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

European Institute of Romania
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: (last access: 20 January 2009).

[3] See: (last access: 18 January 2009).

[4] Social Democratic Party - Partidul Social Democrat (PSD).

[5] See: (last access: 18 January 2009).

[6] See: (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: (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: (last access: 16 January 2009).

[10] See for instance Traian Băsescu: press statement in Chişinău, 20 August 2008, available at: (last access: 16 January 2009).

[11] See: (last access: 16 January 2009).

[12] See: (last access: 16 January 2008).

[13] See: (last access: 16 January 2009).

[14] See: (last access: 18 January 2009).

[15] See Radu Tudor: La est de NATO (“East of NATO”), Jurnalul Naţional, 28 August 2008, available at: (last access: 16 January 2009).