Nicolae Ciuca Romanias Prime Minister We need a common effort

Nicolae Ciuca: Romania’s Prime Minister: “We need a common effort in NATO to defend every inch of territory against Russia” | International

Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca is convinced that the threat from Russia is not limited to Ukraine alone, but to all countries that support it, both in the European Union and in NATO. That is why he calls for a joint effort between the allied countries to defend “every inch” of territory.

Romania has been a member of the EU since 2007. And of NATO, since 2004. But these alliances do not make Ciuca lower its guard against Russia. This four-star general insists that, to defend against Moscow, coordination between the EU and NATO partners with the arms industry matters more than increasing the military budget. His government has increased the military item for next year from 2% to 2.5% of gross domestic product, when the EU average in 2020 stood at 1.6%. Spain, for its part, has set itself to reach 2% of GDP in 2029, but for now the Government plans to reach 1.2% next year.

Ciuca (Plenita, Romania, 55 years old) has acted in NATO international operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2019 he abandoned a military career of more than 30 years to serve as Defense Minister in the Executive of his formation, the conservative National Liberal Party (PNL). A year ago he began his term as prime minister in a coalition government with the center-left Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the Magyar Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR), representative of the Hungarian ethnic minority.

The Prime Minister arrives for the interview after holding this Wednesday in Castellón de la Plana, together with the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, and six ministers from each country, the first summit between Romania – a country of 19 million inhabitants, bordering Moldova , Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria—and Spain, where a million Romanians live.

Ask. Has the missile incident in Poland, in which two people died on the border with Ukraine on November 15, made you think about strengthening your country’s security?

Response. Everything related to the effects of this invasion of Russia worries not only Romania and its neighboring countries, but also all members of the European Union and NATO. For this reason, joint decisions have been taken to continue with the defense policy on the eastern flank of NATO. Romania is one of the countries that benefit from this decision. Spain has just recently sent a radar to Romania, in addition to the personnel necessary for this radar to be operational. This radar is already integrated into the NATO defense system. In addition, next week Spain is going to send eight fighters and 130 soldiers to Romania. Furthermore, in Romania this year we have taken the decision to increase defense spending from 2% to 2.5% of GDP. Of that sum, approximately between 35% and 38% will be used to equip the army.

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P. The war seems to be going on for a long time. Do you consider the possibility of increasing spending beyond 2.5%?

R.. In these situations we realize that the most important thing is not the amount of the budget to acquire equipment, but the way in which it is coordinated and ensures that the defense industry can provide this equipment and that money can be spent in a manner effective. Close coordination and cooperation is needed, both in the EU and in NATO, so that we can ensure this reconfiguration of the industry. Because military equipment is not found in the supermarket. In addition, it must be taken into account that it is not only about acquiring equipment, but about carrying out military training [de quienes los manejan]. And this takes a minimum of three to five years. For that reason, as much as we would like to increase the budget, the most important thing is coordination with the defense industry. And between members of the EU and NATO.

The Romanian Prime Minister, Nicolae Ciuca, during the interview on Wednesday in Castellón.Monica Torres

Q. You have military experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. What lessons do you draw from the war in Ukraine? Is there any factor that has surprised you?

R.. They cannot be compared. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, a coalition of countries was fighting terrorism. Here it is a conventional military action that, having not achieved its objectives through the Armed Forces, is using instruments of hybrid warfare. This war is directed against civilians and wants to weaken the resistance power of the Ukrainian people. The message that we must send to everyone, especially to the younger generations, is that peace is a priceless good and that we must defend it. And the Armed Forces must protect it.

Q. Romania has been a member of NATO since 2004. Despite this, do you feel more vulnerable towards Moscow as a result of the war in Ukraine?

R.. Russia’s assertive behavior has been observed since 2008 [año en que Moscú intervino militarmente en el Cáucaso frente a Georgia]; it was accentuated with the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and from then until the aggression against Ukraine we have verified that there has been an increase in Russian military capabilities. Both in the Black Sea, through the increase in military devices in the Crimean area, and the increased presence in the Mediterranean Sea, when Russia intervened in Syria. This poses a threat not only to the countries of the Black Sea area, but to all countries in the East and to the stability, unity and solidarity of the EU and NATO allies. The Kremlin’s rhetoric is going not only against Ukraine, but against all those who support Ukraine. This is not something one-off. We need a common effort to take action, to defend ourselves and to ensure that all the citizens, as well as every inch of the allied territories, are defended by the NATO alliance.

P. Romania is one of the three most corrupt countries in the EU, according to the 2021 Corruption Perception Index, published by Transparency International. It is ranked 45th on the list and, within the community club, it is only surpassed by Hungary and Bulgaria. How do you plan to remedy this situation?

R.. Since I began to govern, we have managed to ensure the independence of justice and institutions. We are taking important steps to stop needing the MCV [Mecanismo de Cooperación y Verificación, implantado por la UE en 2006 para examinar el desarrollo de los sistemas administrativos y judiciales de Rumania y Bulgaria].

P. On December 8, the interior ministers of the European Union meet to discuss the incorporation into the Schengen area of ​​Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia. What support does Romania have?

R.. All Schengen countries support the entry of Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia. It is true that some countries, not just the Netherlands and Sweden, have been more reticent. But for this reason we have offered absolute availability for you to come to Romania to check each of the unclear aspects. This way we can show that we deserve to enter the Schengen area and that we meet the technical criteria.

P. How did the summit with the Spanish government go?

R. Very well. Seven MoUs have been signed. I am sure that they will materialize in common actions for the benefit of the citizens, both Romanian and Spanish.

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