Coping with security threats: a challenge for the European Neighbourhood Policy

The con­flict in Geor­gia shift­ed back atten­tion from the sub­tleties of the Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy (ENP) – instru­ment diver­si­fi­ca­tion, lib­er­al prin­ci­ples of open­ness and trust build­ing – to one of its fun­da­men­tal, hard pow­er relat­ed prin­ci­ples: security.

Inso­far as secu­ri­ty is one of the key dimen­sions of the ENP, as under­lined by the for­mer Roman­ian Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs, Lazăr Comă­nes­cu, the ENP action plans are seen as “instru­ments that we have at our dis­pos­al for pur­su­ing our secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy in the neighbourhood”[1]. From this per­spec­tive, the con­flict in Geor­gia rais­es a threat to the secu­ri­ty of the East­ern neigh­bour­hood of the EU and thus to the EU itself. The Roman­ian Pres­i­dent, Tra­ian Băs­es­cu, trans­lat­ed this Euro­pean secu­ri­ty threat in terms of nation­al inter­est: “Roma­nia is extreme­ly inter­est­ed in its own secu­ri­ty and the events that take place in the Black Sea area, occur­rences or devel­op­ments that might direct­ly affect both the state of Romania’s secu­ri­ty and the eco­nom­ic devel­op­ments, espe­cial­ly the ener­gy relat­ed ones”[2].

The loom­ing threat in terms of secu­ri­ty is basi­cal­ly the issue of frozen con­flicts, iden­ti­fied as such by mem­bers of var­i­ous polit­i­cal par­ties and dif­fer­ent ana­lysts, and it is this issue that needs to be addressed when con­sid­er­ing future guide­lines for the ENP. Iulian Chi­fu, direc­tor of the “Cen­tre for Con­flict Pre­ven­tion and Ear­ly Warn­ing”, believes in the need for a deep­er EU com­mit­ment in the enlarged Black Sea area as well as in the need for a broad­er EU approach as far as the frozen con­flicts in the area are con­cerned, as opposed to one cen­tred on Geor­gia alone.[3] Titus Cor­lăţean, MEP for the PSD,[4] touched on the same need for a more vis­i­ble EU in the region, in the con­text of an “ENP recon­fig­u­ra­tion” from a polit­i­cal, eco­nom­ic but also a secu­ri­ty point of view.[5] A press release of the “Nation­al Supreme Defence Coun­cil” meet­ing from 9 August 2008 under­lines how “Roma­nia has repeat­ed­ly warned about the risk posed by these con­flicts in terms of region­al security”[6].

In a clas­si­cal inter­pre­ta­tion of secu­ri­ty in terms of prox­im­i­ty, frozen con­flicts in the East­ern neigh­bour­hood of the EU are a source of inse­cu­ri­ty for Roma­nia because Roma­nia is bor­dered to the East by the Repub­lic of Moldo­va, a coun­try trou­bled by its frozen con­flict in Trans-Dni­ester. This per­spec­tive was embraced by the Roman­ian Pres­i­dent at the end of his two-day diplo­mat­ic ‘tour de force’ (between 20 and 22 August 2008) in the Ukraine, the Repub­lic of Moldo­va, Azer­bai­jan, Geor­gia and Turkey; a vis­it aimed at estab­lish­ing the impact of the con­flict in Geor­gia on the region and implic­it­ly its pos­si­ble con­se­quences as regards Roma­nia. Notably, three of the vis­it­ed coun­tries, all includ­ed in the ENP, strug­gle to cope with frozen conflicts.

Inci­den­tal­ly, it seems that the recipe used in solv­ing these con­flicts needs to abide by the prin­ci­ple of respect for the sov­er­eign­ty and ter­ri­to­r­i­al integri­ty of states. This can be safe­ly assumed since these rules of inter­na­tion­al law appear in the Roman­ian posi­tion (as expressed by the “Nation­al Supreme Defence Coun­cil”) regard­ing a solu­tion for the con­flict in Geor­gia and are con­sis­tent with the pre­vi­ous stance on the issue of Kosovo.

More­over, as Luca Nicules­cu, jour­nal­ist and host of the “Europe Watch­es Us” TV show notices, the Roman­ian author­i­ties have proved ‘cau­tious’ when talk­ing about the Geor­gian cri­sis and its impli­ca­tions, and have cer­tain­ly tried to avoid being con­tentious towards Moscow: “Bucharest has not con­demned Moscow in harsh terms, it did not join the Baltic-Pol­ish axis (which includes Kiev), but mere­ly called for the need to respect Georgia’s ter­ri­to­r­i­al integri­ty and put an end to violence”[7]. The key to the Roman­ian mes­sage lies in the con­nec­tion between the nature of the con­flict in Geor­gia and that of the con­flict in Trans-Dni­ester on the one hand, and that of the very sen­si­tive rela­tion between Moldo­va and Roma­nia on the oth­er, in which case “a state­ment for­mu­lat­ed in rad­i­cal terms would have shift­ed the del­i­cate bal­ance of the in the rela­tion­ship between Bucharest and Chişinău”[8].

The main point of ref­er­ence for Roma­nia in the dis­cus­sion about the ENP is the Repub­lic of Moldo­va, which sought tighter rela­tions with Roma­nia in the sec­ond half of 2008, amid the tra­di­tion­al peri­od­ic ups and downs of the Roman­ian-Moldovan rela­tion­ship. The vis­it of the for­mer Roman­ian For­eign Affairs min­is­ter Lazăr Comă­nes­cu in Moldo­va in July – the first of such a high-rank­ing Roman­ian offi­cial in Chişinău in well over two years – is a sig­nal that Moldo­va seeks a rap­proche­ment. A sig­nal which has been nev­er­the­less inter­pret­ed in prag­mat­ic terms in the Roman­ian media: “Roma­nia becomes inter­est­ing for the Repub­lic of Moldo­va only when it can act as a pro­mot­er for var­i­ous West­ern inter­ests that Chişinău might have.”[9]

Fol­low­ing the con­flict in Geor­gia and the sim­i­lar­i­ties empha­sized between the sit­u­a­tion in South Osse­tia and the one in Trans-Dniester,[10] the then Prime Min­is­ter Călin Popes­cu-Tăriceanu, voiced the need for a “com­mon posi­tion of the Euro­pean states on the issue of frozen con­flicts in the region”[11]. In this con­text, the Roman­ian per­spec­tive regard­ing a pos­si­ble res­o­lu­tion of the con­flict in Trans-Dni­ester has been in line with the Euro­pean view sup­port­ing the ‘5+2’negotiation frame­work. This sup­port how­ev­er, may at one point reveal a glitch to the extent that the new For­eign Affairs Min­is­ter Cris­t­ian Dia­cones­cu hint­ed at the need for a direct Roman­ian impli­ca­tion in the solv­ing of the Trans-Dni­ester quag­mire, refer­ring to the lack of results of the above men­tioned nego­ti­a­tion format;[12] the posi­tion was lat­er rec­ti­fied and the course of events is yet to be followed.

EU and NATO enlargement: keep the promises but mind Russia

The events in Geor­gia did not trig­ger any revi­sion of the Roman­ian stance regard­ing EU enlarge­ment, or the one on NATO expan­sion. The only new dimen­sion empha­sized in both process­es by Roman­ian offi­cials and ana­lysts alike is the need to address the issue of frozen con­flicts, which must be under­stood as a pre-con­di­tion of strength­en­ing the Union’s secu­ri­ty and indeed Roman­ian nation­al secu­ri­ty. In addi­tion to that, what hap­pened in Geor­gia was inter­pret­ed in Bucharest as a sig­nal that the Repub­lic of Moldo­va and the Ukraine have to be drawn clos­er to the Union soon­er than envis­aged, togeth­er with the coun­tries in the West­ern Balka­ns, where­as Geor­gia and Ukraine ought to be offered col­lec­tive secu­ri­ty guar­an­tees by means of a NATO Mem­ber­ship Action Plan.

The Roman­ian posi­tion on the issue of EU enlarge­ment after the events in the South Cau­ca­sus was first stat­ed by Pres­i­dent Băs­es­cu, whose per­spec­tive involves a ‘pack­age’ enlarge­ment with the coun­tries of the West­ern Balka­ns, the Repub­lic of Moldo­va and Ukraine. In a dis­play of ami­ty fre­quent­ly encoun­tered in the rela­tion between the Pres­i­dent and the for­mer Prime Min­is­ter on issues of for­eign pol­i­cy, ex-Prime Min­is­ter, Călin Popes­cu-Tăriceanu, also stat­ed that “We wish to focus more EU atten­tion not only on the region of the West­ern Balka­ns, but also on Moldo­va, and we wish for Moldo­va to be the object of just as much inter­est as the region of the West­ern Balkans”[13]. The sup­port voiced for Moldova’s Euro­pean aspi­ra­tions comes as a result of the con­clu­sions adopt­ed in the Gen­er­al Affairs and Exter­nal Rela­tions Coun­cil reunion in the mid­dle of Octo­ber, which the for­mer Roman­ian For­eign Affairs Min­is­ter, Lazăr Comă­nes­cu, inter­pret­ed as “the sig­nal that the EU is ready to push for­ward with a new and ambi­tious agree­ment, meant to bring Moldo­va clos­er to the EU, and also that the EU is ready for a deep­er com­mit­ment in the res­o­lu­tion of the con­flict in Trans-Dniester”[14].

As regards to NATO expan­sion, Roma­nia sup­port­ed Geor­gia and Ukraine’s bid for obtain­ing a Mem­ber­ship Action Plan dur­ing the NATO reunion in Brus­sels in Decem­ber, in line with the con­clu­sions of the NATO sum­mit in Bucharest and Pres­i­dent Băsescu’s state­ment of sup­port for Tbil­isi after the events in August. Empha­sis is added though when speak­ing about the issue of frozen con­flicts and implic­it­ly the pol­i­cy towards Moscow, because these issues need to be high on the NATO agen­da. Again, ref­er­ence is made in the media to Trans-Dni­ester (in an inter­pre­ta­tion which qual­i­fies the Russ­ian inter­ven­tion more like an aggres­sion than a ‘dis­pro­por­tion­ate response’ – the NATO qual­i­fi­ca­tion to which the Roman­ian offi­cials sub­scribed): “Roma­nia, as a NATO mem­ber state and hold­ing a direct inter­est in Moldova’s ter­ri­to­r­i­al integri­ty, in meet­ing Moldo­va in a com­mon Euro-Atlantic space, has the duty of hon­our and even the oblig­a­tion to put forth the issue of Trans-Dni­ester on the NATO table. […] The issue of Geor­gia and Ukraine’s NATO mem­ber­ship in the years to come also implies a solu­tion for Abk­hazia and South Osse­tia. […] What will the Alliance do face to face with this dilem­ma in which the main prob­lem are the Russ­ian tanks, always ready to wreak hav­oc on the ter­ri­to­ry of an allied state?”[15].

 

 

 

[1] Lazăr Comă­nes­cu: Keynote address on the occa­sion of the Inter­na­tion­al Con­fer­ence on Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy “A Com­mon Approach to the Neigh­bour­hood”, 28 June 2008, Warsaw.
[2] See: http://www.presidency.ro/?_RID=det&tb=date&id=10151&_PRID=ag (last access: 20 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[3] See: http://www.pndro.ro/stiriext.php?id=5925 (last access: 18 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[4] Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty — Par­tidul Social Demo­c­rat (PSD).
[5] See: http://www.pndro.ro/stiriext.php?id=5925 (last access: 18 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[6] See: http://csat.presidency.ro/index.php?page=cp&cp=37 (last access: 18 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[7] See Luca Nicules­cu: De ce ne intere­sează Geor­gia (“Why are we inter­est­ed in Geor­gia”), Dile­ma Veche, 14–20 August 2008, avail­able at: http://www.dilemaveche.ro/index.php?nr=235&cmd=articol&id=8865 (last access: 18 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[8] Ibid.
[9] See Vlad Lupan: Moldo­va – balet intre Rusia si Roma­nia (“Moldo­va – bal­let between Rus­sia and Roma­nia”), Revista 22, 17 July 2008, avail­able at: http://www.revista22.ro/moldova-balet-intre-rusia-si-romania-4693.html (last access: 16 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[10] See for instance Tra­ian Băs­es­cu: press state­ment in Chişinău, 20 August 2008, avail­able at: http://www.presidency.ro/?_RID=det&tb=date&id=10138&_PRID=ag (last access: 16 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[11] See: http://www.realitatea.net/tariceanu–integritatea-teritoriala-a-georgiei-este-un-punct-esential-pentru-romania_338942.html (last access: 16 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[12] See: http://www.ziare.com/Diaconescu__Romania_ar_trebui_implicata_direct_in_negocierile_pentru_Transnistri-618817.html (last access: 16 Jan­u­ary 2008).
[13] See: http://www.euractiv.ro/uniunea-europeana/articles%7CdisplayArticle/articleID_15270/Romania-sustine-perspectiva-europeana-a-Republicii-Moldova.html (last access: 16 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[14] See: http://www.mae.ro/index.php?unde=doc&id=37201&idlnk=2&cat=4 (last access: 18 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[15] See Radu Tudor: La est de NATO (“East of NATO”), Jur­nalul Naţion­al, 28 August 2008, avail­able at: http://www.jurnalul.ro/articole/132394/la-est-de-nato (last access: 16 Jan­u­ary 2009).