Romania: Looking for the right balance

Romainia is a candidate country expecting to became full member of the EU in 2007, Romania had to take proper solutions not only in terms of  reforming the economy and the judiciary and fighting corruption, but  also in the area of foreign policy. In that respect, the country should  have a better coordination with the European Union in relevant  decisions of foreign policy. That position is in accordance with the negotiation chapter on foreign policy, already closed by Romania. But, in the same time, since that year when it becomes full member,  Romania has also been NATO  candidate country, counting a lot on  the support of the United States.

In exchange, it support the US -led war in Iraq with troops and refuel- basis in the southern port of Constantza. As one of the countries of what US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called last year “the new Europe”, Romania had to take in many occasions circumstantial solutions, based rather on the immediate interest, than on a long-term strategy.

The ICC – why?

Romania has been the first country to sign with the US a treaty on immunity for American citizens against the International Criminal Court, in 2002, a decision harshly criticized by the EU, but also but the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The decision had been take without previous consultations with the European Union. The Treaty has been signed in Bucharest, but for becoming effective – or not – it should be discussed and voted in the Romanian Parliament. Two years after the signature, the treaty haven’t been yet discussed and now, in an electoral year, nobody is talking about no more. The Romanian political class reacted very slow and only after the EU expresses its critics and since then no open and broad discussion took place about that subject and no strong position – for or against – haven’t been express from the part of the Romanian civil society.

The 2002 European Commission country report on Romania outlined that the ICC agreement is “regrettable” and recommends to the Government to orient its foreign policy in accordance with the EU diplomacy. The Romanian authorities outlined that by signing the controversial Treaty, haven’t been intended to gain the favors of the US. On August 30, 2002, Romanian Foreign ministry Mircea Geoana said in an interview for Reuters that: “Romania hasn’t signed the treaty for gaining the Washington’s favors for NATO admission, because that, is already agreed”. Most part of the European media seen the decision of Romania as an example of the geo-political changes taking place in Central and South-Eastern Europe, in terms of reorientation of US policies. An article on German newspaper “Berliner Zeitung” from August 15 2002 considered that the “Romanian example”, if followed by other countries, can bring to an “bankruptcy” of the EU foreign policy. Facing the hard conditions of admission in the European Union, many of the Eastern Europe candidate countries, among which Romania, don’t have many expectations from the Union and choose to support US demands, that are offering more in terms of geopolitical advantages or economic support. In that respect, it have to be noted that Romania obtained the last year from the US the status of “functioning market economy”, a position still not obtain from the European Union. In short, Romania signed against  the ICC Treaty with the US, but the legislative follow-up haven’t been completed. The Treaty isn’t effective, but the decision in itself contributed to some advantages from the part of the US, on the short-term. On the long-term, it create frictions with the EU.

Adoptions, “Achille heel”

Another subject of dispute – but more vocal in Romania and abroad – is the subject of international adoptions. From the communist regime, Romania inherited hundred of thousand of orphanage children and a lack of culture in terms of family planning. The poor conditions of many of the Romanians continue also  to be one of the main cause of many orphans. Teenage mothers from the countryside and with low level of education abandon its children on the streets or on the hospitals. The children are taken by the state system, a system that often is lacking the proper resources. A lot of support came in the last decade from the foreign foundations established in the country having in their aim the support of the children with aliments, clothes or other basic needs.

The lack of proper legislation of child protection – the legislative package have been adopted by the Government only in 2004 and the laws are still waiting to be discussed by the Parliament, occupied now with the electoral campaign – created many dysfunctions in the system of child protection and adoption in Romania. The big problem is concerning the international adoptions. In 2001, Baroness Emma Nicholson of Winterbourne, the European Parliament rapporteur for Romania, ask the suspension of Romania’s integration process, because of the problems discovered in the system of international adoptions. She outlined that a real “baby-market” have been created with the Romanian children, effectively “sold” outside to foreigners. A moratorium on international adoptions have been then imposed but the many derogations from the moratorium – allowing child adoptions in US, as well as in Spain, Italy or France – created a continue problem in the discussions between Bucharest and Brussels. The last episode of the scandal consumed some months ago, when again Baroness Emma Nicholson warned against the corruption in the adoption system. According to the Romanian National Authority for the Child Protection and Adoptions, in December 2003, 187 international adoptions have been allowed, and during the moratorium – 2001-2003 the Government accepted 1.115 adoptions.

Beside its aspects dealing with the child protection and the social system, the adoptions have also  a foreign policy side. US supported Romania to reform its system, but also was one of the main supporter of the international adoption system. The new legislation allowing international adoptions only for grandparents have been criticized by US representatives – including 22 US congressmen asking to the Romanian MPs to ease the ban on international adoptions. The new Romanian legislation is following the previsions of the UN Convention on the rights of the children, a international document not ratified by the US. It can be one of the explanation of the different views in Brussels and in Washington on the international adoptions. In the same time, for Romania it create a subject of frictions in international relations. In a recent article for the International Herald Tribune, US deputy – state secretary Richard L. Armitage considered that the new law of adoptions will represent a “tragedy” for the Romanian orphans, because, among others, they will not had the possibility to have a better life outside the country.

After many oscillations and derogations from the EU-imposed Moratorium  the Romanian authorities look very decided to finally solve that problem. But he way in which the problem have been handed shows that the transition is still continuing in Romania. The responsibility for the decisions took is a very important aspect of any consolidated democracy. It means that the authorities have enough autonomy to decide independently the proper solutions and also to have the possibility to explain the reasons why a certain decision have been taken. The two case-studies we’ve analyzed are showing that we still lack the coherence in addressing such issues.