Romania to Chirac: Quit Lecturing Us
I applaud the Romanian leadership for defending its Atlanticist, free-trade, and free-market positions against French criticism:
Romania’s president has warned France to stop lecturing his country over its close links with London and Washington as he prepares to sign the treaty to join the European Union.
Traian Basescu says he wants to form a Ã¢€œspecial relationshipÃ¢€ with the US and Britain to improve security in the Black Sea region, and he also aligns himself with London’s liberal economic policies.
Mr Basescu’s stance has infuriated France, Romania’s biggest supporter in the EU, and could exacerbate fears in France that it is losing its grip on an expanding EU.
Next Monday Romania and Bulgaria will sign the accession treaty paving the way for them to join the EU on January 1 2007, bringing the union’s membership to 27.
Members of Romania’s centre-right government, in a series of interviews with Brussels-based journalists, made it clear they saw themselves in the Atlanticist, free-trade bloc which Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, called New Europe.
Ã¢€œTraditionally we have worked together with London and Washington,Ã¢€ Mr Basescu said, most recently by sending troops to Iraq, and he resented French criticisms of that policy.
He said Jacques Chirac, French president, caused offence in 2003 when he told EU candidate countries to Ã¢€œshut upÃ¢€ over Iraq, and that Michel Barnier, French foreign minister, recently compounded the insult when he said Mr Basescu did not have Ã¢€œa European reflexÃ¢€.
Ã¢€œRomania is a country which has respect for itself,Ã¢€ he said. Ã¢€œFrance is one our main supporters, but at the same time we do not like these kind of declarations.Ã¢€
Asked which economic model he would pursue, he said it would be a Ã¢€œmore liberalisedÃ¢€ system. Ã¢€œWe want to have a state with minimal involvement in the economy,Ã¢€ he said.
Mr Basescu’s pro-Washington approach has disconcerted Paris, which has deep historic links with Romania, notably its francophone tradition and a capital modelled on Paris.
At the same time, I think that Basescu needs to push strongly for anti-corruption measures. To be sure, he’s promised to “meet our commitments,” and Transparency International has welcomed his stances, but he must find success in order to assume a stronger position vis-Ãƒ -vis its European neighbors.