Center for Strategic Decision Research


European Security: Legacies of the Past, Challenges for the Future

His Excellency Emil Constantinescu
President of Romania

Any analysis of European security, for today as well as for the future, should begin with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and continue through the gradual establishment of democratic regimes in almost all the countries in Eastern and Central Europe. These events, which brought a final end to the Cold War, have redefined the European security issue, radically changing both the scene and the actors. The fall of the Communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, the reunification of Germany, and the dismantlement of the Warsaw Pact and of the Soviet Union are all elements that marked the end of the bipolar political, military, and ideological structure of the continent. With these events Europe proclaimed its commitment to the common values of pluralist democracy, human rights, and a market economy.

This process of events denotes great progress for humanity, putting, as it has, an end to the repression that mutilated our history in the last half century as well as an end to conflict between states and a beginning to creative dialogue. But ending this somber period in European history has greatly changed the European security landscape. European security today—and even more so tomorrow—must be one and indivisible.


As long as Europe was divided, European security was also divisible. The traditional division of Europe, inherited from the 19th century, led to quite different destinies for the Western and Eastern parts of the continent. Following the Second World War, the West, united by the North Atlantic Alliance and increasingly by the European Community, began solving the conflicts that had formerly seemed to be unsolvable. But in Eastern Europe, the domination of the USSR only froze in place old antagonisms or brought about new ones. Spared domestic outbursts because of a solid and democratic system of alliances, Western Europe was able to simplify, forget, or calmly observe the conflicts in “the other Europe,” which did not directly, politically or militarily, affect its security. This is why the West felt at most disturbed, certainly not threatened, when Hungary and Czechoslovakia were invaded.

The disappearance of bipolarism led to a new situation in Europe. Instead of being confronted by a seemingly uniform bloc, the Warsaw Treaty countries, the West found itself confronted, in the East, by an infinite number of diverse conflicts: ethnic, religious, political, national. If NATO had decided to remain inflexible at that point and if the European Union had concentrated only on its internal construction, leaving Central and Eastern Europe submerged in violence and chaos, Eastern Europe would have been doomed to ruin. And it would not have been long before Western Europe began slipping down the slope of antagonisms.


This disastrous scenario did not happen because NATO and the European Union decided to enlarge, fulfilling the most profound aspirations of the restored Central European democracies—unification and dialogue. NATO and the EU have replaced competitive protectorates with their own organizations, which, over the past 40 years, have built, step by step, peace and cooperation between Germany and France, between Austria and Italy, between great and tiny states. NATO and the European Union have offered to our countries a model, a common goal, a code of conduct in domestic and foreign policy. Integration suddenly became the common major project of one and all, the fundamental common aspiration, the great historical opportunity, in exchange for which NATO and Europe demanded but one thing: the exercise of democracy, eliminating any potential source of conflict at the regional level. The will of the peoples of Central Europe to share the values of the great European democratic traditions has become an extraordinary engine for building cooperation and a European security architecture that is based on solidarity.


Because of this will, European security today is defined by a wide spectrum of states, including members of the North Atlantic Alliance and WEU; states aspiring to this double membership; countries that have a special relationship with NATO, such as the Russian Federation and Ukraine; countries that, as part of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, are committed de jure to the decisions of this organization; and nations that do not belong to OSCE and therefore take advantage of the situation by failing to observe the common principles of European security.

Although very diverse, we must be careful not to fall into the logical—at times even ideological—trap of confusing this new architecture in statu nascendi with chaos. On the contrary, I believe such diversity holds a promise for the future: a Europe joined in solidarity that can become a reality through the equal commitment and equal political will of all the people.

Conflicts today that occur in Eastern European countries are no longer looked at with indifference from the other side of the former Berlin Wall. The intervention that took place in Bosnia is glaring proof that European security is now indivisible, and continues to evolve along an ever-more-direct path towards proactive, not reactive, strategies. We are moving on from ad-hoc answers to crisis prevention. But the construction of preventive mechanisms is not easy; one needs a global balance that is difficult to achieve. But one lesson of the past 50 years is that the only efficient mechanism—and the only one bearable in terms of material and human costs—is prevention.


To prevent crises that may threaten European stability, it is necessary to look at two main issues: identifying the new types of risks, and identifying the organizations and structures capable of managing the potential for conflict. As for the risks, I have never ceased to warn that the most explosive source of conflict today is that of national communism. Unfortunately, this assertion has been confirmed more than once, especially in the area of the Former Yugoslavia.

We Romanians are more sensitive than other peoples to the always delicate problems of relations between majority populations and ethnic minorities. That sensitivity has now been translated into something unique in Europe—an ethnic minority party, the Hungarian one, participates in our government. It has also been translated, at another level, into a clearer understanding of the nature of contemporary inter-ethnic conflicts in Eastern or Southeastern Europe—which are not dead, no matter what some may believe. But in order for such conflicts to become a danger, in order to keep the flame of conflict burning, they need a number of key ingredients.

Inter-ethnic conflict is born from a deficiency of democracy—from a lack of minority rights to a lack of inter-ethnic communication, from diverging political interests of the majority and the minority to conflicting mythology and the substitution of monologues and arbitrariness for flexible negotiations. Such elements can lead to the eruption of conflict, but for conflict to last, something else is needed: groups capable of acquiring weapons—in other words, groups that are economically powerful and/or enjoy strong economic support—that thrive on chaos, crime, and death. These groups are, invariably, representatives of those Communist structures that are incapable of adapting to the new context. Whether they are representatives of the political police or of the single party, these remnants of the Communist nomenklatura foment not only violent nationalistic discourse, but also criminal violence under the guise of nationalistic demagogy. And though a remnant, national communism is the scourge of the very positive transition we are experiencing.

Preventing the deadly outbreak of conflict cannot be limited to simplistic statements about the nationalistic traditions in Eastern Europe—both because the East does not hold a monopoly on such tendencies and especially because we do not always understand how to prevent the disease itself. But as a major part of prevention, NATO and EU enlargement—in other words, the dissemination of the values these organizations protect and symbolize—is critical.

Romania’s main goal remains that of reducing the potential for violence and the deficiency of democracy, along with actively promoting dialogue and mutual respect. We have a long way to go, but at least in Romania, we have been extremely productive.

Along with nationalistic demagogy, another threat of danger, which evolved from the transition process in the former Communist states in Europe, is linked to economic hardship. Countries in transition are strongly affected by international instability, which weakens their domestic order and the reform process. Our region is currently undergoing, on various levels, a difficult political and economic reform process aimed at establishing a democratic and prosperous society. We must set forward today the objective of supporting this democratization process in Central and Eastern Europe, the success of which is key to ensuring the stability of the whole continent.

The threats to European security today are different from what they were in the bipolar world; they are no longer focused on inter-state conflict, but rather on new types of challenges, as NATO understood back in 1991. The present globalization phenomenon, while providing multiple positive effects, also gives rise to new challenges to security and stability. Smuggling, organized crime, terrorism, illegal migration, economic instability, and threats to the environment are only some of the current consequences of greater freedom of movement and an increase in interdependence.


The regional security structures—NATO, OSCE, WEU—are currently adapting to the new realities of our time and endeavoring to identify new means for crisis prevention. To this end, all European states, whether present or potential members of these organizations, should contribute to the collective effort.

The concept of security itself is also undergoing a transformation process. Whereas in the past it focused on the military-strategic component, today it is more and more oriented toward economic, political, and environmental aspects. We must all participate in this process of redefining our continent’s security.

The starting point should be the assessment of trends in the evolution of the international system—facing the challenges of globalization, especially taking into account the limits it imposes on the national state and the importance it bestows on integrated spaces, the supranational actors, and civilian society. Central and Eastern European foreign policy should be tied to the logic of cooperation and preventive diplomacy.


The goal of the Central and Eastern European states to integrate with the European and Euro-Atlantic structures stems from the fundamental post-Communist belief in shared Western values. This belief has helped to redefine NATO’s Strategic Concept, transforming NATO from an instrument of collective defense for the territory of member-states to an instrument for defending their security interests. Such a concept illustrates the point that states geographically close to NATO’s borders are no longer seen as potential enemies, but rather as potential allies.

Romania, in accordance with its vocation and national interest, is firmly on the path toward integration with NATO and the European Union. Because of this goal, Romania is sensitive to the attempts to create new dividing lines in Europe, as well as to the theory, based on cultural or religious determinism, that limits democratic values, the state of law, and a market economy to only certain European countries, excluding others. A Europe divided into power centers and one that excludes states on its peripheries has generated conflicts. It is clear that a divided Europe endangers the security of the continent.

In addition to its belief in shared Western values, Romania’s bid for NATO membership is also based on the belief that NATO, through its force, values, and the dynamism of its adaptation process, continues to be the organization most capable of undertaking the new risks and challenges to security and stability. And Romania believes that it can contribute to this undertaking by making its own contribution to regional security. In this context, it acts as a pillar of stability and security in the region, actively helping to alleviate potential regional instability sources by continually developing relations with countries in the region and through joint management of cross-border threats.

Romania also seeks to increase confidence in and cooperation with its neighbors. Several political treaties have already led to enhanced bilateral cooperation, and Romania has initiated trilateral cooperation patterns with states in the region as a new means of coordinating efforts to solve concrete issues. These measures have already produced promising results in such fields as infrastructure and the establishment of Euro-regions. On the issue of fighting organized crime, Romania has deepened its position as a security provider in the region through such initiatives as the establishment, in Bucharest, of a SECI Regional Center for combating organized crime and corruption.

By participating in subregional structures—the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), the Central European Initiative (CEI), and the Southeast Europe Cooperation Initiative (SECI)—Romania contributes to strengthening economic and political cooperation among the states in the region. Romania is also endeavoring to increase military cooperation with the countries in the region, the most recent effort in this respect being Romania’s participation in the Southeastern European Multinational Peace Force.

Through such actions, Romania seeks to do more than just ensure its own security. We also hope to set up a security regime based on NATO values that could help Romania and other countries in the region prepare for NATO membership. Because of its pragmatic nature, this type of network would not duplicate the work of other institutions and bureaucratic structures, but promote preventive efforts that could be adapted on a case-by-case basis.

Romania has already participated in several peacekeeping missions and is ready to contribute further to enhancing security and stability on the continent. We reiterate our willingness to participate in international efforts under the U.N. mandate aimed at reconstructing and stabilizing the region that includes Albania, Bosnia, and Kosovo.


The answers to the questions that we are asking today pertaining to the establishment of a peaceful and prosperous environment on the continent should be expressed in the voice of the solidarity that unites us. The elements that divide us should not become a source of conflict, but rather the legacy of European diversity and creative intercultural dialogue. Today, Europe has the chance to unite and to forge a common security architecture, one without divisions or sources of conflict. We can do this by replacing the former centers of domination with the future centers of progress. We have a unique chance. It is up to all of us to keep this window of opportunity from closing.


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