Romania's NATO membership had a major political and economic impact on the country's development and played significant role in its EU accession process, experts and officials say.
By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest -- 27/01/14
Romanian soldiers patrol a remote area in the city of Nasiriyah, southeast of Baghdad on May 12th 2006. [AFP]
A decade of NATO membership has increased Romania's security, proved the country as a reliable partner for the Alliance, and brought an increase in foreign investment, analysts and officials said.
"Through NATO and then the strategic partnership with the United States, Romania has never been more secure," Dan Dungaciu, director of the Romanian Academy's Institute for International Relations, told SETimes.
"Romania's NATO accession arguably reinforced NATO's eastern flanks and consolidated the Alliance's presence in the Balkans and at the Black Sea," George Scutaru, member of the Defence Committee of the Romanian Parliament's lower house, told SETimes.
Romania was invited to join the Alliance at the 2002 NATO summit in Prague, along with six other East European countries from the former Soviet bloc. It became a member state in 2004.
"Romania's accession was a confirmation of consistency in its foreign policy: re-aligning Romania's strategic interests back to where they naturally belong, in the Euro-Atlantic family. After 10 years, Romania is a fully integrated and a proud member of the North-Atlantic Alliance," the Romania's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement to SETimes.
NATO's accession showed Romania is on the right track in its quest for EU membership and gave Romanians the psychological confirmation they belong to Europe, Dungaciu said.
"At the same time, foreign investments rose after the accession thanks to the increase of the security and predictability level," Dungaciu said.
The country assumed NATO membership with full responsibility and realised the accession doesn't bring only rights, but also obligations, officials said. Twenty-three Romanian soldiers have been killed and 121 were wounded during international missions where Romania has participated as a member state of the military bloc.
"Romania successfully participated in NATO's missions in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan, with a consistent military presence both in terms of number of troops and quality," Scutaru said. "We have proven not only our sincere desire and enthusiasm over the accession to this political and military alliance, but we have also provided our military expertise."
Other than the military missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Mediterranean Sea and the Balkans, Romania contributed to NATO's fight against cyber-attacks and terrorism. In 2010, Romania launched a human intelligence centre in Oradea, confirming the professionalism of the Romanian intelligence. In 2007, Romania ensured the air police missions for the Baltic countries.
"During the last decade, Romania contributed substantially, conceptually and operationally to the implementation of NATO's mandate, transforming itself from a recipient to a security provider not only for its citizens, but for the region and the Alliance as a whole," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Officials said Romania took a significant step in February 2010, when it agreed to host the defensive Aegis Ashore system at the Deveselu Military Base. The move was part of the US project of the European Phased Adaptive Approach to be integrated in the NATO anti-missile defensive system. An agreement was concluded in 2011 and the construction work started in October 2013.
"This reflects our strong commitment to contribute to the collective defence of all allies," a ministry statement said.
Romania continues to be a strong supporter of the Open Doors Policy, welcoming the commitment and dedication of the aspirant countries. Officials in Bucharest said each NATO enlargement process after the Cold War brought added value to the Alliance and contributed in maintaining the relevance of the organisation.
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