Foreign Policy: Romania Faces a Critical Turning Point

Romania has reached a precarious moment, both concerning its position regarding Ukraine and its role in Europe, according to Foreign Policy. With Slovakia now led by the controversial populist Robert Fico, who has followed in the footsteps of Hungary’s Viktor Orban in opposing support for Kyiv against Moscow, Bucharest is likely to be the stage for the next major battle that will once again test European unity.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Romania on October 10, but his visit did not go as planned, with his speech in the Romanian Parliament being canceled at the last moment. Zelensky himself chose to forgo his speech, but the real reason was opposition from the AUR party, which threatened to protest his address. AUR, dubbed as Romania’s extremist party, has seen its support double since the 2020 parliamentary elections, and it is currently leading in some polls for next year’s European Union elections, despite both Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova banning the party leader from their territories due to his alleged Kremlin ties.

Romania plays a vital role in supplying humanitarian aid and military equipment to Ukraine, but its significance extends further. It is a key player in Ukraine’s grain exports. Romania’s relations with Ukraine are a sensitive issue, both domestically and internationally. Any shift in Bucharest’s stance toward Kyiv could have profound consequences for the broader economic and political landscape. This is especially critical as Romania is expected to play a pivotal role in the European and global energy sector in the coming years.

Multinational corporation OMV and the Romanian company Romgaz announced a plan in June to invest up to €4 billion in the development of natural gas fields in the Black Sea. This project has the potential to produce at least 10 billion cubic meters of gas annually. Infrastructure development is set to begin next year, with production estimated to start in 2027. The development of Romania’s hydrocarbon industry promises to reduce the medium-term impact of threats from Russia. Russia has a history of using influence networks and business partners to infiltrate energy projects throughout Europe, including in Romania.

Romanian companies have invested in the country’s metallurgical, hydrocarbon, and port industries. Several Romanian businessmen have had long-term partnerships with the Kremlin by providing services in Russia. These actions have gone unnoticed for far too long, despite the United States and the European Union adopting new anti-corruption agendas in recent years.

Romania had made significant progress in the fight against corruption and dismantling Russia’s influence networks within the country. The National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) was once regarded as a leader in Eastern European anti-corruption efforts, but its reputation was tarnished after Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruța Kovesi was removed from office. Kovesi now serves as the Chief Prosecutor of the European Union, but Romania’s anti-corruption agenda has effectively been frozen since her removal.

Romania’s fragmented parliament, even before the growing electoral threat from AUR, has been highly dysfunctional. This has left the country with limited credibility to combat corruption and Russian influence independently, as highlighted by Foreign Policy.

AURBucharestcorruptionenergyEuropeEuropean Unionextremistforeign policyKovesikremlinNational Anticorruption DirectorateOMVRomaniaRussiaukraineZelensky
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