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15.10.2001 Adrian Nastase, Romanian pääministeri: Romania and the challenges of the 21st century

Adrian Nastase, Prime Minister of Romania
Romania and the challenges of the 21st century
23.10.2001

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Distinguished Colleagues,

It gives me particular pleasure to be the guest today of the Paasikivi Institute, named after one of the greatest statesmen of Finland and an outstanding promoter of international peace.

The visit of our delegation is intended to give a fresh impetus to Romanian-Finnish bilateral relations. Not only at a governmental level, but also in the co-operation of our business, academic and civil society communities. Our meeting today is equally an excellent opportunity to launch a joint debaté on the new challenges of the 21st century. As these are challenges that affect all of us, I think it is essential for us to be able to share views, find a common language and develop coordinated approaches. Beyond our individual characteristics, only a joint effort to identify, understand and respond to such challenges can be successful.

We have selected as the subject of this discussion Romania and the Challenges of the 21st Century, so as to try and explain our analysis and preoccupations, as well as to suggest practical lines for action.

There are in my view a series of issues and major questions that will inevitably shape our future and therefore need to be addressed.

1. Beyond the horizon of transition. The synchronisation of the Romanian society with global developments

The first question, and an extremely difficult one, is how to synchronise the transition processes in the East European countries with the ongoing transformations in the global economic system, how to reconnect ourselves to the current cycle of modernisation, how in other words to shoot ahead in this process.

To make myself clear, allow me to digress a little. As we all know, the development of states, including the East European states, has been remarkably uneven, as was the pace of their historical evolution towards a moderm society. Romania is no exception. Starting with the 17th century, we have embarked on a succession of projects for modernisation, none of which has been brought to achievement as unfortunately the slings and arrows of history, wars and dictatorships always seemed to come in our way.

This historical lagging behind the more developed zones, where modernisation went at full speed, has gradually accrued. Any comparative analysis of economic and social dynamics will give an accurate picture of how this gap developed.

The transition begun after 1989 had several clear-cut objectives: on the one hand, democratisation and the reconstruction of the rule of law institutions. On the other, the economic dimension, focused on reform and privatisation, or shifting the structure of ownership from a overwhelmingly state controlled one to a largely private one. As it should have been expected, the two dimensios of transition have not kept pace with each other. Instituting the rule of law has been rather smooth and rapid and we are now in process of consolidating it, while the economic transition has been tortuous, slow and had more mixed results. This is because every state had its own starting point, different advantages or disadvantages, specific approach, but also because the international environment influenced every state in quite different ways.

Romania and its Government have set themselves as a major objective to complete the process of economic transition as soon as possible, that is, to be able to the have the Romanian economy operating by 2004 within the framework of a functional market. I think we are doing all our best to attain this objective, in both the legislative component and the transfer of ownership towards the private sector and its subsequent consolidation.

Completing the transition, however, will not in itself solve the more difficult problem, that of bridging the gap separating us from the core of the developed world. For almost ten years, we have striven to "de-construct" the state control in the economy, which had proven its utter lack of effectiveness. But in the meantime the developed world has also evolved and transformed itself. Just think what tremendous changes we have witnessed in the economic sphere, or in communications, over these last decade. Think of the information society, the e-commerce, the upsurge of the Internet.

Our fundamental problem therefore is to find the means to become synchronised with precisely this kind of development, to overhaul both our economy and society so as to make them compatible with the global dynamics in real time.

I believe the solution is to be found in a vision for the posttransition development. Such a vision will have to clearly delineate our targets as well as the means to reach them. Without a vision, Romania's integration in the European Union will be an extremely difficult process.

Synchronising the Romanian society with the pace of globalisation entails urgently adapting it, as a major national priority, to the most innovative information and communication technologies, so as to enjoy a democratic and responsible access on the European and global markets.

Only the economic progress can remove the economic and social barriers that still separate our citizens from the citizens of the developed world. In order for us to succeed, we need policies capable of offering our citizens a modern education and means that are compatible with the emerging information environment.

2. A new cohesion - a new social solidarity

A second major challenge for us is to re-construct the cohesion and solidarity of our society. Both the communist dictatorship and the subsequent transition have profoundly affected the social fabric, human relationships and identities. Poverty and social polarisation have been the painful lot of entire social strata.

Restoring social trust, reconstructing identities, cohesion and solidarity are all enormous challenges, and so much so, I have to emphasise it, from a social democratic perspective.

Efficiency, economic growth and bridging the above mentioned gaps are indisputably vital. But they can be achieved only against a background of cohesion and solidarity, as any economic process has a social finality.

From this perspective, Finland's experience, as in fact the experience of the entire Northern Europe is extremely relevant to us.

The path towards a new type of society, the society of social cohesion and solidarity, passes through good governance and building a solid educational capital. Social cohesion cannot be achieved without proper employment, stable and compatible with the exigencies of the global economy.

Governance must combine in an intelligent, predictable manner economic reforms and social responsibility, adapt the system of education and professional training, initiate institutional reforms capable of leading to stability and employment, individual and social justice, of protecting the national economic interest, natural resources and the environment.

3. Romania's contribution to the European construction

Let me conclude with a few words on the contribution of Romania to the construction of a United Europe. European integration is probably the most important challenge for us in the foreseeable future, as well as the most effective instrument in responding to the other challenges: bridging the economic gap and rebuilding social solidarity.

The enlargement of the EU is not only a political and strategic gesture, but also solution for attaining the level of education and labour flexibility in the absence of which social cohesion is impossible.

Our common goal should be to obliterate the discrepancies in prosperity, by encouraging equal chances and access, without weakening national identities.

I am a strong believer in a European community built on solidarity, in a Europe where every citizen will fell equitably represented and involved in the great project of a new Union.

A certain school of thought will try to present the European identity on one hand and national identities on the other hand as opposing principles. In my view however, the re-founding of the EU cannot be accomplished through a dissolution of national identities, but rather through creating a great European democracy, based on our shared values. Its institutions will have to be judged by their capacity to act effectively in addressing the problems of its citizens without discrimination.

A culture of pluralism will in fact enhance national identities, the cultural and human diversity of the European nations. They must be equally defended, strengthened and appreciated. Let us not forget that for a single moment that the biggest strength and potential of Europe lies in its diversity.

A real contribution of our intellectual cultural and human potential to the European construction will be possible only when our citizens have unhindered access to the geographical, cultural, educational, professional spaced of mainstream Europe.

The key factor in this process is trust. Citizens' trust in the new European construction can be weakened either by a perceived risk to national identities, or by the lack of a clear, predictable timeframe for EU integration. It can also be weakened by the perception that, until we become a full-fledged member, living standards are doomed to stagnation.

Romania shares in the spirit of Western Europe, and is prepared to translate what could be considered a mere map location as the so called Eastern border of the United Europe into a launching pad for European values in the ad acent geographical areas.

Romania can play an essential role in reconnecting the Western Balkans to the European spirit, in helping the Republic of Moldova develop its European vocation, in spreading the European values towards the Caucasus. I have the strong conviction that the EU will be able to extend its role as a driving force of the global economy beyond the Black Sea. Romania will thus have the chance to associate its potential with that of the new European democracies.

Romania can play a major role in the debate on the new European architecture, thanks to its harmonious, unitary structure and equilibrium of national and regional characteristics. The fact that we have been able to address most of our internal difficulties in a European spirit and on the basis of the European values and norms is of vital relevance. Romania is today a pillar of regional stability and inter-ethnic respect.

The European Council in Gothenburg validated the "irreversibility" of EU enlargement, by reaffirming the political will to speed up the negotiations with the candidate countries, so as to allow the most advanced among them to close negotiations by the end of 2002. They will thus be able to take part as members in the forthcoming European elections, in 2004.

This is a generous process, a powerful incentive to build a new momentum in negotiations, so as to have our homework prepared for 2004. But this is not only about gaining momentum. It also demands a strong improvement in the quality of our preparation for negotiations, to the best of our capabilities. This is perfectly compatible with Romania's long term interest for completing economic and social reforms at the earliest possible moment.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wanted to share with you some of Romania's most immediate preoccupations, in the belief that the ensuing discussions will prove extremely useful for both you and your Romanian guests.

Thank you