Romania: The Case For Romania’s Accession To NATO

Last Updated: 17 May 2002
Article by Mark A. Meyer


In November 2002, the member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will meet in Prague to decide upon expanding the alliance to include as many as seven new member states — Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania. By far, the largest and most significant country under consideration is Romania. If the decision regarding Romania were based purely on geography or upon its military prowess, it would be a "no-brainer." But the criteria for membership involves economic issues and the all important question of whether Romania sufficiently shares Western values of freedom and democracy so that member states would be willing to go to war to protect Romania were it attacked. In particular, questions have been raised concerning official corruption, the continued presence of Securitate officers in some sensitive government positions, the lack of a fair restitution regime for the victims of communist property confiscations, and the xenophobic manifestations of the extreme right and its adoration of Marshal Antonescu, the wartime leader of Romania.

Few observers doubt that the people of Romania share western values of democracy and freedom — the issue is whether such shared values have been adequately expressed in government policies over the past decade. President Ion Iliescu and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase are striving to demonstrate Romania’s commitment to those shared values and to meet every issue head on before November. But even if the Romanian government falls a bit short in satisfying every element required of it, Romania should be admitted to NATO. The alliance would benefit strategically from Romania’s accession, and the reforms sought by the West would occur more rapidly if Romania were part of the western pact. Indeed, setting Romania adrift outside the structures of the western democracies will not promote positive change in the country — it may set them back — while firmly embracing Romania in the arms of NATO will facilitate more immediate and positive change. This embrace should be based upon firm understandings as to exactly what is required of Romania with timely benchmarks to encourage reform – accession conditioned upon actual performance.

Romania’s Strategic Importance

There are geographic and military reasons to admit Romania and Bulgaria to NATO. These have deepened in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, with the intendant need to build wide coalitions against terrorism. Of the various candidate countries, Romania is certainly the most able to effectively contribute to NATO’s objectives through its significant military forces — which continue to demonstrate their ability and willingness to engage in peacekeeping and peace-building operations. Romania is on the front-line of conflicts in Southeastern Europe, not only territorially, but also with troops. Romania participates in SFOR and KFOR with around 300 military personnel. Romania has contributed to the stability of Kosovo and Macedonia through an active role in NATO’s "Amber Fox" mission in Macedonia, in the first Kosovo elections, and in reducing tensions in Southern Serbia. Romania is also participating in the multinational peacekeeping force in Afghanistan and has placed an infantry battalion of 400 soldiers and a unit of 46 specialists in anti-nuclear, anti-chemical, and anti-bacteriological warfare at the disposal of the U.S. Enduring Freedom command.

Geographically, Romania and Bulgaria provide a strategic coherence to NATO by linking Central Europe with Greece and Turkey in the South, and thereby creating an area of stability and security in Southeast Europe. Their accession to NATO would reduce the area’s potential for conflict and give impetus to European integration. Extending NATO through Romania and Bulgaria would also stem the flow of organized crime and terrorist activities coming from Central Asia and the Caucasus into Europe by strengthening border patrols and other activities already underway at the Regional Center against Trans-border Crime in Bucharest. Romania’s accession to NATO would also provide the alliance with a reliable springboard for air, land, and maritime traffic to Central Asia through its airport and port facilities, which have already proven their utility in the US–led campaign in Afghanistan.

Military reform in Romania has resulted in downsizing the military by 50% since 1989, increased defense spending, and a reduced reliance upon conscripts creating a more professional army. A Status of Forces Agreement between Romania and the US was signed on October 30, 2001, providing the legal framework for the transit of US forces through Romania, and granting air corridors, landing rights, transit facilities and intelligence to US and NATO forces.

Romania has no conflicts with any other country. Both Greece and Turkey actively support Romania’s admission into NATO because, in their view, NATO requires a southern dimension in order for the vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace to be complete. Succinctly put, on the strategic level, there is little debate — NATO would be enhanced by Romania’s accession.

Shared Values: Stable Democracy

On the political level, questions have been raised concerning Romania’s commitment to the shared values of NATO member states. While some of these concerns are without merit and some are, indeed, valid, none of them should be used to prevent Romania’s accession. Instead, in those limited areas of legitimate concern, meaningful changes can be fostered by NATO members clarifying the specific actions that the Romanians need to make and conditioning Romania’s immediate accession upon future compliance.

Romania has a politically stable democracy. It has been that way since 1990. Although it is still maturing politically, Romania nevertheless enjoys a robust national dialogue, and fair and free elections. It is a pluralistic democracy in which Romanians are free to speak their mind; to assemble and petition their government; to chose from a plethora of free press promoting all sorts of ideas and from broadcast media from all over the world channeling views on all subjects. Romanians may worship as they please, and the treatment of ethnic minorities is a model for other countries in the region.

Too much Romanian blood was spilled in the defense of democracy as a Western ally in both World War I and World War II, to now doubt Romania’s commitment to freedom.1 Although in 1989, Romania was a dismal place darkened by a despair spawned by fifty years of a Stalinist-style communism, freedom was always in the hearts of its people. Guiding Romania in its transition to freedom after 1989 meant coping with a national heritage of resignation and suspicion that burdened the process of democratization. Nevertheless, while much of the rest of Southeast Europe reeled through deadly turmoil in the 1990's and too many of its leaders fought democracy rather than promoted it, Romania chose the course of democracy over authoritarian rule. This fact should in itself be proof of the value placed upon freedom and democracy by the people of Romania.

Remaining Issues

The legacies of Romania’s misrule under Nicolae Ceausescu prompt most of the other concerns expressed regarding Romania’s NATO accession. The government is addressing these matters and will, undoubtedly, succeed in correcting some, but not necessarily all problems before November. The five major areas of concern are as follows:

Xenophobia and Anti-Semitism: Romania is neither predominantly xenophobic nor anti-Semitic. It has elements of both such aberrations, but some NATO members have these problems in greater abundance. Nevertheless, the government passed an ordinance that bans anti-Semitism and all of its related symbols, resulting in the removal of monuments to the wartime military leader, Marshal Antonescu, erected by some localities and extremist political parties. The ordinance bans any commemorations of war criminals.

There is an additional concern surrounding the ascendancy of Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the ultra-nationalist who scored an upset in the 2000 Presidential election by garnering a third of the vote.

Yet, no one is suggesting that France does not share the same values as the rest of NATO because Jean-Marie Le Pen scored a similar upset last month in its presidential elections. Both men rode a wave of discontent over official corruption, establishment politics, and local issues that were manifested by a large turnout of "protest votes." Since the election in Romania, however, Tudor’s popularity has slipped dramatically in the polls and even his own party is seeking to create a less radical face for the 2004 elections.

Former Securitate Members: Following Romania’s 1989 revolution, former Securitate officers did not all disappear. Senator Sergiu Nicolaescu, head of the Commission for Defense and National Security of the Romanian Senate, said that in 1990, the Romanian Intelligence Service sent the American secret services a "list with the former Securitate employees." The list included names of thousands of former officers that worked undercover and as party activists. Nicolaescu reported that this list includes persons still active in all political parties, members of Parliament, and some major businessmen and members of former governments. Can they be trusted with NATO secrets? Romania's Supreme Council for National Defense has announced plans to establish screening procedures to vet individuals who will have access to sensitive NATO information. The purpose of this process is to identify former members of the Securitate and exclude them from obtaining such information.

Official Corruption: Sadly, official corruption in Romania is endemic and systemic. It has gotten progressively worse year by year. Up until a month ago, each Romanian government since 1990 did little more than provide lip service to the problem, while bribery, graft and other forms of corruption grew unchallenged. While official corruption is a serious problem in several NATO member countries, those nations at least have some prosecutorial and judicial checks and balances in place that work. The Romanian government has now created a special anti-corruption prosecutor and special police units that are to begin operations in September; the government has proposed increased financial disclosure rules for Romanian parliamentarians, introduced governmental conflict of interest legislation, and pledged to pass a new code of ethics for civil servants, introduce new party financing laws and ratify a number of international anti-corruption conventions. These are all significant actions — but they are not enough to effectively tackle official corruption.

It would be in Romania’s best interests if NATO set certain benchmarks that would ensure that the government’s laudable actions are followed by actual results. For example, special anti-corruption courts must be set up where the special prosecutor can bring his cases in order to avoid bringing them before the tainted court system that should, in fact, be the first target of the prosecutors actions. Guidelines for the appointment of unblemished and incorruptible persons to anti-corruption posts should be established to ensure public confidence in the process. Real financial disclosure, including the sources of wealth of government and judicial officials, will be a major stumbling block. Inquiring as to how a public figure managed to amass a fortune while working for government entities at government salaries, ought to test the true rigor of the new laws. As the United States Ambassador, Michael Guest, has bluntly stated, Romania’s failure to forcefully deal with widespread corruption in the economy and in government, threatens Romania’s accession to NATO.


The restitution regime in Romania is so thoroughly flawed as to raise doubts that Romania ever intended to honor Protocol No. 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights — which makes a property right a human right under international law. The argument that the original confiscations violated the victims’ human rights is impossible to refute, and the procedures adopted by Romania to rectify such violations appear to have perpetuated them. Here too, a benchmark should be set for Romania to revise its restitution laws so as to demonstrate its shared commitment to human rights. We commend the reader to the article entitled "Romania Asks H&R How To Improve Restitution" in The Romanian Digest™, February 2002 issue, Volume VII, No. II, found at our web site, , for additional details.

Economic Reform: Critics cite Romania’s current impoverished state as a reason why Romania might not be able to upgrade its military hardware as required by NATO. In fact, Romania has been upgrading and reforming its military equipment for quite a while. Its economy is also looking much brighter as a result of some extraordinary things, e.g., Romania today has the most IT specialists of any nation in Europe — Great Britain is second. The Romanian economy is growing — growth in GDP in 2001 reached 4.8 %; and the IMF projects that the Romanian economy will grow at the fastest pace in the region in 2002 — 4.6 %. Privatization may begin to speed up too. It would be foolish to consider Romania’s current state as a harbinger of the future. The nation is in transition — albeit longer and more painful than expected. The size of its population, its geographic location on the Black Sea and at the mouth of the Danube, its natural resources, and its highly talented people, all demonstrate a worthy economic future capable of supporting its NATO commitments.


Charlemagne’s column in The Economist of April 6, 2002, entitled "A Nastase Shock for NATO," suggests that while NATO has become more of a "political" institution than a military one, even on this score, Romania is a laggard. It noted that Romanian politics is, " . . . to a large extent, a competition between rival clans . . ." and that the country lagged behind other applicants because of its "fragile democracy" and its population which is ". . . by no means wedded to western civic values."

Charlemagne, you got it wrong. While he may be right about the rival clans of business interests that manipulate Romanian politics (as also happens in a few NATO-member countries), Romania has demonstrated that far from being a fragile democracy, it can weather changes in government and leadership quite well, and resist the regional winds of chaos that engulfed some of its neighbors in the 1990s.

While Charlemagne’s concerns may be misplaced, the concerns expressed by people like Ambassador Guest have merit. Indeed, Romania may not be able to adequately deal with issues like combating official corruption and instituting fair restitution by November. The government will need specificity as to what it must do to appropriately deal with the matters raised by member states. Besides clarifying current generalities, an unequivocal statement of what must occur in the way of real action on these matters would lessen internal opposition to changes that might otherwise be too difficult to implement quickly. Immediate accession predicated upon the future timely completion of specific benchmarks will hasten progress in Romania.

The reason that NATO membership is important to the people of Romania is the same reason why Romania’s accession is important to the alliance. NATO membership has become — rightly or wrongly — a statement of unity and acceptance. The people of Romania may be poor for the moment, but they are not the second-class citizens of Europe. Their history, their culture and their political institutions are as European as any other nationality, and the Romanian people have proven themselves worthy of NATO membership. Treat Romania as a partner and it will be a good and faithful ally.

1 Romania joined the allies in 1944 after deposing Hitler’s ally, Marshal Antonescu, in a coop.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions