The year 1989 was a global revolutionary year that started a series of unprecedented social and economic processes. Among these ranked the two simultaneous transitions all the post-communist states embraced and engaged in: the transition from dictatorship to democracy, and from a command economy to a free market economy.

With the demise of the communist system in Central and Eastern Europe, our countries took on the arduous task of building capitalism. Why building, and not rebuilding? Because the role undertaken by the real democratic forces was not to restore the early, primitive stages of capitalism, but to work for a convergence with modern capitalism, with its performance in the Euro-Atlantic area.

We have seen new social and cultural values emerge, traditional mentalities regenerate - anti-communism; democracy and national identity; trust and respect towards fellow citizens, irrespective of their ethnic origin; trust and respect towards neighboring countries and peoples. But throughout, we have also been faced with an outpouring of political promises which unfortunately have never been fulfilled to the benefit of the greater majority. Instead, the reality has been the development of a striking social polarization.

Faced with this new reality, the extent to which we can secure our compatibility with the standards of the Euro-Atlantic community - and consequently prepare our accession to the European Union - depends on our ability to achieve in a responsible manner the fundamental objectives of good governance: to ensure prosperity and sustained development.

Political action in the democratic sense cannot operate with different standards in matters of national interest - domestic national interest cannot be separated from external national interest . They cannot exist independently of each other. We cannot be selectively democratic, just as we cannot assume different political identities. For Romania, the national interest incorporates a set of values centered on the three pillars of statehood: democracy, security and prosperity.

The challenges of adapting to a democratic post-communist reality call for a leap forward in our endeavor to attain the major objectives and priorities of Romania's foreign policy:

  • a successful conclusion of the negotiation process eventually leading to accession to the European Union;
  • preparing for the moment when Romania is invited to become a member of the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization;
  • preparing for and successfully carrying out the Romanian OSCE Chairmanship;
  • achieving compatibility between Romania's development and the major trends of globalization and world integration; and
  • achieving the foreign policy objectives of direct concern to Romanian citizens, such as enhancing freedom of movement and cross-border academic, cultural and business contacts.

What still separates Romania from the West and the former East, is not so much a matter of mentality and capacity of producing wealth as the degree of structuring and organizing our societies. Our road towards integration into the Western world, and namely into the EU, is and should be the road towards a functional system.

Unfortunately, easy-going approaches and a lack of competence have led us too often to an indiscriminate borrowing and adaptation of many things obsolete or which ignore particular societal needs. The ultimate meaning of reform should instead be an expression of our desire to be integrated in the Euro-Atlantic community, that is, to become compatible with the current evolution of the Western world.

The Romanian-Hungarian partnership could be viewed as the core of the process of consolidating security in Southeast Europe, serving as a bridge by connecting the region to the Euro-Atlantic security architecture. We should also add here that Romania's relations with its other neighbors - Ukraine, Bulgaria, the Republic of Moldova and Poland - are partnerships which are true anchors of stability for the region as a whole. It is high time our region proved itself not only an area of ethnic and religious strife, as it has been for too long, but also one of smooth accommodation of interests, of dialogue and cooperation. Consequently it is important to recognize that keeping peace and encouraging cooperation in the region is a full time job which cannot be parceled out through short-term, partial efforts.

For this very reason, NATO remains a catalyst for generating the positive trends required for strengthening the stability of Southeast Europe. As recent developments in Kosovo have demonstrated, from the point of view of the Alliance, countries - like Romania - that are located near troubled areas that generate security risks, can play an important role in preventing crises from spreading.

Through its chairmanship of the South Eastern European Cooperation Process (SEECP), Romania sought to promote a redefined regional vision which could change the rigid, sectarian, hermetic perceptions currently in place. This new vision is one in which the role of regional cooperative structures is to strengthen the unity of Europe, not to disperse it.

It is our strong belief that a stable Southeast Europe needs above all a chance to see its dignity and strategic options acknowledged. The Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe proved how important it is to have a synergy of all the partners involved in building security, stability and prosperity in Europe. In order to achieve its objectives, however, we need action-oriented projects, with clear designs, encouraging the countries of our region to cooperate and directly contribute with resources and local expertise.

Given Romania's decisive commitment to anchoring regional cooperation in the mainstream of the Euro-Atlantic evolution, we pledge our support for:

  • widening the opportunities for prosperity for all the peoples in Southeast Europe by fostering a more stable regional security environment - we encourage implicitly the creation of a pool of investment in this geographical area;
  • finalizing the Investment Compact under the auspices of the Stability Pact;
  • giving priority to reconstruction process projects based on the solid participation of the local private business sector;
  • strengthening joint efforts against organized crime, corruption and illegal cross-border trafficking as an essential condition for increased regional political and economic security;
  • developing projects aimed at strengthening links between Southeast Europe and other regions of Europe - such as the restoration of the Danube waterway, upgrading existing highways, pipelines and communications between national and sub-regional power networks, and building new ones; and
  • building a climate of increased confidence and cohesion by strongly supporting new democracies, by sharing "democratic road maps" with the countries of the region, and consolidating and institutionalizing the role and actions of civil society.

As a country that experienced the virulence of dictatorship, Romania is concerned with the status of its Yugoslav neighbors and the possibility for redeeming their place within the family of democratic states. That will essentially depend on their capacity to promote democratic action, inter-ethnic trust and respect for ethnic, religious and ideological diversity.

In the broader sense, Romania understands regional cooperation to include relations with partner countries from the East, with Russia and the countries of Central Asia. This cooperation however, must be based on mutual respect for our respective political options.

It is my firm conviction that through its participation in the OSCE Troika and upon assuming the OSCE Chairmanship in the year 2001, Romania will confirm its good record of impartiality and its role as an element of equilibrium in the region - a promoter of confidence and stability in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian area. In the same context, we consider that no European nation should give up the idea of European equilibrium.

Now that Romania is initiating accession talks with the EU and is intensifying preparations for the second round of NATO expansion, I would like to take this opportunity to firmly reassert out commitment to a consolidated Strategic Partnership with the United States. We know that our dedication to democratic social and economic development along the lines of the Euro-Atlantic world is the keystone of our reform effort. The prerequisite of our success in integrating Romania into the European Union and Euro-Atlantic structures is to offer future generations a chance for prosperity, security and justice, that is, a chance for sharing in the modernity of the Western world.

Petre Roman, the Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, was the feqtured speaker at the January 27, 2000, Woodrow Wilson Center Director's Forum