On June 23, the Institute of World Policy presented a discussion paper “Foreign Policy Audit: Ukraine-Romania”.The research was prepared by Sergiy Solodkyy, First Deputy Director at the Institute of World Policy, and Ileana Racheru, expert of the Romanian Diplomatic Institute.
Ukrainian and Romanian diplomats, politicians, experts and journalists are invited to take part in the discussion, in particular Cornel Ionescu, Ambassador of Romania to Ukraine, Hennadii Altukhov, Deputy Director, Second European Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Stanislav Secrieru, Research fellow at the Polish Institute of International Affairs.
The full report is available here.
His Excellency Ambassador Cornel Ionescu
Today, for me it is a very important moment, because I will finish my mission here in Ukraine after five years. And it’s very important, just for me, because I am going home, and I have to know where we are now and what we have to do in the near future.
So, allow me please to begin by commending the excellent initiative of the Institute of World Policy for regularly having such topical and interesting public discussions on the bilateral relations of Ukraine with various countries. They’re an excellent opportunity for openly approaching topics of interest for both the host nation and other partner countries. And there are great moments for seeing how far we’ve gone together, where we stand, and what the way forward will be in the future.
I will not get into too deep details as far as Romanian and Ukrainian relations are concerned. The discussion paper does it, and does it well and comprehensively. But, I will tell you this: through hard work, vision, and political maturity, the Ukrainian and Romanian bilateral are now strong enough to lay a solid foundation for future development at a steadfast pace. Our presidents met, and so did our Prime Ministers and members of the parliament. We are in the process of launching various joint commissions- presidential, minorities, and economic.
We have excellent working relations with our Ukrainian colleagues in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other ministries. We’re building stronger and deeper relations in the regions. The Romanian and Ukrainian communities in the two countries are reliable bridges between the two nations. And here I can only grade the bilateral agreement on the small border traffic, that is extremely useful for two million Ukrainians and Romanians on both sides of the border, as well as the recent opening of the new Romanian consulate in Solotvyno on May 6th of this year.
But of course, concrete results that people can feel are the most important. And here I must mention Romania’s constant and unequivocal support for Ukraine’s European endeavor. This is why we support the full implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and the visa liberalization process for Ukrainian citizens. We support the Ukrainian reforms by financing projects related to electoral reform, the national guard, and the fight against corruption.
We are also trying to contribute to Ukraine’s security by advocating the extension of the sanctions imposed on Russia after the illegal annexation of Crimea and the conflict in the Donbass. We also play a prominent role in NATO’s cyber defense projects for Ukraine. And there could be many other things to add here. What is the immediate way forward? The simple answer is that it’s more cross-border cooperation for better infrastructure in order to foster development of mobility, more education for later projects, better economic cooperation, modern border crossing points by utilizing the funds of joint operational programs, a reliable interconnection between our energy networks, etc. Just to mention a couple of our endeavors in the foreseeable future.
Let me end up by recording that bilateral relations always have their ups and downs and we don’t always live in the land of milk and honey. But let me end up by assuring you that the Ukrainian-Romanian bilateral relations are stronger today than ever, and that they are progressing steadfastly in all respects. Thank you very much.
Stanislav Secrieru, Research fellow at the Polish Institute of International Affairs
You’ve mentioned those two forums, which we organized, and I was a participant in those two forums. It was not an easy task, to gather experts and make them talk and share ideas. I think we have to restart this forum, actually, even if we have these positive dynamics, it would be a very nice practice to have every year- one in Bucharest, once in Kiev- to have a very frank talk among friends. Because, at the beginning, there was not a lot of contact even among experts. Now, many of them are simply friends. So, we have to continue this forum and gatherings. And as our agenda is expanding, experts will have even more to discuss, and to see what other ways forward.
I would agree with these speakers that I think we have the best atmosphere in bilateral relations in 25 years, and I think it’s the best moment to build something more ambitious, and I will explain why. Romania is at the end of a big transformation, which began with a determination to join the EU and NATO. Romania was very much focused to attain those objectives. Once joining NATO and the EU, Romania was hardly working to find its role and define its profile inside those organizations. So now Romania is not a newcomer in NATO and the EU; it’s a member with a very powerful position inside those two organizations, and it precisely knows what it wants now. Romania for Ukraine can serve not only as an example how to pursue your strategic objectives, luckily Ukraine wants the same thing: to join the EU and NATO.
Romania is ready to not only share experiences on best practices, but what kind of mistakes Ukraine should avoid, in order not to make this transformation longer than it should be. But then, it’s not only about security relationship- you mentioned, rightly in the report- but it’s a security-driven relationship now. And even there, in security, there are a lot of things which remain that Ukraine can do for the next five years. For instance, to give you an example, both countries have a very strong industrial military potential. Why not talk and conclude an agreement on technical military cooperation between those two countries. Why not to find the comparative initiatives between those two industries, where they can cooperate? Why not talk about military education, training each other? It was not only Romania that was involved in out of area NATO operations, and gained a lot of experience. There are very experienced Romanian officers. But now Ukrainian officers can share their practices on confronting a hybrid threat in Donbass. So it will be beneficial for both sides.
When you talk about Ukrainian-Romanian relations, it’s not about somebody will profit and somebody will just give. It’s a relationship that is driven by mutual interests, in which both sides gain a lot. But then, you’ve mentioned it’s security-driven. What’s probably the way for the next five years is to deepen security relations, but then to broaden the relationship between Romania and Ukraine. I gave an example of a forum, and probably then I’m thinking of a forum. It would be good to have one panel, not only between Romanian and Ukrainian experts, but maybe also to include Polish experts, to have a separate panel inside this big forum. Maybe next year, to have a panel which will include Turkish experts, in order to explore the possibility trilateral cooperation between Turkey, Romania, and Ukraine? Why not think about trilateral due to a very advanced security relationship between Romania and the United States? A growing role of Romania in the Black Sea is one of the important pillars of NATO in the Black Sea. Why not explore the possibility of cooperation between Ukraine, Romania, and the United States in the Black Sea region?
But, as I said, we need to explore the economic side of this relationship. The turnover of below one billion is not serious for economies and such a big market that represents Romania and Ukraine. The thing is to restart the economic relationship using the DCFTA opportunities. Second, as Ukraine is probably very close to getting the visa-free regime with the European Union, I think it will be an interesting opportunity to explore how to boost tourism. Why not encourage more Romanians to go to Ukraine, in particular when the hryvnia was devolved, and probably it’s much cheaper for Romanians to travel? Why not explore visa opportunities for Romanians to discover Ukraine? And the same should be valid for Ukraine. Ukraine will not be forever in economic stagnation. We’ve already seen indicators that the Ukrainian economy is recovering. So, as the economy will recover, there will be a lot of opportunities for Ukrainians also to explore Romania.
And, I will probably conclude these opening remarks with foreign policy. Yes, as the Ukrainian-Romanian relationship is improving, I think the partners will be mature enough and wise enough to include third parties in this kind of dialogue. Obviously the relationship with Poland- this is the primary target, probably, for these kinds of trilogues. The states are comparatively strong enough in terms of military and economic potential, and obviously it will be crucial to build a strong security environment against threats and risks which are coming from the East. They also represent a big, huge market. Unfortunately, between Ukraine and Romania it is still unexplored. So the obvious thing is to look into economics between those three countries. But then also, Poland and Romania can help Ukraine in terms of how to reform local administration, for instance in Poland. You’ve mentioned corruption- corruption, it’s really important for a deeper security relationship between Romania-Ukraine, and Poland-Ukraine, because you have to know with whom you’re sharing information. These partners should be very credible in terms of such sensitive issues as security.
And then, obviously, the last point is that I don’t think Russia is very happy with this kind of rapprochement. During Maidan, and after Maidan, I was following a lot of media attacks to spoil the relationship. Probably the best success in terms of counter-propaganda in Ukraine is StopFake. So why not think of how to use this StopFake opportunity and build something between Romanian and Ukrainian mass media, which would share this information, debunking Russian myths, debunking the myths that Romania has territorial claims towards Ukraine. Or, vice-versa. So let’s think how to protect this emerging relationship from obvious mounting propaganda, which will be developing as relationships are improving. I will conclude with this.
Earlier this year the IWP presented seven discussion papers. These publications are available here:
Ukraine-Germany: How to Turn Situational Partnership into Priority One
Foreign Policy Audit: Ukraine-France
The research was prepared within the IWP’s project “New European Policy: Filling the Awareness Gap”. This project is carried out within the National Initiatives to Enhance Reforms (UNITER) project, supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the Pact in Ukraine. The IWP also would like to thank the Black Sea Trust for regional cooperation – a project of the German Marshall Fund.
Photos are taken from the site of Ukrainian Crisis Media Center.