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OPINION Has Romania changed its foreign policy? Speeding up towards the Visegrad group

de Dan Tapalaga Vineri, 6 octombrie 2017, 10:47
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Information keeps coming that Romania is flirting with the Visegrad group (Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia- V4), seen in the EU as the club of problem countries, with serious sideslips from the rules of Brussels. In the last several days alone, the following pieces of news crowded up: Foreign Minister Theodor Melescanu said unequivocally at the Cluj meeting with his Hungarian counterpart, Peter Szijjarto, that Romania is interested in collaborating with the Visegrad group of countries; and Romania is said to be about to attend a meeting of the V4 countreis in Budapest next week.



We then have an explicit invitation from Hungarian PM  Viktor Orban to Romania to join the group. "We will let this door open," said the head of the Budapest government in an interview with the Hungarian language newspaper Bihari Naplo in Oradea, quoted by the Hungarian news agency on Wednesday.

Finally, another relevant information completes  the above table. The Polish daily Rzeczpospolita writes in the October 3 edition that Pawel Borys, president of the Polish Development Fund, last week joined the special economic policy counseling group next to the Romanian government. "The Romanians consulted with the Polish bank president on the Polish experience in building a strong banking sector," said Borys, quoted by Rzeczpospolita.

Add to the information that came up in the last few days the incentive adressed  by the Senate President Calin Popescu Tariceanu to Romanian diplomats in late August, that "the simple condition of loyal, disciplined and tacit allies will not bring us recognition." Also at that time, Tariceanu said that Romania should have "political consultations with the Visegrád Group by participating in the V4 + format."

The Visegrad Group consists of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but is increasingly confronted by devergences on European-related issues, between the hardline positions of Hungary and Poland and the more moderate positions of Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The Visegrad Group has become synonymous in Europe with explicit anti-European positions.

If we take into account the political discourse of Liviu Dragnea, the leader of Romania's governing Social Democrats (PSD), with attacks against foreigners, banks, multinationals, against Soros, we find that we are facing a rhetoric almost identical to that of Orban. Perhaps not at all random, Orban says today that he has developed a "promising relationship with Liviu Dragnea" and wants to form such relationships between our ruling parties, regardless of ideological differences." (FIDESZ is a conservative, right-wing party, EPP affiliate, while PSD is allegedly left leaning and affiliated to the European socialists).

With this information on the table, Romania can no longer hide a truth: the new leaders in Bucharest are increasingly interested in the group of countries coming out of the line, defying Brussels and violating European core values (rule of law, freedom expression, independence of justice). Orban's desire to pull Romania into the EU's plague club is so great that he offered to help us in case we want to secure the eastern border in front of migrants, possibly with some fences.

Unclear at this moment who wants Romania more intensely in the Visegrad group: Victor Orban, who for a few days now has been only milk and honey, or Liviu Dragnea, getting darker in his eyes. Orban's interest is to export his illiberal model, which explicitly denies the values that the EU has built. The Hungarian PM obviously wants to appear as the creator of an attractive government style for other countries as well.

In addition, once Romania is brought to the club, Orban could negotiate more easily with the problems faced by the Hungarian minority in Transylvania. For FIDESZ leader, it has become an important electoral pool because many already have dual citizenship and can vote in next year's general elections in Hungary.

On the other hand, Dragnea and Tariceanu are increasingly tempted to go on the Visegrad road because that means freeing themselves from European constraints. Poland is shattering justice and the EU has nothing to do to them. Hungary spends discretionary European funds under the helpless eyes of Brussels. In both countries, we are dealing with autocratic models and limitations of fundamental rights. Why wouldnt  the PSD and ALDE leaders want to follow Orban and Kaczynski?Here, in the rebellious club, their chances of escaping justice and becoming the absolute masters of Romania are almost guaranteed.

The problem is that Romania has already affirmed its option, through the voice of President Klaus Iohannis, for the hard core (France ,Germany), for more integration and against a two-speed EU, for a fast Schengen and Euro zone  adherence (and here he had some differences of opinion with Dragnea). What does President Iohannis have to say in front of the wave of official actions and statements that bring Romania closer to the Visegrad group? Has Romania changed its foreign policy?

Relevant is a newspaper article published by Romanian newspaper Evenimentul Zilei on Wednesday, headlined "The Storm of Melescanu. The Visegrad Group brings tensions between the ALDE, the Government and Cotroceni”.   According to sources quoted by EVZ, "ALDE Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu signals about Romania's collaboration with the Visegrad group, hostile to Brussels," does not represent the official position of the Romanian Government "

Finally, the reorientation of Romania has already been seen in the Western press. In an article published on September 19, the Financial Times warned Romania that it should avoid association with Europe's "bad guys". At the end of August, Die Presse compared Romania with the iliberal government in Poland and a Hungarian daily newspaper wrote that Tudose copied Orban.
Formal clarifications on this crucial issue of foreign policy would be urgently needed. Things went too far. Step by step.
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