President of Romania

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 25 January 2006

Thank you very much, Mr President. Given that we have the presidency of the Committee of Ministers and that a translation from the Romanian language into the English and French languages is available, please allow me to use the Romanian language in my main speech. I will use the English language when I answer questions.

(The speaker continued in Romanian) (Interpretation) He said that it was a particular pleasure for him to address the Assembly and he thanked Mr van der Linden for the invitation. He had the honour of attending the summit of the Council of Europe in Warsaw in May 2005. He paid tribute to the Council of Europe in its service to democracy, human rights and the rule of law. It was the first completely open organisation to take into account the respect for human rights, freedom and democracy. It had played a major part in the unification of Europe. He referred to the words by Mr van der Linden: “We will not find any better, or more cost-effective, instrument to strengthen the unity of Europe based on common values, than the Council of Europe.”

In 1993, the Council of Europe had been the first organisation to recognise post-revolution Romania. In the last twelve years, the Assembly had witnessed the progress of democracy in Romania. As a result, Romania had a profound sense of attachment and duty to the Council of Europe. Both Romania and the Council of Europe had developed together and shared the European values of equal opportunities, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Those values were the foundations of Romanian politics. He felt a moral duty, as President, to future generations to continue the long history of co-operation with the Council of Europe.

Since Romania had become a member, the government, parliament, local authorities and civil society had acted with a democratic logic to integrate the standards of the Council of Europe. They had created democratic reflexes which functioned within Romanian society. Romania had ratified 85 Council of Europe conventions and signed 21 others. That consolidation of the standards and principles of the Council of Europe had helped in the process of accession to the European Union.

The Romanian model for recognising its minorities was recognised by others as very democratic. There were now 19 national minorities represented in the Romanian Parliament, including a Magyar representative. Romania’s neighbours Serbia, Ukraine and Hungary had not yet managed to achieve a similar recognition of their minorities. He thanked the Council of Europe for its support on the issue of schools in Transnistria where Romanian teachers and pupils were still subjected to discrimination. The issue still needed greater attention from the Council of Europe. Romanian orphanages had been the subject of great concern to various European bodies. With the assistance of the Council of Europe and other parties, the Romanian Government had now taken full responsibility for the status of children in the orphanages. The children in the orphanages were now given a chance to develop within family units. The reform of local government and the judiciary was under way, as was the integration of the Roma people. Those were all lines of action that had taken place as a result of the co-operation of the Council of Europe, as part of Romania’s ambition to achieve accession to the European Union.

Progress in Moldova, in the adoption of democratic stability and regional security, was a priority for Romania. However, the conflict in Transnistria was an obstacle to achieving progress. Transnistria held enclaves of crime and was home to oligarchs who made their own rules. He noted the ruling of the International Court of Human Rights that the Romanian prisoners Ilie Ilascu, Andrei Ivantoc and Tudor Petrov-Popa had been detained arbitrarily and said that they must be released in the near future. There was a great readiness to transform the Black Sea area under the principles of partnership and democracy and he was keen to help Moldova achieve that. The basis of the democratic acquis should be a road map for Moldova similar to that created by the European Parliament for the west Balkan region.

The Council of Europe was indeed a school for democracy. The democratic acquis of the Council of Europe should be amended to include the Euro-Atlantic community. The problems of ethnic intolerance and exclusion had marked the recent conflicts in the Caucasus and the Balkans. The Council of Europe had once again confirmed its unique status by assisting countries in that region. Romania would hold the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers and would aim for the implementation of the decisions of the Warsaw Summit. Romania counted on the support not only of all member states, but of their parliaments, governments and citizens

A security area should be created around the Black Sea to create a region of co-operation with the support of the Council of Europe, to help the democratisation of the area. Further reforms were needed at the domestic level, but there were serious challenges from the persistent conflicts in an area where international standards of law did not apply. Romania was supportive of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe’s project to create a European region of the Black Sea. During its chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, Romania would host the launch of the project, in March. Romania had invited governments, both local and regional, officials, civil society and regional and international organisations to the launch. There should be a political declaration expressing a permanent commitment to the consolidation and promotion of democracy and good governance.

Progress in the western Balkans was all part and parcel of the Euro-Atlantic integration project. Romania would work towards a dynamic and active policy in that field. Sustainable stability had to be based on tolerant societies. Romania’s experience would be added value for European organisations during the decision-making process on the union of Serbia and Montenegro and the future of Kosovo. Reforms had to be strengthened and the rule of law and freedom of the media established. Romania recognised the role of the Council of Europe in aiming to establish democracy in Kosovo.

Romania intended to include its neighbouring countries in its proposals for the future. Romania’s European perspective had been a catalyst for reform to ensure that Romania could join the European family. He pleaded with all organisations to create a European perspective for the Black Sea area, to create a region united by democratic principles. There was a difference in terms of geographical coverage and function between the institutions of Romania and those of the European Union, but they were pursuing the same objectives. Romania’s accession to the European Union would mark the end of its transition towards democracy and the conclusion of a grand historical project. That had been made possible by the Council of Europe.

Romania had striven to accede to the European Union. It had followed the calendar drawn up for that process. Romania was now closer than ever to its objectives, not just because it had met the deadlines, but because it had shown a genuine commitment to the process. Romania had launched an unprecedented fight against corruption. The police, justice system and home affairs department had made great strides under efficient and competent leaders. The reform process had sped up because Romania had no inhibitions and was open to new ideas. Accession would be achieved by bringing together a number of historical, political and legal institutions.

He concluded by delivering a personal message of thanks to the members of the Parliamentary Assembly for their help. Many had been of great assistance with the ratification of Romania’s accession treaty. He appealed to politicians from countries where the treaty had not yet been ratified for their support. The Council of Europe had been a longstanding partner of Romania and had greatly supported its transition to democracy. He was counting on this solidarity to reach future objectives. He hoped that he would soon address the Assembly as the head of state of a member country of the European Union. He thanked the members and President and invited questions.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Thank you very much, Mr Basescu, for your most interesting address. A number of members of the Assembly have expressed a wish to put questions to you. I remind them that questions must be limited to thirty seconds and that colleagues should ask questions and not make speeches.

I will allow supplementary questions only at the end and only if time permits. We will have to interrupt the questions at about 1 p.m. The first question is by Mrs Becerril on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

Mrs BECERRIL (Spain) (interpretation)

said that she appreciated the efforts made by Romania towards democratic reform. She asked whether the President believed that the fight against corruption in his country and the efforts to increase transparency were sufficient to meet the requirements of the European Union.

Mr Băsescu, President of Romania

Thank you for your question. Any politician will try to convince you with words that things are going well in a country such as Romania, but I will not argue with words. I ask you to check the joint report of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the World Bank of October 2005. It analysed 26 countries, some of them EU member states, others applicant countries. The report clearly states that in 2005 the business environment in Romania was very much improved and the level of corruption was very much diminished.

The figures in the EBRD/World Bank report show that Romania has less corruption in business compared to some member states and the document will convince you that corruption in Romania has diminished because of the government’s actions. The report compares the situation in Romania in 2002, when there was a high level of corruption in the business environment, to that in 2005 when, as the report shows, good progress was made by the Romanian authorities and the business community.

In addition, I guarantee that as President of Romania, together with the government and relevant politicians, we are really fighting against corruption. Last year, when we succeeded in giving justice an independent position as regards politicians and state structures, our success in the fight against corruption became evident. I invite you to visit Romania so that you can be much better informed.

Mr BENDER (Poland)

Your Excellency, your country, Romania, intends to join the European Union. Yesterday I asked this question of the Bulgarian Prime Minister so now I ask you: is the so-called European Constitution dead, or can it be resurrected?

Mr Băsescu, President of Romania

Romania is a supporter of a united Europe. We are confronted with the effects of the globalisation process and no one country in Europe will be able to face them if the European Union remains a simple market. Romania will support the constitutional treaty as soon as we become a member of the EU. As we have decided with the European Commission, on 1 January 2007 Romania will push for ratification of the constitutional treaty from our side.

We consider that a Europe without a constitutional treaty is condemned to remain a simple market, and thus unable to defend ourselves and to have a common foreign policy, and we will not be prepared to defend our citizens against the effects of globalisation. A united Europe with a constitutional treaty will be on the path of the globalisation process. If we are not united by a constitutional treaty we will be on the receiving end of the effects of that process. For that reason, Romania very much supports the constitutional treaty. Thank you.


I note that Mr Severinsen, a member of the Assembly who was a member of the convention and therefore part of the work on the constitution, is present. I call Mrs Hurskainen.

Mrs HURSKAINEN (Finland)

Mr President, what steps will Romania take to ensure that the Roma can live in an environment free from racism and discrimination? What will the state of Romania do to decrease the racial intolerance in the Romanian media?

Mr Băsescu, President of Romania

We have established a programme together with specialists from the European Commission, with the assistance of the Council of Europe, regarding the Roma minority. The programme started in 2001, and its objectives will have to be reached in 2010. We still have five years in which to implement the programme. We have special legislation dedicated to integrating the Roma minority into Romanian society. We allocate places to the Roma in all categories of school in Romania. Those places are specially reserved for the Roma.

At the same time, we organise special training for the Roma population through our employment agencies, so that the Roma can become integrated into our economy. A lot of steps have been taken. In addition, we have given considerable finances to the 2001-10 programme, which is dedicated to the Roma. I do not say that we are now at the stage of settling this problem, but there is a committee that checks discrimination against the Roma. Politicians, journalists and citizens who blame Roma only because they are Roma are immediately fined and their names are made public. We are convinced that we have a set of rules that allows us to expect that the Roma will experience no problems in Romania by 2010.

Mr KOSACHEV (Russian Federation)

Mr President, my question deals with the forthcoming deployment of American military personnel to bases in Romanian territory. How can that be combined with the provisions of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe and the commitments of NATO member states on arms control, particularly in respect of the commitment not to deploy substantial combat forces in the territory of the new members of the alliance?

Mr Băsescu, President of Romania

Thank you very much. The deployment of American military personnel to facilities on Romanian territory is in full accordance with the international legislation under which Romania, the Russian Federation and the United States and European Union countries operate. In addition, I can guarantee to you that the deployment of American forces on Romanian territory is not against any country. We are looking first of all to protect democracy and our safety. As President of Romania, I am looking out for the security of my country. Perhaps this is not the right moment to say this, but in February 2005, I personally spoke to the head of the Russian Federation, and the answer was that we respect all international obligations related to the deployment of American military personnel to facilities in Romania on the Black Sea coast.

I understand that you represent the Russian Federation, sir. You stayed for thirty years in Romania, and we never asked you why you stayed.

Mr NÉMETH (Hungary)

Mr President, a Hungarian community of 1.5 million people, along with other minorities, live in Romania, and those people are striving for all forms of autonomy. The ruling coalition adopted a government programme to reflect a commitment to adopt a law on national minorities and to establish a legal framework for cultural autonomy. In an unexpected surprise, a few weeks ago, the senate rejected the draft. What is your position, Mr President, on granting cultural autonomy to minority communities in Romania?

Mr Băsescu, President of Romania

Thank you very much. I will not give you a lot of arguments about the minorities in Romania, but I will give you a few examples. In Romania, the minorities can use their language in the judicial system. In Romania, the minorities can use their own language in the schools. We have found 19 minorities in Romania, and all 19 are represented in parliament. In Romania, we have three full government ministers from those minorities. In Romania, in areas where 20% of people come from the minorities, the local administration is obliged to ensure that documents and local decisions are presented in Romanian and in the minority language.

Romania has one of the most modern systems of laws to protect minorities. However, we have a problem that involves a debate in the political class regarding cultural autonomy. We have definitely tried to find examples from among other EU member states that show how that cultural autonomy can be granted in conditions where people are free to use Hungarian, Ukrainian and all the minority languages, even in the justice system, and the judge is obliged to provide a person from a minority with a translator who can translate from that minority language into the official Romanian language. We have not found a model showing such laws in Europe. I kindly ask you whether you have such a model. If you have one, I will consider it and we will find a solution that is used in other European countries. Thank you.


Thank you. I think our colleague Mr Gross will provide you with some information. I call Mr Rochebloine. Yes, Mr Mooney?

Mr MOONEY (Ireland)

On a point of order, Mr President. I am sorry to interrupt. My name is on the list of speakers but you passed me over.


I am sorry, Mr Mooney. You arrived late, but I will call you later. I call Mr Rochebloine.

Mr ROCHEBLOINE (France) (translation)

Mr President, do you think Romania is really ready to join the European Union on the scheduled date of 1 January 2007 and in what areas could co-operation with European states sharing the values of democracy pave the way for your membership? What do you expect of France in particular? Perhaps you could answer in French, a widely used language in your country.

Mr Băsescu, President of Romania

I am afraid that I will not answer in French. What does the French language mean for Romania? Many Romanians know French. This year, a francophone summit will be held in Bucharest, and it will be attended by 63 francophone countries. French language and culture are part of our culture. France has contributed to our culture, and Brancusi created many monuments in Paris. Many Romanians pursue creative activities in France. I hope that that answer satisfies you. I regret that I am not a French speaker, because I was a captain in the merchant navy and English is the language that can save you.


Thank you, but I believe that French speakers will also be saved. I call Mr Mooney.

Mr MOONEY (Ireland)

I appreciate your indulgence, Mr President. My question is about the media and the concern expressed by media organisations and people with a belief in, and commitment to, the fundamental democratic right of freedom of expression, free of political interference, across Europe and in Romania. Can the president provide assurances that he will act on the recommendations by various bodies, including a parliamentary committee of the Romanian Parliament, that political interference at editorial level in the broadcast and other media will cease forthwith? There is a possible threat to Romania’s entry into the EU in 2007 unless there is action on that basic and fundamental human right.

Mr Băsescu, President of Romania

I can give an example from today’s Romanian newspapers, where I am criticised on the front page. They are therefore free to do whatever they want. To be serious, we consider freedom of the press an essential part of democracy. There was a time when the media were controlled by government publicity. I have the relevant dates. When the present government came to power in December 2004 it did not issue any publicity based on affinities with one or another newspaper or television channel. It is our objective to keep the media free and we will do so by approving freedom of expression for all Romanians, including journalists. Since the new government came to power it has not taken any action against journalists, who are free to say whatever they want. We are free to give our own explanation when they are not right. That is the simple philosophy that we apply.

In addition, to extend the concept of freedom of expression in Romania, may I invite you to see how free we are? Sometimes, freedom of expression creates certain images but we are happy to accept the cost of an excess of freedom, which is preferable to trying to control freedom of expression in any area of Romanian society.


Thank you. I shall call two more speakers, including Mr Preda.

Mr PREDA (Romania)

The President of Romania already answered the question I was going to ask in his address.

Mr CUBREACOV (Moldova)

Mr President, you have made an essential contribution to stronger relations between Romania and the Republic of Moldova, two Council of Europe member states which share the same history, culture and civilisation and were separated in 1940 following the signature of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union. How do you envisage the future for relations between our two countries in the perspective of Romania’s membership of the European Union next year, bearing in mind that the border of the Union will once again separate our two brother countries?

Mr Băsescu, President of Romania

As you know, we have publicly declared that we support the integration of the Republic of Moldova sooner or later in the European Union. We regard that process as the only solution to reunify the Romanian nation inside the EU. Like all Romanians I was very proud when Germany succeeded in its reunification, and we have been offered a chance by the European institutions to be together in the EU and reunify the Romanian nation. That is Romanians’ warmest wish and we will not hesitate to support the integration of the Republic of Moldova in any European institution.

As you can see from my intervention, a solution is to include the Republic of Moldova in a road map such as the one used for countries in the western Balkans. If we were to forget a small country such as Moldova with 4 million citizens and with only a small land mass on the EU-NATO border, the position would be more difficult for Ukraine, which is a bigger country. We should not forget Moldova, and we should give it the same prospects for integration as Ukraine. The obligation on Romanian citizens and the Romanian nation to try to reunify Romania inside the European Union is a historic one, as no one asked us when the Ribbentrop–Molotov pact was signed.


We must now conclude the questions to Mr Basescu. On behalf of the Assembly, I thank him most warmly for his address and for the answers he has given to questions. I know him as a frank, forward-going politician, and he made that clear in his answers. We expect strong chairmanship of Romania in the coming months and good co-operation with the Assembly.