, needs more NATO presence,” Iohannis said.
He also mentioned that a landmark of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union will be the informal Sibiu Summit due on May 9. “We believe that it will be a good opportunity to send a message of unity, pro-European commitment and to project a positive perspective for the future of the European Union,” President Iohannis concluded.
The agenda of the Munich conference includes topical subjects regarding the management of security challenges, the transatlantic relationship included, NATO’s priorities, the future of the European project, and cooperation between the European Union and NATO.
The Munich Security Conference is one of the most prestigious security forums, that has been bringing together since 1963 leaders and high-level decision-makers in security and defense. The conference is an essential milestone in European and Euro-Atlantic security debates, and allows for debates and informal exchanges of ideas on topical and perspective themes.
Call for unitary approach to NATO’s eastern flank
Romania’s President used his participation at the Munch Conference to emphasize that the situation in the Black Sea region is complicated, emphasizing in this context that NATO’s eastern flank should be treated in a serious and unitary manner.
“Dear friends, dear allies, let’s take care of the eastern flank! This does not mean neglecting the southern flank or other regions where NATO must be present, but the eastern flank is a special situation and I think that if we want to do something in the right direction, we must be careful to handle the Eastern Flank in a serious and unitary manner, we shouldn’t believe that dividing the flank into the northern and southern part brings us any benefit. There is just one eastern flank, that has its specific issues and Romania is located thereon, therefore we are interested in all the relevant projects and developments. If there is talk inside NATO about deterrence, this is something we obviously need on the eastern flank”, the Romanian head of state said at the Q&A session at the Munich Security Conference.
He also made a presentation of the situation in the region.
Many of our friends and allies were not very aware of the importance of the Black Sea region, and I am not referring just to the Black Sea itself, but to the entire geographic region. Unfortunately, recent events have proven that the region is complicated from the security and the economic point of view, and I’d say much of the tension is rooted in historical developments, but unfortunately there are tensions there that stem from the near past. We have to face them, because they evolve, this isn’t something very clear and we cannot draw a line and say ‘this is one part, this is another’, there are fluctuations from the strategic and security point of view, the region is complicated and complex and is not something we could call a stable and secure environment, it’s a changing environment. That is why Romania has sought and succeeded in making allies aware of this situation. (…) NATO has a strategy for the Black Sea, it has a good presence in the region, we have many initiatives, Klaus Iohannis emphasized.