Lecture by HSH Prince Radu of Hohenzollern-Veringen
Special Representative of the Romanian Government
University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute, December 13, 2006
University of Turku, December 14, 2006
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure and a privilege for me to meet you, in a most meaningful and respectable institution of your country. It is equally a reason for hope since, in less than three months, my country will become a member of the big European Family and I believe we should also discuss, - openly and in all honesty -, the weaknesses, the fears and the confusions of our world, and not only focus on its virtues and potential.
The position I hold gives me a comprehensive view of what Romania can contribute to the European Union and to our continent in general. Appointed in 2002 and reconfirmed, in 2005, as Special Representative of the Romanian Government, my work represents Romania's fundamental interests. Mandated by the Government, this has enabled me - through a number of more than 600 missions every year - to become familiar with essential aspects of the working communities I visited, both European and domestic, i.e. in economy, defense, politics, diplomacy, culture, education, sustainable development and the media.
Historically, Romania has always positioned itself as a European country. In the Middle Ages, important Moldovan or Wallachian princes maintained links with Western Europe, some of them even paid a heavy price for their friendship with the Western world. I wonder how many European countries can produce historical evidence of their European mindset similarly to the 18th century Moldova, whose prince Cantemir published in London, in English, an exceptional book about the Ottoman Empire. In a way, the Romanian Principalities played in the Middle Ages the role of "guardian angel" for Europe, halting the Turks' advance towards the heart of the continent. The first European head of state that Romania had was Carol I, a German prince coming from a country that, in 1866, already had a parliamentary life. He ruled for 48 years and, among other things, organized in 1906 a smaller replica of the Universal International Exhibition held in Paris in 1900. The same year (i.e. 1906), 70% of the officers in the Romanian army were graduates of Saint-Cyr. Our Constitutions of 1866 and 1923 were amongst the most advanced in Europe. In 2005, together with King Michael I, I traveled all the way from Transylvania to Prague, to lay flowers on the graves of the 66,000 Romanian soldiers who died in 1945 not to free Romania but to free swathes of the European continent from the Nazis. 66,000 Romanian soldiers gave their lives in the name of a Europe of shared values. Last but not least, during the Stalinist age in Romania, while over 50,000 well-known Romanians, - the pick and cream of Romania's intellectual elite - were being massacred in prisons and forced labor camps, Romanian farmers - illiterate but idealist - hid in the mountains and set up the only organized armed resistance in Europe, to fight the soviets. These Romanian farmers did not probably have the slightest idea how to find Paris, or London, or Brussels, or Washington on a map. They made the ultimate sacrifice so that their families and their country may live in dignity and freedom. This is where we can find the origin of Romania's incredible 85% trust in the European Union.
From a political perspective, Romania - the communist country which knew the worst post-Stalinist regime and whose break-up with communist totalitarianism was the longest and most painful - has managed, in 16 years, to alternate governments three times, to join NATO, to have a most honorable presence in international military missions (including EU missions), to achieve since 2001 an economic growth rate of 4 to 5% per year, with over 8% in 2004 and 7% in 2006. This country, which used to export food to an important part of Europe between the two world wars, has acquired a European political tradition which was not fabricated upon submitting its recent candidacy for EU membership. In 1881, Romania became a sovereign and independent country in Europe.
From the point of view of economy, a country brought to starvation by the imbecile communist economy and frozen in the rusted technology of the 70ies has managed, in 16 years, to reshape its economic pillars and to raise not only the quality of its products but also its potential on the global market. This is not bad at all for a country that was made to believe in the "poor but happy" and the "shameless businessman" principles. In this context, I would like to remind you that, no longer than two years ago, there were important Romanian politicians who said, in public, that private property was a joke; even today, some people here continue to see profit and prosperity as "compromising" endeavors. While still haunted by parasitical post-Stalinist views, Romania has definitely managed to find its way towards the market economy. Between the world wars, Romania's standard of living equaled Switzerland's and Belgium's. Once a full member of the EU, such a country can definitely become an agent of Community economic development, a bridge to the Near East, to Central & South-Eastern Asia and to Northern Africa. The youngest member states have already made remarkable progress, half of them with a GDP per capita higher than Greece's or Portugal's. As for Romania, the example of the Renault Logan car is most illustrative: the Logan project means hundreds of new jobs in the EU: engineers, dealers, workers, and mechanics.
With respect to culture and education, the confluence of religions and traditions that has always been a defining feature of Romanian culture could prove a priceless ingredient for Europe. Nearly all of Romania's culture and traditions stem from the European heritage. The leading lights of Romanian culture and science in the early 20th century had studied in Paris, Berlin or London. The communist era left us with a good thing, in point of education: Romanians are schooled people, with a solid general education. We can speak two, even three foreign languages, which does not currently happen in France, the UK or Germany. Walk the streets of Bucharest and talk to passers-by in French or English: you will be surprised! For 16 years now I have heard severe criticism of the Romanian education system. The exasperation is often justified but still young Romanians somehow do not cease to fill the halls of the Sorbonne, Oxford, Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, WPI or MIT. I have come across Romanian PhD candidates in Montreal, Rome and Tokyo. Romania boasts the biggest number of highly qualified IT engineers, after India; except that India has over a billion inhabitants, while Romania - a mere 22 million. At the Microsoft office in Washington D.C., the number of Romanian employees is second only to the Chinese. The skill and talent, the creativity and enthusiasm of young Romanians are incredible. These arguments are obviously convincing on the medium and long term.
But is not the European Union an ambitious and visionary creation? Is it not the translation of responsibility and wisdom, of generosity, patriotism and the force of ideas?
In diplomacy, Romania seems to be perfectly placed to help implement the Barcelona process and the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. It is not only the last centuries that provided us with a thorough understanding of the East, of its culture, traditions and spirit, but also the more recent past. Beginning with the 70ies, tens of thousands of students from Morocco, Alger, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, even Iraq and the United Arab Emirates graduated from Romanian universities. These people are now at the peak of their professional career: reputable politicians, engineers, artists, MPs, writers, businessmen, physicians and professors. During my visit to Jordan, I learnt that 12 of the 120 members of the Jordanian Parliament did their studies in Romania. I felt "at home" in Rabat, Baku or Amman, thanks to the many likenesses that our cultural, historical and geographical vicinity has shaped, in time. I can very well imagine the European policies, centered on the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership or the European Neighborhood Policy, implemented with the help and through the efforts of countries such as Romania or Bulgaria.
From a security and defense point of view, my country has known the benefits of <> even before the term itself was invented. Asymmetrical dangers taught us, at a very early point in our history, to react asymmetrically. Today it is not the amount of military expenditure that underlies our success in international missions, but the training, talent, courage and the exceptional flexibility of our troops. The European Security and Defense Policy, its development and its agencies, missions and instruments will find Romania a faithful partner. Romania's geopolitical position (a Black Sea riparian, neighboring the Caucasus and the Near East, a bridge to Asia and not too far away from Africa) will prove an asset to the EU's ambitions of global actor. Stability and democracy cannot end at Hungary's border. The Western Balkans are highly relevant to the continent's security; a solution can be found with the help of countries such as Romania - a predictable country, one that has made a big effort to join NATO, a European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) partner, a country that strives to respect democracy and the values of the Western world.
An admirable EU representative has recently said, in Bucharest, that Romanians have lost, of late, some of their euro-enthusiasm (previously nearing 85%) and are moving down, closer to the normal rate, i.e. a more reasonable 61%. I hope the respected official was joking. The "normal rate" is not the Western European average of 30% support for the EU - the greatest vision of the 20th century.
"Spreading" an 85% level of enthusiasm, creativity, responsible altruism and flexibility - this is, in my view, a good contribution that Romania can bring to Europe.
In spite of its institutional shortcomings, Romania is ready to contribute the substance of its past and the vital forces of its future to the stability of this continent.
More than half a century after the creation of the European idea, the European Union enlargement stimulates economic growth and social cohesion; it strengthens Europe's role and influence in the world. Following this - the fifth - wave of enlargement by Romania and Bulgaria, Europe has to rethink its institutions, to rediscover its ideals and to find new people able to give them voice and shape, so that its citizens may live in a convinced European Union.