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Will Romania stay united?

Published at: 30-11-2018

Posted on: November 30th, 2018 by RaduC No Comments

Such a question, asked on the 100th aniversary of the Great Unification, might be called a blasphemy. And yet, I believe that we would be seriously misguided to imagine that, no matter how the country is run, it is condemned to remain unchanged. It would be a grave mistake to imagine that the invaluable event that the Unification was, should not be ceaselessly defended, not with tanks and fighter planes, but through wise and visionary home policy, able to strengthen the connections between the large historical provinces with a focus on the economic ties.

I now suggest as further reading the opinions of two well-known experts, prof. Dan Dungaciu, Director of the Political Sciences and International Relations Institute of the Romanian Academy and Antonia Colibasanu, Vice President for Strategic Relationships at Geopolitical Futures, who works closely with the well known geopolitical expert, George Friedman.

Their views come from two interviews with me that they gave on separate occasions which you can find here.

Prof. Dan Dungaciu: „If at some point the internal rifts run deeper that what connects us, the war is lost”.

DD: It continues to puzzle me how we did not manage to build a highway that goes through Comarnic. In over 20 years! It is a puzzler. How come that so many politicians, ministers, presidents, prime-ministers failed to see the importance of this strategic project. Especially with the year 2018, that of the Great Unification in mind. Because if you take a look at the map of the highways scheduled for 2018, you can notice that there are no interconnections planned between the regions of the country.

RC: Transilvania, on the other hand, will be better and better connected to Hungary.

DD: Perfectly connected to Hungary, perfectly unconnected to the rest of the country. If you lack an extremely concrete vision, since government funding is approved based on that, then you ask yourself why people fail to see the obvious. Not to mention the gaps which grow on account of the missing infrastructure. Development comes on the highway…

RC: Talking about gaps, the most important highway to me is the one supposed to link Transilvania and Moldova, even the historic Moldova. Not even the one going through the Olt Valley or the Prahova Valley.

DD: I absolutely agree. Because benefiting most from an economic boost will be Moldova. Moldova looks worse now than it did 10 years ago, due to depopulation… And it could have been worse. Do you know what Romania`s chance was? The failure of the Republic of Moldova and of Ukraine. The situation where some regions in Romania would have been drawn into other types of economy was avoided. Normally, the border areas with the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine will enter other economic circuits if the national one does not work.

RC: Are you afraid that the historic regions will spin out by a centrifuge effect?

DD: A spin out to areas with a different way to do politics, other ways to do business, another vision on the economy. Because a rapprochement to the West would not be a problem, but we are surrounded to the north and east by areas which are different. Only people who have not lived there cannot tell the difference.

RC: But the gaps in Romania are growing..

DD: They are and continue to do so mathematically, and then they will become embedded into people`s minds and give rise to theories that we already see emerging – explanations using history and genetics to account for geographic facts or infrastructure-related facts. Going back to infrastructure, putting it on the CSAT agenda would carry a huge symbolic meaning. But it does not give the president a tool to step in. He cannot build highways using the military. Putting it on the CSAT agenda will raise the alert level, the visibility, but it would not be a solution to implementation. It would be a very important warning, which politicians need to take to heart in order to follow it up with measures.

If politicians are not acutely aware of the fact that one of the most urgent security challenges of Romania is a lack of infrastructure, that is very serious. And if at some point the internal rifts run deeper that what connects us, the war is lost. If the fundamental, essential, primary bonds within a community are torn apart then it is very hard to build anything. And Romania`s big crisis, the precipice it is headed at full speed without anybody steering the wheel, is this: that, at some point, the internal rift is so deep that not even the facts as those discussed here will be considered.

RC: And yet, a whole country is shouting at the top of its lungs, just as we are doing here: we need infrastructure. And yet you were saying earlier that there are people who do not realize its importance. Is this incompetence or premeditation?

DD: The impact is the same.

RC: Agreed. But to treat the problem you need the right diagnosis.

DD: That is the main issue. The technical explanation may as well be: Romania has committed to more than it can chew, it started several highway segments, corruption is rampart, endemic and they could not be completed. So if Romania handles better its resources, if there is less corruption, projects will succeed. The other type of arguments will make their way, too. I do not think that these types of arguments will not appear because some things are very difficult to explain and that feeds into the conspiracy theories. That is very risky, of course.

Alright, Romania is corrupt, it lacked a proper logistic thinking, it bit off more than it could chew, it did not complete some European corridors that it was supposed to build, but I doubt that this lack of strategic vision can be explained solely by that.

And again, this is not just about the Comarnic highway, this is first and foremost about Moldova. That is the major problem. That is where they bailed out. It is unacceptable to give up on that region by abandoning major infrastructure projects which could have drawn that region into a development centered on Romania.

Antonia Colibasanu: „Disintegration? That no. It may depend on us, but others, too, have a say in this.”

RC: We were talking about the dangers of a fragmented Europe and the recurrence of world wars. Given all these, do you foresee a danger in terms of Romania splitting up in the medium or long term?

AC: No.

RC: I am asking that because there are shifts that could raise questions. The economic gaps between the historic Romanian regions are growing – with the most obvious one between Transilvania and Moldova, we see political differences, Transilvania`s infrastructure is increasingly connected to the West and almost not at all connected to eastern or southern Romania. This is the context that makes me ask such a serious question.

AC: The reason that makes me answer with a definite “No” is historic. It all boils down to national cohesion. We are not a very old state, but not that new either. We have had 100 years of powerful cohesion. Secondly, if I apply the same model that I applied to other states, we have the Danube and the Black Sea. As the resurgent powers lie to the East, China, Turkey, Russia, commercial openness eastward is as important as westward. Our security and strategic development is also supported by the transatlantic thesis. And Romania has a strategic partnership with the US on the eastern fault line, first and foremost on military issues which also cover the Black Sea region.

Actually, Romania, given its geographic position, is doomed to be a regional growth center. And I will explain why. We talked about the Balkans, the threat and opportunity that the region represents for Europe. Under these circumstances we have a direct interest in having stability across the Balkans, including from the standpoint of the existing transatlantic alliance. The Black Sea connects us to the Caucasus and Central Asia, an area which is even more precarious than the Balkans, given the Sino-Russian relations. As a result we are at the crossroads of the great powers, and historically speaking, countries along fault lines sufficiently mature to have a strategic vision did not have the choice to put aside long-term security priorities for internal social and economic reasons.

Take the case of Germany. The tensions between Western Germany and Eastern Germany are higher between those between Transilvania, Moldova and Muntenia [southern Romania]. The economic models of West and East Germany are worlds apart. Social models are different as well. Will Germany split up? No.

RC: Yes… Romania as a regional power… It is a story that I have been hearing for a long time … I`m beginning to become skeptical … Beyond the academic talks on this topic, has Romania taken advantage of its geographic position? My answer is “No”. I have the feeling that right now there is an illusion that the military power of a country can be decoupled from its economic strength. The defense budget increases may be in vain if dodgy economic policies weaken the country. Sooner or later the military power will end up being aligned with the weak economy as it will simply no longer be possible to fund it.

AC: Correct.

RC: So I would say that our most important challenge is to be economically powerful as many other things will derive from that.

AC: I completely agree. But I want to be clear. Even if Romania does not see the opportunity to become a regional power, it will still be used as a connecting bridge. So it is up to us whether we will just want be used or we are more ambitious and grow into a power. But disintegration? That no. It may depend on us, but others, too, have a say in this. Nobody has such an interest right now. The eastern fault line can be stable only if Romania is powerful. And for Romania to be militarily powerful, it has first to be economically strong. And that requires a stable and coherent legal framework, coherent country strategies.

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