„Domestic policy can only defeat us; Foreign policy can kill us”.
John F. Kennedy
In the last decade the strategic, political, economic, military, energy and technological balances were strongly affected by global challenges, strategic, political, juridical and technological disruptions each one impacting on one or several fields. Human society is in a evolutionary crisis which the main international traditional players are not able yet to manage properly and each one of them seeks to position itself as profitable as possible in anticipation of a new world order in a globalized world. The developments are fast and often momentous, and as one of the attendees noted – important geopolitical events that occurred in the last two months are equaling the ones that took place in the last decade.
Geopolitics should be reformed. The economic maps are no longer overlapping the political ones. The emergence of digitalization with an extraordinary importance, means an era and a space that the states do not control any longer, will bring hard to foresee developments on the world’s stage. The truth according to which states live in markets and not the markets live in states, although acknowledged, is not fully understood and politics did not identify yet valid solutions for taming the globalized capitalism.
A recent analysis put forward briefly the 2020 and further on global geopolitical challenges and groups them in four great categories: geopolitical/economic (economic showdowns; trade/investment protectionism; great powers downturn); environmental (global warming; natural systems breakdown; water crisis); technological (cyberattacks on infrastructure and financial institutions; losing privacy by companies and governments); societal (domestic political polarization; deepening social divide; losing trust in media sources, domination of fake news).
However, the globalizing world is encountering now a new threat, the outbreak of a pandemic, inflicted by COVID-19, and for which it is not sufficiently well prepared.
Under the circumstances, the idea that the European Union (EU) is lacking a clear vision about its future is prevailing and visionary leaders with popular appeal are missing. As a German friend said, Ursula von der Leyen knows how to submit interesting projects yet she is not able enough to implement them. It is the case of The European Green Deal project which is supposed to be finalized by 2050 and devised to unite all European capabilities for a shared objective and has hindrances since its launching as a result of the costs and social and technological implications it presumes.
On the other hand, the EU has other stringent problems, too such as the new threat of Syrian and North African migrants, Russia’s and Turkey’s expansionist policies, the threats represented by technological evolutions and especially the Artificial Intelligence (AI). A Compact concerning Europe’s future is needed more and more yet there is a reservation of its states with regards to promoting an institutional reform.
There is no document between the EU and China on economic relations but a strategic outlook devised in 2019.
There is no dialogue between the EU and the US on China’s issues. Securing the neighborhoods is a priority and the EU cannot be a global player unless it becomes involved.
One of the attendees said at the end of his speech that these are but some major examples of important actions the EU should have in mind and added that the Union is “ an economic giant, a political dwarf and a military little mouse”. The wording includes indeed upward and downward exaggerations in all three fields.
Not in the least, the position of EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy created in 1999 by the Treaty of Amsterdam and thereafter enhanced through the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009 when the holder became vice-president of the Commission too, is important for achieving the European foreign policy. If Javier Solana (1999 – 2009) was well experienced in foreign policy, same cannot be said of his successors: Catherine Ashton (2009 – 2014 was previously a European Trade Commissioner and a leader of the House of Lords only) and Federica Mogherini (2014 -2019 was before Italy’s foreign minister for eight months and member of the Chamber of Deputies for one and a half year only). From 1st December 2019, the position is held by Spain’s Josep Borell Fontalles whose experience in the field of foreign relations we hope to be useful during his just begun mandate.
Did a question attributed long time ago to the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: whom shall I call if I want to talk to Europe (the EU)? has finally found an answer? Probably yes, formally speaking. Yet it is not clearly enough to whom the US president should speak.
Romania and its foreign policy after joining the EU and the perspectives
Defining the national interest and the objectives of the foreign policy should be done by the parliament. We use to that purpose the past experience so that Romania could become an as convincing as possible voice internationally. The government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be the main artisans of the Romanian foreign policy and the president should observe (just like the rest of the state’s institutions) the constitutional duties.
After joining the EU, Romania suffered an identity crisis in its foreign policy. We had “ a cheap approach” folded on Germany’s and US’s approaches. Our attitude of permanently being concerned with getting a better appreciation by the EU’s leadership is a wrong one. I believe that in this regard, Nicolae Titulescu’s position who said: ” A country’s foreign policy is devised by rational assessment of the national standpoint, by defending it firmly and in a dignified way internationally and not by signatures provided by the fear of differentiating yourself, signatures that might spell today but which bind you tomorrow.”
It seems that this quote was forgotten altogether today by the Romanian politicians as the positions they adopted externally and the UE’s actions, too, left the impression that Romania is a Union’s second-class member, something that should be changed. The EU; s recommendations concerning Romania expired in 2010 and were not updated while the EU’s leadership and its members seem to be content with that as long as they do not update it.
It is necessary we regain the sovereignty within the EU and an equal position with the other states. In this respect, we should get closer to other states having similar problems with ours.
Romania’s rotating presidency of the European Union Council during January 1st – June 30th 2019, proved its capacity to deliver in very good conditions (according to the UE’s bodies appreciation. We should devise from now on and, at the same time, to implement the resolutions.
Romania should adopt a more active position within the EU, support the strategic partnership with the US, put forward our standpoint concerning the American peace plan in the Middle East, have more initiatives in approaching the main issues and UE’s political decisions including following up its national interest as the other member states do.
Romania could further contribute to the development of the EU’s relations with countries of the Middle East given the former’s experience until 1989 with numerous Arab countries. Unfortunately, during the last 30 years that area has been extremely neglected by the Romanian policy and diplomacy, give away and compromises have been made without any clear gains we might have obtained so that, if we do not act now we will be forgotten in the Middle East within the next 5-10 years. The generation of the Middle East’s politicians under 40 years old are no longer familiar with Romania.
Under today’s geopolitical circumstances, we have to add substance to the US’s strategic partnership yet, at the same time, we should not stay away from defining our partnership with China, which we have traditional relations which seem to cool and follow the same course as the one with the Middle East’s.
The article includes personal opinions and standpoints similar to those with the undersigned positions expressed on this occasions and other mentions in recent analysis and documents do not reflect in any way the opinion of the Commission on the European Affairs of the Romanian Senate.
About the author: Corneliu Pivariu is a highly decorated two-star general of the Romanian army (Rtd). He has founded and led one of the most influential magazines on geopolitics and international relations in Eastern Europe, the bilingual journal Geostrategic Pulse, for two decades.