Romanian-German relations – will the Iohannis equation change the trend?

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis will pay a visit to Germany on Thursday, February 26. He is to meet President Joachim Gauck and Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to the information published on the website of the German presidency and the government in Berlin.

German President Joachim Gauck will receive President Klaus Iohannis at 12:00 local time at Bellevue Palace.

German Chancellor’s spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz, announced that Angela Merkel will have official talks with Romanian President Klaus Werner Iohannis on Thursday, at 14:00 local time. Sources say the talks will focus on bilateral relations, issues on the European and international agenda, the Schengen issue, the situation in Ukraine and Moldova, as well as developments in the Western Balkans.

In view of this visit we present a documentary on Romanian-German relations during the last decades.

 

It’s obvious the current Romanian-German relations are stalling, are in abeyance and are bound to be redefined. Looking at Europe as a whole, the temptation to use the ‘breaks’ in bilateral relationships cannot be separated from the international financial crisis, from the responsibilities Berlin is bearing in regard to a redefining European Union. The situations in Greece, Cyprus, the uncertain perspectives for Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and other states have transformed Germany into a pillar of continental economic-financial stability, with high consciousness of its own importance and with the tendency of becoming more intransigent by the day. In this context, Romania looks at the continental scale as a negligible ‘pawn’ while its problems seem to be related more to the democratic adaptation to European norms, rather than to political matters.

Bucharest has managed to avoid falling into the precipice of financial crisis after the austerity measures adopted in 2010 by the democrat-liberal government led by then PM Emil Boc (25 per cent salary cuts for civil servants, VAT increased from 19 to 24 per cent etc.) The social costs bore by the citizen were high and so they are even now, although salaries were brought to the former level. Even so, the macro-economic evolution in Romania stands at an acceptable level, as the economy registered a timid economic growth (slightly above 1 per cent of GDP) and has an encouraging rating. Nevertheless, Romania is looked at with reticence by European partners, mainly after the turbulent political events in 2012 during the referendum on 29th July to suspend the then President Traian Basescu. The Social-Liberal Union (USL) took power after the Mihai Razvan Ungureanu cabinet failed a confidence vote at the end of April 2012, and its vengeful decisions looked like political skidding, raising concern abroad. The SOS messages sent abroad by the president’s allies have created a negative image for Romania, which diplomatic efforts strive in vain to mend. The European Commission got involved at the time in making the new political power observe the democratic framework with notable results. However, European chancelleries are reluctant when it comes to trusting the political power in Bucharest, as far as democracy is concerned.

When defining the Romanian-German relations as stalling, one should consider other issues as well. One of them points at the fact that the CDU, the party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is part of the same European family with the Democrat-Liberals (PDL) close to former President Traian Basescu. Speculations emerged about it, used endlessly by the USL to define Germany’s lack of political neutrality during the 2012 crisis in Romania. This led to a further radicalization of local political leaders, especially of then Liberal president Crin Antonescu, when Brussels and Berlin took tough stands against them. The last straw for USL leaders was when former President Traian Basescu revealed that, during a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel – being asked if the Romanian Constitution included the suspension procedure – he answered ‘no’ (although the procedure is included in the constitution and is detailed in regard to the steps to be followed). The western leaders had no reaction to the presidential maneuver.

The conclusion drawn by USL politicians was:

  • Germany’s interest towards Romania is low or inexistent, as the German chancellor hadn’t been informed by her advisors about the procedures in the Romanian Constitution and had to ask President Basescu for the information.
  • The next reactions coming from Berlin were a consequence of the untrue statement of Traian Basescu, but Germany avoided asking questions to the other political side involved in the crisis.

The European People’s Party got involved too, in an even less favorable way, using unilateral sources, irritating more and more the new power grouped around PM Victor Ponta. EPP President Wilfried Martens was stating two months after the crisis, in October 2012 that “a new suspension of president Traian Basescu would be a mistake, while Antonescu is telling sheer lies” (Antonescu had said USL opponents behaved like “servants of European institutions”). Martens was stating, while in Bucharest, that he had come to mend “the bad done to the country during the latest months.” In his opinion PSD and PNL had made a lot of populist statements during the latest weeks (referring to July-August 2012), statements that harmed the Romanian people.

As far as Romanians are concerned, Germany is popular with them. A poll called ‘The Truth about Romania’, carried out by INSCOP Research during February 21-28, 2014, revealed Germany tops the standing for positive appreciations with 77 per cent (!), followed by the United Kingdom (75 per cent), France, Italy, Spain (72 per cent), the USA (71 per cent), the Netherlands (61 per cent), China (58 per cent), Poland (43 per cent), Bulgaria (37 per cent), Russia (33 per cent), Ukraine (32 per cent) and Hungary (31 per cent).

 

Victor Lupu

(to be continued)

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