Prime Minister of Romania

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 30 September 2003

Mr President, distinguished Members of the Assembly, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure for me to be in the Parliamentary Assembly Chamber. May I firstly thank Mr Peter Schieder, President of the Assembly, and his colleagues for their kind invitation to address this gathering of democrats which represents the very essence of the European spirit.

In January 2001, I had the honour of addressing the Assembly from this very platform shortly after taking on the office of Prime Minister. On that occasion I bade farewell to my parliamentary colleagues at the Council of Europe and paid tribute to the Assembly for its outstanding services to democracy and the rule of law. Today, I would like to share with you some thoughts about the past and the future, starting with an overview of the current situation.

On 7 October, Romania will celebrate the tenth anniversary of its accession to the Council of Europe. During those ten years, the Council has changed its face, increasing in size from thirty-three members at the 1993 Vienna Summit to forty-five members today. The pan-European vocation of this unique organisation, which strives to promote the values and principles of democracy, the rule of law and human rights, has been confirmed on more than one occasion by events on our continent. The European Union and Nato are going through an historic process of enlargement. Throughout this, the Council of Europe has been a unifying force, founded on essential democratic principles and values, and it will continue to play this important role in the future.

Ladies and gentlemen, the presence of Romanian parliamentarians within this Assembly has made a great impression on a whole political generation in Romania, with undeniable consequences for the construction of a democratic state. Since the end of the cold war, Romania has played an active part in the initiatives that have marked the development of the European architecture. It has also been an actor in, and subject of, democratic changes associated with that development. In today’s Romanian society, fully integrated into the European model, the role and activities of the Council of Europe have enormous significance.

Promoting democratic stability at regional and pan-European levels by means of internal political stability is another aspect of the Council of Europe’s work in which Romania is now a trustworthy partner.

Back in the early 1990s, when eastward expansion began, the Council of Europe demonstrated its ability to strengthen the continent’s security and stability through international dialogue and reconciliation. It is particularly in this area that the legal instruments, standards and mechanisms developed by the Council of Europe have proved valuable and effective.

Romania is currently entering a new cycle of the institutional reforms which have marked our passage from a country in transition to an established democracy, as reflected in Romania’s new status in Europe and in the Euro-Atlantic context.

The Council of Europe has long given its support to Romania. I wish to restate that it has been, and remains, a vital partner in the institutional reforms begun in the early 1990s. Its most telling contribution was to help draft our constitution in 1991. During Romania’s ten years as a Council of Europe member, our leading political and social protagonists – the government, parliament, local authorities and civil society – have based their action on the democratic principles defended by the Council of Europe. Our institutional reforms, which deal mainly with the justice system, home affairs and administration, are intrinsically linked to our assimilation of the democratic standards promoted by the Council of Europe.

We are not only regulating matters by setting standards, but also nurturing real democratic instincts in individuals and in society as a whole. This autumn, Romanian citizens will vote, in a referendum, on a draft revised constitution, adapted with a view to Romania’s future status as a member of the European Union. I would like to thank the experts of the Venice Commission for their help with this fundamental act, which is vital to Romania’s accession to the European Union.

As far as increasing our administrative capacity is concerned, we believe that decentralisation is necessary, since it helps to bring the citizen closer to the decision-making process. However, the experiences of other states, such as France, show that “transverse” reform is, by its very nature, difficult to implement, that devolution of powers must be accompanied by a transfer of resources and that a decentralising fundamentalism should not be allowed to emerge.

The Romanian authorities have already launched a national debate on this subject, tapping into the expertise of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe in order to set out a medium-term policy in this area.

Bringing state institutions and citizens closer together is a fundamental objective for our country. This process is particularly important in the reform of the justice system where legislation and judicial and administrative practices are concerned. Ten years after Romania ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, we can see a genuine increase in the degree of assimilation of the Convention’s principles, as expressed in the European standards constituted by the Court’s case-law.

We decided very recently to transfer the post of government agent from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. This decision brings Romania into line with other institutional models of this kind, giving the Ministry for Foreign Affairs direct responsibility for communication with the Court, while allowing the Ministry of Justice and other institutions to concentrate fully on the implementation of the Court’s decisions and on the legislative and judicial reforms which might prove necessary.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a definite link between the democratic achievements of each Council of Europe member state and the democratic stability of the region of Europe as a whole. The same may be said in respect of the question of minorities.

The Council of Europe has undeniably made efforts to resolve the problem of minorities at European level and to regulate human rights issues. Many of you in this Chamber are already familiar with the Assembly debates that resulted in the adoption of the Jurgens report. The Council of Europe and the Venice Commission have made a tremendous contribution by confirming the Council’s standards in respect of minorities, while distancing themselves from certain conceptual proposals that are incompatible with these.

A few days ago, I was visited in Bucharest by Mr Peter Medgyessy, Prime Minister of Hungary. On that occasion, we signed a bilateral agreement on the conditions for the application of the law on the status of Hungarian minorities in neighbouring countries. This was an important and symbolic moment, illustrating both countries’ willingness to engage in dialogue and take responsibility. The Venice Commission, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities were able to gauge the fair balance struck on the difficult issues covered by this agreement. We can therefore acclaim it as a shared success which reveals the political and democratic conscience of Europe.

One European Commissioner told me we both deserved a Nobel Prize. Although that is a little farfetched, I would like to mention here the excellent relations between Romania and Hungary, because I think they constitute a success at European level, as I am sure Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy will confirm the day after tomorrow. The conclusion of this agreement is an important diplomatic victory for both Romania and Hungary. Together we have won yet another battle for Europe’s benefit.

Europe’s stability and security are at risk when human rights and minority rights are under threat. This is clear to see if we look around us at the conflicts and crises that have torn apart the Balkans and the Caucasus. Ethnic intolerance, discrimination and hatred were behind much of this violence. Every person belonging to a minority deserves equal attention and, consequently, equal treatment from the states of which they are citizens. Democracy can be based only on this approach.

As you probably know, several million Romanians live outside Romania’s borders. Very soon, we will be promoting draft legislation intended to support them and to preserve and affirm their cultural and linguistic identity in accordance with the standards enshrined in the relevant European and international instruments.

(The speaker continued in English) I continue by highlighting some of Romania’s priorities. The Council of Europe’s contribution to Romania’s implementation of the Copenhagen political criteria of the European Union is invaluable. Justice and home affairs are other fields of excellence in which Council of Europe expertise and long-term co-operation with Romania have borne fruit. Issues such as reform of public administration, local democracy, justice reform, social cohesion including child protection and the integration of Roma, are part of our day-to-day activities with the Council of Europe.

On the Roma question, we believe that a European solution from a social perspective is the most beneficial approach for the Roma themselves. We strongly support the Council of Europe’s actions on that and are encouraged by its Parliamentary Assembly’s proposal in Resolution 1123 of 1997. We have led a sustained information and awareness-raising campaign to educate the population to prevent an upsurge in racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance. The institution of the people’s advocate – the ombudsman – plays an important part in defending the rights and freedoms of the people who apply to it and helps to raise the awareness of such issues in Romanian society.

Romania’s central objective is to join the European Union. We aim to conclude our negotiations in 2004 and are working hard to prepare Romania for joining in 2007. I followed with interest the recent joint meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament on building one Europe – namely, one Europe of values. The Council of Europe and, in particular, the Assembly have reaffirmed their role as the driving force in promoting new ideas for European reflection. Romanians are glad to join in the effort made in all European forums at all levels.

Romania has contributed to the debates on the future of Europe in the European Convention. The draft European constitution incorporates Romania’s views, and it should shape the Union, which is a political entity supported by a platform of values shared by Europe’s citizens and states. Romania believes that the work of the European Convention should not be unravelled. Certain aspects need clarification, but renegotiating the document that will result from the work of representatives of national governments and parliaments and European institutions is not the way to achieve that.

The European Union’s growing political weight should also be reflected on the international scene. Europe has a responsibility to contribute to the management of globalisation on an ethical basis, while promoting its economic and social development. A stronger Europe, speaking with a unified voice, capable of playing a global role commensurate with its economic strengths and cultural and political heritage, and taking on increased security responsibilities in a Euro-Atlantic partnership, is central to world peace and the management of global issues.

I can tell you, dear colleagues, that we are convinced that the debate on the future of Europe calls for the third Council of Europe summit to define the future role of the Organisation in the new context. We are waiting to make an active contribution to its preparation. We are convinced that the Council of Europe’s location in the field of democracy, the rule of law and human rights will remain an essential argument for the Organisation’s pan-European action.

The Council of Europe should have a more ambitious role in making sure that those values are applied in all member states. Complementary to the international efforts to combat terrorism, the Council of Europe can expand its role in promoting the values of democracy and advancing multicultural and interreligious dialogue. That is a field of further investigation in which Romania can share.

The problem of reform of the European Court of Human Rights needs real solutions. We are interested in shaping a unitary European vision in the field of human rights, and we welcome the idea of incorporating the European Convention of Human Rights in the future European constitution.

Together with the Committee of Ministers and Assembly, the action of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe has been central to the development of democracy and local governance throughout the continent. We fully encourage that trend, which is instrumental in developing the European principle of subsidiarity. Together with the principles of legitimacy and democratic accountability, transparency in governance has greatly benefited from the involvement of civil society.

We believe that as a nation, historically part of Europe, Romania is a pillar of the system of values and principles underlying the European project: democracy, respect for citizens’ rights and liberties, justice and social equity, tolerance, solidarity within and among nations and a spirit of responsibility towards the next generation. As a consolidated democracy, firmly anchored in the European construction, Romania is committed to contributing to European and international development.

Becoming a member of Nato and the European Union will demand that we take on increased responsibilities. Romania’s capacity for managing major security and stability issues in Europe has already been proved by the successful Romanian chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe in 2001. Romania will continue to promote the pan-European location of the Council of Europe. We can achieve that by means of our bilateral relations with countries in eastern and South-eastern Europe and the Caucasus. We will act in the same spirit during Romania’s presidency of the South-east European cooperation process in 2004.

The Romanian Government is focused on developing stronger relations with all neighbouring countries, and it strongly supports the efforts for future EU membership of the countries of the western Balkans. We also encourage the European destiny of Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, whose ongoing chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers has been an asset to the Organisation.

I have seen the extremely varied agenda of the current session. Allow me to add a few words about the United Nations. As a candidate for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council in 2004-2005, we want to see a strengthening of the United Nations’ central role in coordinating worldwide efforts towards democracy. The United Nations remains an indispensable institution for governments. The main priority of Romania’s future mandate in the Security Council will be to contribute to a common approach by the United States and Europe to the security and development problems in the larger Middle East, from the Mediterranean, through the Black Sea, towards central Asia, with a view to combating the threat of terrorism and organised crime. Equally important to us will be sharing the experience of Romanian transition with developing countries in search of solutions to problems such as poverty, access to education and economic development.

I want to pay tribute today to the vital role that the Council of Europe has played in the democratic development of Romania. The success of Romania’s path to democracy is also a success of the Council of Europe. In spite of many difficulties and obstacles, some of which still challenge us today, Romania has proved that it has become a solid European pillar on which the community of democratic nations can count.

The time has come for us to repay the investment made by the democratic community of the Council of Europe in Romania’s democratic stability by sharing our experience with other European countries in transition. We believe that we have reached our point of destination on the path to democracy, which has been long and strewn with difficulties. We have benefited from the support of many friends, and many of them are, or were, members of the Parliamentary Assembly.

I confess that in spirit I have remained a member of this forum. I say that because of all the years in which we strove to uphold the values and principles of the Council of Europe in all our political actions, and to translate them into the daily lives of the citizens whom we represent. The Europe that we are building should be based on shared European values and goals, respect for diversity and a culture of solidarity.

Out of the experience of extraordinary transformations as well as the terrible disasters and conflicts that the European continent has suffered, a new European vision must prevail. It must be based on a greater sense of common purpose and equal opportunities for nations and citizens alike. It is the Council of Europe’s vocation to unite our efforts and allow that generous European vision to prevail. Dear friends, thank you for your attention.


Thank you very much, Mr Nastase, for your most interesting address, which touched on all the points of interest of the Assembly and showed that you are not only following the work of the Council of Europe and the Assembly but playing an active part and being a real partner.

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 no more. Colleagues should be asking questions and not making speeches. I will group together questions referring to the same content. I will allow supplementary questions only at the end and only if time permits.

The first question is by Mr Eörsi.

Mr EÖRSI (Hungary)

It is good to have you back here, Prime Minister. As a former colleague and a current friend, you are aware of how important symbols are in politics. I appreciate your words about Hungarian-Romanian relations, but a new problem has emerged in relation to the freedom statute. I understand that it was interpreted differently by Romania 150 years ago, but what is the problem today in restoring the freedoms that are so important for the Hungarian minority?

Mr Nastase, Prime Minister of Romania

Thank you for that important question, Mr Eorsi. Every time something is settled, it seems that a new problem arises. I am glad that we are now discussing a statute, not the status law. The status law has been settled. We have just signed the conditions of application. For two and half years we tried to bring the legal framework into accordance with European standards. In Romania, we try to understand the philosophy for the promotion and protection of the rights of minorities and we have done a lot. The fact that my government is a product of parliamentary support from the Hungarian Party is proof that we have done a lot. The new constitution includes important elements to satisfy European standards, including the possibility of using minority languages in the administration or the judiciary.

We are also working on building a highway between Bucharest and Budapest, because European integration does not mean only ideas and concepts. It also means physical integration, and the highway will be extremely important. We have built a partnership with the Hungarian Government for co-operation in the twenty-first century, but there are still problems dating back to the nineteenth century that have to be addressed. In 1925, the Romanian Government – which was liberal – agreed, with the Romanian Parliament, that the statute, which was agreed at the end of the nineteenth century, had a special, revisionist significance. In fact, that was not exactly the case, but that was the significance of the statute. It was not the problem of the thirteen generals who were executed by the Hapsburgs at the time, during the revolution of 1848. That is why the statute has significance for Romanians, and not only for the Hungarian minority. The fact that the statute is to be reinstated in Romania, not Hungary, means that Romanian sensitivities must also be taken into account.

We understand, however, that as we have worked for the status law, we also have to find a compromise on the statute. My party is working with the Hungarian Party in Romania to find a compromise solution by December. I am optimistic and I think that we will succeed. Nevertheless, the Council of Europe will have to address another issue that might become an interesting topic that is the question of double; citizenship based on ethnicity. I have an advance message on that issue because we might have to wait two years again after new regulations are approved by national parliaments to decide whether it accords with European standards. Let us concentrate on European citizenship and European projects, and not return to the nineteenth century. Let us work in the twenty-first century for this generation and the next, for Romanian and Hungarians.

Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom)

There is an unfortunate trend in some Orthodox countries for their parliaments to support legislation that would restrict freedom of worship to the so-called traditional religions, which would of course be contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. Can you give us an assurance that your government would not advocate or support such legislation in your parliament?

Mr Nastase, Prime Minister of Romania (translation)

We have worked together for a long time on this subject, including as rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly on the question of the sects. We have discussed the issue here and in various commissions. I can reassure you that future regulation of the freedom of religion in Romania will take European standards fully into account.

Ms DURRIEU (France)

Prime Minister, Romania has been a member of the Council of Europe for a decade. You have many partners and friends here. You said that the Council of Europe is the very essence of the European spirit. Can you describe to us the shape of this future Europe in terms of common policy and shared security?

Mr Nastase, Prime Minister of Romania (translation)

Thank you very much for your question, Ms Durrieu. I am someone who believes in Europe’s historic vocation. It was important for it to reunite, but work still needs to be done. Romania and Bulgaria should become members of the European Union by 2007.

A Europe which already boasts a common trade policy and a single currency used by most of its members, and which is planning to appoint its own Foreign Affairs Minister, cannot play a global role unless it develops its security policy and its international relations.

A European constitution is bound to reflect national balances of power and interests. I firmly believe in a united Europe which is not only economically powerful, but can also play a global role through common foreign, defence and security policies.


Thank you. The next two questions refer to issues of autonomy, and I will take them together. The first question is from Mr Gedei.

Mr GEDEI (Hungary)

What is the will and judgment of your government in the issue of the application and management of autonomy in Romania in the land of Szekler?

Mr ÉKES (Hungary) (translation)

Thank you. Prime Minister, my question concerns the same issue. Andreas Gross’ report is about autonomy for minorities. How do you see the possibility of making this part of regional policy in Romania? My second question concerns the return of church property. How much progress have you achieved on this? Thank you.

Mr Nastase, Prime Minister of Romania (translation)

Autonomy is a complex concept. We should first define what we mean by autonomy, ambiguities in the use of the concept have made it possible for different people to give different answers.

Let me clarify what I mean by the concept of autonomy. In one sense, it is the relationship between central government and local communities. We have the concept of administrative autonomy and the Romanian Government fully supports the decentralisation process. Agreeing with me are colleagues who represent local communities and they can testify to the fact that we are transferring many powers from central government to local communities.

By “local community”, I mean a community that is made up of Hungarians, Romanians, Germans or whatever nationality. That is why I cannot accept the concept of ethnic autonomy as the reflection of the concept of the collective rights of minorities. I am against that. As I have been asked how I see things, I must answer directly. I do not consider that an ethnic community should have autonomy in terms of deciding public issues. On the contrary, I consider that individual cultural identity and religious freedom for minorities should be encouraged according to European standards by any government in Europe. That is what we are doing, and that is how we have managed to adapt our legislation – we have perhaps done better than some other European governments – according to European standards. I hope that that example will be followed in some of our neighbouring countries.

That is the best way to address the problem of ethnicity at a time when we want to get together in a European space. We do not want communities to disintegrate; we want to integrate our communities in a larger global European community. That is why the concept of autonomy should always be developed as a kind of philosophy by which decisions are brought closer to the citizens but without creating splits or enclaves inside existing countries.

I am sure that the Romanian minority in Hungary and the Hungarian minority in Romania will have the same standards that will enable them to continue to exist with their rich cultural and spiritual values.

On the second question, the problem of the restitution of religious and other properties is linked to the overall issues in Romania and the other transition countries that would repair, restore and recreate another environment for the status of property. That is not easy. For decades, measures were taken by the communist states in the region to modify or change the status of property.

We are also taking measures for the restitution of agricultural land, forestry and real estate and to privatise the assets of the state. However, the restitution of religious property is more difficult because, in Romania, those assets do not belong to the state. That is why it has been very difficult to reach compromises. Those compromises are beginning to take place at a local level. However, the state and the Romanian Government always try to encourage such settlements, and the Minister for Culture, who is accompanying me, could provide you with many examples where this has been done. We must continue to deal with our legacy and to reach final settlements in Romania and other transition countries.

Mr MIGNON (France) (translation)

Prime Minister, may I start by saying what a pleasure it is to see you in this Chamber again; it brings back fond memories of when we fought side by side to bring your country into the Council of Europe.

The opening of Romania’s European Union accession process, which I, like my colleagues, hope will take place soon, will once again raise the problem of emigration from and transit through your country. How is Romania currently preparing for this, and what bilateral and multilateral co-operation is currently under way to deal in a concerted manner with the problems associated with population movements, which affect other countries as well as your own?

Mr Nastase, Prime Minister of Romania (translation)

Thank you, Mr Mignon, for your comments and your question, which gives me an opportunity to speak about a subject that, like all human questions, has both positive and negative aspects.

It is true that, after the fall of communism, Romanian governments abolished the need for a visa to travel abroad. However, Romanians encountered a new wall on the other side of our country’s borders. Only two years ago, they were still unable to travel in Europe. They needed visas. It was all rather difficult! For the past two years, there has been great enthusiasm to discover Europe. This year, almost four million Romanians have visited other countries. Most also returned home afterwards.

As you know, there are some exceptional circumstances. We have to explain to our people that they can travel and, thanks to existing agreements, accept shortterm employment in European Union countries, but that they should not create problems for our friends. Otherwise, public opinion in those countries may turn against Romania. We believe it is essential to take steps to change Romanians’ attitudes so that they can understand what is going on in Europe and recognise their responsibilities.

I think you will agree that most Romanians do not create problems in the countries they visit. However, for those who do not accept the unwritten rules, we have signed bilateral repatriation agreements – with France, for example – under which those who break the law and create problems can be returned to Romania. In addition, police officers at our embassies co-operate with the interior ministries of the European Union member states.

We are therefore aware of the responsibilities of the Romanian Government and authorities towards our partners and friends who agree to accept Romanian nationals without a visa. We are currently trying to discuss potential problems in detail with each individual country. Last weekend, for example, a large proportion of Romanians who were trying to leave the country were held back at the border, because we wanted to send out a clear message about the individual responsibilities of those who travel to other European countries.

We know that European Union countries would like to separate the good eggs from the bad. For example, young computer specialists are welcome in most European countries, but others are less welcome. We understand this and are also trying to help the European economy in this respect. I hope that our European friends will agree that we are trying to do what is necessary to avoid problems for their countries.


Thank you. The next two questions deal with South-eastern Europe, so I shall put them together. I first call Ms Petrova-Mitevska.

Ms PETROVA-MITEVSKA (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”)

Prime Minister, your country is to assume the presidency of the South-east Europe Co-operation Process next year. The process is a significant and authentic regional initiative of which Romania, as well as the Republic of Macedonia, are founders and in which we actively promote co-operation. What will be Romania’s priorities during its chairmanship of the process?

Mr KIRILOV (Bulgaria)

It is an honour to address a Prime Minister and former colleague. My question is very short. For the first time, all countries of South-eastern Europe are moving towards integration in the European Union. How do you assess the average speed of that move? I of course have in mind the western Balkans as well.

Mr Nastase, Prime Minister of Romania

It is our duty not only to establish bilateral relations between each country in South-eastern Europe and Brussels and Strasbourg, but to develop a sense of regional solidarity. We must be aware that we shall add value not only by what we are doing in our own countries but as a result of what happens throughout the region. That is why our chairmanship will try to focus on the need for a platform of co-operation in the integration of the region as a whole. We must try to help to develop a network of economic and political relations. The region is at peace now, but, as you know, there are still a few vulnerable points with which we must deal. So, greater political dialogue will be beneficial. We encourage such an approach. That is why our presidency will be important.

We will also try to help the Republic of Moldova to become a fully-fledged member of the South East Europe Co-operation Process. It is important to bring together the whole region in order to participate in a European effort towards integration and democratic development.

Mr Kirilov, it is a great pleasure for me to be back here and to meet old friends. It is also a pleasure to discover that Romania and Bulgaria have succeeded in recent years in understanding that a common approach on various issues can be more efficient than competition to see who is the best in the class. We have learned that lesson throughout the Nato exercise. We have begun to establish better co-operation. I congratulate you and your colleagues, Mr Kirilov, as well as my colleagues, for recognising that, in terms of parliamentary relations, it is the right time to support our two governments.

On regional co-operation, as you know, priorities in today’s world differ between one area and another. During the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, many promises were made. The Stability Pact seemed to be a very effective Marshall Plan-type instrument. Afterwards, the Afghanistan conflict became a priority – then the Middle East and then Iraq. We must acknowledge that the people responsible for solving the problems in our region are ourselves. That is why we must continue to work together to find the necessary resources, to establish a regional infrastructure and to connect our energy networks. All those things will bring added value for us in our relations with other parts of Europe. That is why I am very much in favour of promoting relationships such as that we enjoy with Hungary. If you look at the economic figures, you will see the encouraging results of such a philosophy.


Thank you. I shall put together the final two questions as both concern Moldova. I call Mr Neguta to ask the first question.

Mr NEGUTA (Moldova) (translation)

Prime Minister, at your meeting with the ambassadors in Bucharest, you said that Romania did not want to conclude a basic treaty with Moldova. Is Romania prepared to sign such an agreement with Moldova, as it has with its neighbours, Hungary, Bulgaria and Ukraine?


The second question is from Mr Rakhansky. He does not appear to be present.

Mr KLYMPUSH (Ukraine)

Mr President...


It is not possible for you to ask a question. You are not Mr Rakhansky. Perhaps I can help the Assembly. Mr Rakhansky’s question would have concerned the fund for links with the Republic of Moldova, and the Prime Minister is kind enough to answer that question as well. I call Mr Nastase.

Mr Nastase, Prime Minister of Romania (translation)

It is important to understand that the philosophy behind these treaties dates back to the period immediately after the end of communism. At that time, the east European countries, which were in transition, wanted to define their relations with the countries of western Europe and with their neighbours. That time has now passed. Most of the treaties mentioned were signed in the immediate aftermath of the 1989-91 period. Can you imagine France deciding to sign political treaties with Denmark, or Belgium with Italy? It is no longer necessary, or so it seems to me.

Romania might perhaps have signed such an agreement with the Republic of Moldova in 1991 or 1992. I was Minister for Foreign Affairs at that time, and I can remember proposing a text which was rejected by the Republic of Moldova. Ten years have since passed; our relations are based on the principles of international law. Romania was the first to recognise Moldova’s independence, and we did sign a border agreement with Moldova. I see no point in signing new bilateral agreements with Moldova, except in relation to specific co-operation projects, such as cultural, economic or other types of exchange.

On the other hand, we have suggested signing a joint declaration on a European partnership, since Romania and the Republic of Moldova both find themselves in a European environment as members of European institutions, and both must respect the relevant principles.

Moving on to the second question, the fact that a Ukrainian parliamentarian is enquiring about the fund set up for co-operation projects between Romania and the Republic of Moldova clearly shows that there is an interest in regional affairs. This fund was created at a time which I will not go into now; we need to look at how it operates.

We worked on the basis of the Hungarian model, setting up a department to help Romanians living abroad. The fund is to be used by this department, channelled through non-governmental organisations. Since it was set up with Romanian money, I cannot understand why it should be managed jointly by the Romanian and Moldovan governments. Since the fund comprises Romanian taxpayers’ money, we should be accountable only to the Romanian public. However, I repeat that if we are talking about projects which, like those set up by most countries in the region, are designed to help our citizens outside our national borders, action will be taken – on the basis of another model approved by the Council of Europe – through a department dealing directly with this matter, as well as via NGOs which will allocate the money to very specific projects.


We now conclude the questions to the Prime Minister. I thank him most warmly for his address and for the answers that he has given.

Please also accept on this occasion, Mr Nastase, the Assembly’s best wishes for 7 October, the tenth anniversary of your membership of the Council of Europe. I thank you, the ministers and the delegation for coming to the Assembly.