By Constantin Radut
Diplomatic and economic relations between France and Romania have not yet entered a normal phase. Although the first term of President Emmanuel Macron is about to end, there is mistrust and endless suspense of bilateral economic cooperation between Romania and the French Republic.
France claims to be the heart of the EU, especially after the retirement of Angela Merkel, but Romania still dreams of a strategic alliance with the US and Germany.
During President Macron’s five years at the Elysee Palace, nothing significant has happened in relations between the two countries. Romania has had the fewest exchanges and diplomatic meetings with France (if we eliminate those of the Francophonie) among all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Nothing remarkable has happened between the governments of the two states. No economic or technical cooperation agreement has been signed. This is also because in Romania President Klaus Iohannis has set up an unprecedented government crisis (7 prime ministers in the last five years), and the high-level meetings wanted to highlight more the non-conformist attire of the Romanian president’s wife.
Romania has never had words of praise for France (as a strategic partner), and France has considered Romania a satellite country within the EU since Sarkozy’s time.
What happens now?
France took over the presidency of the European Council on 1 January 2022. For six months, the Hexagon will address the EU’s main issues. Romania hopes that Paris will be a spokesperson for Bucharest’s priorities for full EU integration, especially its accession to the Schengen Area.
Romania’s accession to the Schengen Area is a political decision. All EU and NATO politicians and military strategists have acknowledged that Romania has been fulfilling the technical conditions to be a Schengen member for 10 years.
The main countries opposing a favorable decision were France and the Netherlands. Mark Rutte’s Holland, an opportunistic PM has not changed his position.
Even the governments of Emmanuel Macron were no longer willing to support Romania to enter the Schengen Area.
Since January 1, however, the discourse of French diplomacy has been shaped by economic reality. Only in this month of 2022, the French ambassador to Romania, Ms. Laurence Auer, stated that “In these six months we will make every effort to contribute to the expansion of the Schengen area, receiving Romania with us.”
An appreciation, not without conditions: “The French Presidency does not have a specific plan for the enlargement of the Schengen Area, there is no precise timetable for the EU Council…”.
Of course, the mission of an ambassador is not to tell the truth. But connoisseurs of bilateral relations know that there are some hot issues between France and Romania.
One is the Airbus Helicopters helicopter for the Romanian army, a project that included the assembly at IAR Brasov and the delivery to the Romanian Air Force of dozens of Airbus attack helicopters, as promised by the Bucharest authorities in 2017, during Macron’s official visit. in Bucharest, August 2017.
Bucharest promised Paris, but went to sign a contract with Bell American.
That annoyed Emmanuel Macron.
The second big business that drags on is that of multifunctional corvettes.
In 2019, the association between the French giant Naval Group and the Constanţa Shipyard (SNC) won the tender for the “Multifunctional Corvette” program. In addition to the construction of four corvettes, the program also includes the modernization of the T22R frigates – the Queen Maria frigate and the King Ferdinand frigate.
If things seemed to be going according to schedule, the program turned into a real saga.
The contract is not signed yet.
Things are dynamic. Bets are placed in Bucharest and Paris. You want corvettes, give us Schengen. And vice versa.
At the moment, close sources have stated that there are no problems in the Association declared the winner, and the discussions regarding the signing of the contract are normal.
The Romanian Ministry of Defense wants to resolve the situation if the agreement will not be signed by the end of this month, through a radical solution, namely the cancellation of the current procedure.
The deadline of January 31, 2022 was advanced in the press.
The French from Naval Group were designated in 2019 the winners of the “Multifunctional Corvette” program and should build four Gowind 2500 Corvettes for Romania
According to Naval Group, the technology transfer to which it is committed “will bring benefits to the entire Romanian naval industry in the long run; in addition to SNC, several Romanian companies will be subcontracted to work both for the construction of the corvettes and for their maintenance, for at least 30 years ”.
According to the repeated statements of the French Ambassador to Bucharest, Romania has a chance to be integrated into the Schengen Area.
The question is how Bucharest will respond to the French challenge. With or without multifunctional corvettes?
By Constantin Radut