NATO Review
Nov./Dec. 1997

Romania sets its sights on NATO membership

by Constantin Ene, Romania's Ambassador to the EUand Liaison Ambassador to NATO and WEU

Although not included in the first wave of invitations to join NATO, Romania remains determined to become a NATO member. According to Ambassador Ene, this goal is strongly backed by public opinion. Major political and military reforms are being undertaken as part of Romania's active preparation for NATO membership. Modernisation and integration are the guiding principles in Romania today and NATO membership is the ambition for tomorrow.

Political objectives

At the political level the first objective was to bring the Romanian armed forces in line with the democratic principles and procedures practised in NATO countries. A number of important domestic structural adjustments have been made in order to consolidate the civil and democratic control of the armed forces and to adapt the nature of civil-military relations to the standards of a democratic society.

The Constitution, the National Defence Law, as well as other legislation, provide procedures and mechanisms aimed at ensuring civilian control of the armed forces. New structures have been created such as special parliamentary committees with responsibilities in the management and control of military activities, on budgetary and financial matters, as well as in ensuring transparency. These bodies also serve as channels of communication and information between political and military decision-makers.

A significant step was taken in the opening of the military sphere to civilians with the appointment of civilians to the posts of Minister of National Defence and that of State Secretary for Defence Policy and International Relations, as well as with an increase in the number of civilians employed in the main military institutions and structures. The National Defence College is training personalities from different political parties together with military and civilian officials from various government branches. The relationship between civil society and the military is also changing. Particular attention is being attached to such endeavours as informing public opinion on military activities and involving non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in debates on security and defence. A vivid illustration of the effectiveness of these measures is the way in which the change of government following the November 1996 elections did not raise any difficulties in the military.

Military objectives

At the military level Romania has made interoperability with NATO one of its priorities in its drive for reform of the armed forces. Some historical facts have worked in our favour in reforming the defence forces. Due to the particular position Romania held in the former Warsaw Treaty Organisation, our national defence was configured to be able to respond to a series of multi-directional threats. As a result, the structural adjustments necessary for eventual integration in NATO have not implied major changes in the distribution of forces on our national territory.

Also, the Romanian armed forces only depended to a small extent on former Warsaw Treaty partners for military technology. Most of the military technology was assimilated and produced domestically, and in many areas, on the basis of Western licences. As a result, the structure and equipment of the Romanian defence industry can be adapted more easily to NATO standards. The same is true in the field of military training, since Romania ceased sending officers to Soviet military schools back in the 1960s.

Although the process is still underway, efforts to modernise the armed forces have already led to a series of concrete results. The essence of the reform underway is to create a smaller but more efficient army. This includes the creation of a Rapid Reaction Force, an endeavour which is underway. Once this reform has been fully implemented, the new structure of the Romanian armed forces will be highly compatible with that of the armed forces of NATO countries, even if full convergence in the field of military equipment will require further efforts.

So far, 45 per cent of an army of about 200,000 men has already been professionalised. In terms of interoperability, Romania has assumed and is currently carrying out all 45 objectives agreed with NATO. This process has been furthered by Romania's setting up of bilateral cooperation programmes with NATO countries.

Since 1994, Romania has participated in a large number of joint exercises involving troops, as well as hosting such activities on its own territory. In doing so, allied concepts and procedures, together with the modernisation of the armed forces, are becoming part and parcel of the Romanian military doctrine and policy. At least 14 land brigades and a large number of elements of the navy, as well as of the air force, are being trained for PfP exercises and activities. Important infrastructure facilities have also been made available on Romanian territory. As a result, the Romanian armed forces are prepared to take part in international missions. This has already been demonstrated through our participation in the NATO-led IFOR and SFOR missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the Italian-led coalition in Albania, as well as in the UN missions in Somalia, Rwanda and Angola.

We are also aware that the military strength and cohesion of the Alliance are based on a fair sharing of responsibilities, risks and costs. In this respect, the financial burden we are taking on in order to modernise the Romanian armed forces is testimony to the depth of our commitment. We are ready to meet the additional costs that integration into NATO will entail because the costs of building up an independent defence would be much higher.

On course to integration

To prepare for membership, a good knowledge of the functioning of the Alliance is needed. To that end, Romania is looking forward to participating to the fullest extent in NATO structures open to cooperation partners, as well as in the new Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. Moreover, a new series of 'individual dialogues' with the countries aspiring to membership is to take place, and we hope that a new round of invitations to start accession negotiations with the Alliance will be launched at the NATO Summit in 1999.

Developments across the continent are converging on a course leading to European integration. The process is taking place in an environment which substantially differs from that which prevailed at the end of the Second World War. This time, the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe are participating in, rather than merely being the subject of, decisions affecting their geopolitical future. This is the true essence of the 'new Europe', whereby integration is being achieved through democratic means.


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