#DiplomaticCentennial/Cristian Istrate: Romania, respected European, global actor for constructive participation in multilateral organisations

A century from the Greater Union, Romania is a respected European and global actor, not least because of a constructive way of translating the objectives of its foreign policy and the political family to which it belongs - the European Union and NATO - while taking up responsibilities of general interest, ambassador Cristian Istrate, head of the Permanent Mission of Romania to the International Organisations in Vienna, told AGERPRES in a recent interview.

Istrate mentioned in the context that over the past years, Romanian has held in Vienna the presidency of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Security Committee, the presidency of the Seventh Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, the chairmanship of the Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation Preparatory Commission, as well as the chairmanship of the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation (FSC).

In the interview, the Romanian diplomat said that, given the current international context, marked by a serious crisis of confidence among the participants in various negotiating formats, multilateral diplomacy and the political will of all for building consensus need to be constantly reinvented, underlining that the only answer is sincere dialogue and above all, one basically grounded in the rules of international law and the principles of international democratic order.

As regards prolonged conflicts, Istrate said that Romania supports the OSCE attaching outmost priority to their resolution, as the country has been supporting the efforts of the OSCE missions and their presence in the field. He mentioned to the point the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, to which Romania is one of the main contributors with 37 members. In the interview, the diplomat said that Romania is also actively involved within OSCE in specific mechanisms such as the network of contact points in the field of border management and security, mobile training teams for the identification of foreign terrorist fighters at the border, co-operation among police academies, having promoted the implementation of confidence-building measures to increase cybersecurity.

Mentioning the unique place of Vienna among the centres of multilateral diplomacy, Istrate noted that although Romanians hold a wide range of positions within international organisations based in the capital of Austria, most prominent being International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief coordinator, the country can aspire to more, filing at the appropriate time competitive bids for the top positions at one of other bodies. Until then, however, the diplomat believes, Romanians should use secondments and internships at international secretariats and even the Permanent Mission in Vienna, as stepping stones for their careers.

The e-mail interview is part of the editorial project #DiplomaticCentennial conducted by AGERPRES throughout the year 2018, with an emphasis on diplomatic ties in the context of the Centennial of the December 1, 1918 Greater Union.

AGERPRES: Your Excellence, your mission covers the representation of Romania to a series of international organisations and agencies with a major part in securing co-operation, stability and security in Europe and elsewhere in the world. Suffice to mention the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), to understand how vast and complex the range of issues addressed by these bodies is. What is your take on the role of multilateral diplomacy in the current political and security context?

Cristian Istrate: I want to emphasise from the very beginning that the uniqueness of Vienna among the centres of multilateral diplomacy is indeed provided by the wide variety of themes with sub-regional, European and global impact, from military security to human rights, from nuclear issues to environmental protection and the fight against organised crime and corruption. However, all these issues are addressed not in an abstract way, but as you can see, in a certain political context that influences not only the direction and quality of the negotiations, but sometimes also questions the usefulness and effectiveness of multilateral solutions. The current international context is to be blamed, for example, for the serious crisis of confidence among the participants in various negotiating formats, for politicising obvious technical issues, for bottlenecks motivated by hidden agendas. These are all challenges the management of which requires a permanent reinvention of multilateral diplomacy, an added amount of imagination and creativity on the part of negotiators and the political will of all to build consensus. But how can consensus be built among parties set apart by complicated litigation or old armed conflicts? How can the interests of countries in different regions of the world be harmonised, given their contradictory agendas and priorities? The answer is: through honest and, above all, principled dialogue grounded in the rules of international law and in the principles of international democratic order. The role of multilateral diplomacy in the first part of the 21st century is to put forth solutions based on these rules and principles, which are the condition for unanimous acceptance and sustainability of these solutions.

AGERPRES: To what extent does Romania manage to be a voice in these mechanisms of multilateral cooperation, while promoting, at the same time, its foreign policy goals?

Cristian Istrate: A century since the Greater Union it can be said that Romania is a respected European and global actor, not least through the constructive manner in which it transposes, in a multilateral key, the objectives of its foreign policy and those of the political family it is part of - the European Union and NATO. We are the promoters of a coordinate and unitary action within this family and we also assume responsibilities of general interest, that carry on the multilateral agenda through a leadership meant to strengthen the existing institutional and normative framework, to reaffirm its relevance and efficiency. Over the past years, Romania has exerted in Vienna the presidency of the OSCE Security Committee, the presidency of the 7th conference of the state parties to the UN Convention for fighting cross-border organised crime, the presidency of the Preparatory Commission for the comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty organisation, as well as the presidency of the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation (FSC), just to mention the most significant examples. All these present us on the international scene as a committed country, a responsible one, that isn't satisfied only with passively joining the consensus, but one that creatively and mainly promotes consensus on a wide range of security, economic, social, or environmental issues.

AGERPRES: How does Romania act in order to maintain on the OSCE priority agenda the problem of solving the frozen conflicts, especially the Transnistrian one, but also the crisis in Ukraine, both of them with a great stake at regional level and for our country's interests?

Cristian Istrate: The prolonged conflicts are the main issue that affects the European security and undermines the confidence among the OSCE participating States. Unfortunately, the number of conflicts hasn't decreased, but it increased and the fact that there are no solutions which are unanimously accepted in the near future is generating frustrations, just as some people's tendency to direct the Organisation towards areas where, apparently, the cooperation would be easier. This is why Romania is in favour - and I guarantee you that we are not alone - of the OSCE granting first priority to these conflicts, and any other projects that are to be carried out on all the three dimensions of the Organisation (political-military, economic and environment, the human rights area, respectively) are to be implemented so they contribute to the solving of the existing conflicts, as well as preventing the emergence of new ones, in the spirit of the Helsinki Final Act, the Charter of Paris for a New Europe and all the other commitments assumed by the participating States. Based on this, we endorse the efforts of the presidencies in office (this year Italy), the autonomous institutions, the missions and the OSCE presence in the field. Among these, I would like to point out the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, to which Romania is one of the main contributors. Along with their colleagues from other countries, the 37 Romanians who are currently active within the mission bring a valuable contribution to efforts aimed at preventing the escalation of conflict and its resolution, and ensuring their security remains an aspect that we are particularly concerned about.

AGERPRES: Which in your opinion would be the chances for the "5 + 2" format negotiations to materialise the goal of a political settlement of the Transnistrian file, with full observance of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova?

Cristian Istrate: Over the last period some progress has been recorded, a package of eight measures was adopted, steps are taken in terms of their implementation and there are signs that they are also working on new agreements. The "5+2" process, that has recently gained a positive dynamic (see the conclusions of the latest meeting in Rome on 29-30 May), remains the only negotiation format to settling the Transnistrian conflict according to the principles that you have mentioned and that are meant to guarantee that the Republic of Moldova will be free to pursue its European integration goal.

AGERPRES: How is Romania operating at the OSCE in the files regarding the topical issues of transnational threats such as terrorism, cross-border crime, illegal migration, cyberattacks, human and drug trafficking?

Cristian Istrate: In the two years it exercised the presidency of the OSCE Security Committee, Romania spurred the negotiations that led to the adoption of the Belgrade (2015) ministerial meetings' declarations concerning the prevention and fight against violent extremism and terrorism, respectively in Hamburg (2016) with regard to the use of air flight passengers' data with a view to preventing terrorism. It introduced, for the first time, the practice of the OSCE states' voluntary reports on national measures aimed at combating this scourge and requested the Secretariat draw up a synopsis of these measures, currently at its second edition. We are actively getting involved in the OSCE specific mechanisms, such as the contact points' network in management and border security, mobile teams to identify foreign terrorist fighters at the border or in structuring the cooperation of police academies in the OSCE space. Romania promoted the implementation of the OSCE's Confidence Building Measures/CBMs in view of increasing security and stability in the cyberspace, of reducing conflicts that stem from the use of the information and communications technologies and boosting confidence among states, especially in tense times. As president of the Forum for Security Co-operation (2017), Romania set on the agenda the topic of the military aspects of cybersecurity. We will continue to uphold the OSCE efforts by hosting in Bucharest, in June 2018, a regional seminar in cybersecurity. The examples can continue with the issue of drug trafficking or cross-border crime but it must be specified that by getting involved in handling these new threats at security, Romania has constantly placed itself on the main basis aimed at harmonising the OSCE efforts with the measures taken by other organisations, so as to avoid duplication, boost the efficiency of the multilateral institutional reaction and not draw away the attention from the OSCE overriding tasks.

AGERPRES: Lamberto Zannier, currently the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and former the Secretary General of the OSCE between 2011-2017 was identifying "the rising polarisation" as the greatest challenge for the organisation, especially with reference to the relation between Russia and the West, but highlighted that OSCE can provide "a space" for improving them. To what extent do you consider that the OSCE is functioning as a framework for dialogue and diffusing the diplomatic and military tensions?

Cristian Istrate: I agree with Ambassador Zannier that we are witnessing polarisation within OSCE, but I consider this calls for nuancing with regard to the dimension of this polarisation. Let me explain myself: we currently have a single pole, as a matter of fact, that of the immense majority of the participating states which are in favour of the OSCE principles and commitments being observed as they promote sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, the non-involvement in domestic matters, human rights, in other words the entire set of values the European security relies upon and of each country in its turn. Those who violate these values inevitably see themselves isolated in a permanent diplomatic defensive. Having to explain the unexplainable, they often resort to a reality "makeover", which most of the times reduces to zero the natural confidence between partners in negotiations. Resuming dialogue and rebuilding trust represent a titanic effort and an endurance test for the multilateral framework. There must be dialogue - what else have we got left? - but an authentic, pragmatic dialogue, based on principles, carried out responsibly, not with a double agenda or for propaganda purposes. "The OSCE instruments" must be used more in this dialogue, especially the set of early warning mechanisms and preventive diplomacy developed by autonomous institutions, such as the High Commissioner for National Minorities.

AGERPRES: How does Romania's contribution to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stand out, including in the context of current concerns related to the future of JCPOA (The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), largely known as the nuclear agreement with Iran?

Cristian Istrate: IAEA is one of the essential pieces of the multilateral system in that it monitors the global situation of the nuclear fuel, preventing the temptations of some to endow with nuclear weapons and encouraging, at the same time cooperation in view of the peaceful use of the atom. Romania is one of the few countries in the world which controls the entire civilian nuclear circuit, from mining to handling nuclear waste. This propels us into the world elite of countries responsible for the fate of the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and equally for the nuclear cooperation and technical assistance. We encourage cooperation, but in compliance with the security and nuclear safety regulations - I invite the future interns of Romania's Mission in Vienna to discover the difference! We are concerned for example with a niche topic, namely the nuclear forensic, in other words the investigation of nuclear materials aimed at identifying the source, traffic and their possible enrichment. Nuclear security is of priority interest to Romania within IAEA, alongside nuclear research and technology, with multiple applications in medicine, agriculture, cultural heritage preservation, radioactive waste handling, etc. We equally remain open to the transfer of expertise and assistance to other states, through courses, international seminars or training programmes on various topics organised in our country.

AGERPRES: How does Romania act so as to boost its profile within the multilateral organisations in Vienna and to obtain new level positions within these structures?

Cristian Istrate: I notice you have left the most difficult question at the end. Obtaining international positions largely depends on the quality of the candidates we present as well as on the political context in which the selection takes place. Within the international organisation in Vienna, Romanians hold a broad range of positions, from a very high level (IAEA chief coordinator), IT department director at the OSCE, legal experts, experts in combating terrorism (OSCE) or corruption (IACA), in drug consumption prevention (UNODC), monitoring nuclear tests (CTBTO) or finally, as members of the UN security personnel. Of course there is more one can aspire to! I wish that Romania can present, at the right time, a competitive candidacy for top positions in one of the organisations within the multilateral system in Vienna or in other centres.

Until then, I believe we need to more broadly use second positions in organisations, as many countries do, or the internship opportunities provided by the international secretariats or even our Mission - one of the Mission's former interns was hired in the OSCE conference service! Moreover, the promotion of national skills must be pursued in the panels of conferences and other meetings on the sidelines organized or led by Romania. Eleven Romanian officials in national or international institutions have already been invited to different sessions carried out under Romania's presidency in Vienna and other experts presented viewpoints at the events organised by the Mission together with our partners on the sidelines of the OSCE Human Dimension meeting on combating anti-Semitism through education or socio-economic integration of people belonging to the Roma minority, respectively within UNODC [United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, ed.n.] on combating use of psychoactive substances.

We also understand the importance of using multilateral platforms in order to build the country profile on topics showing that Romania shares global concerns: presiding the Main Committee II of the Review Committee of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (New York, May 2015) or the panel of the UN General Assembly session dedicated to the nuclear test ban (September 2016), respectively the participation in conferences on security and non-proliferation topics in Amman (October 2017) and Doha (April 2018) are just a few examples of involvement in that respect.

As a new expression of its commitment to OSCE, Romania will host in Bucharest, in the summer of 2020, the annual session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, which will bring to our country a new important event, this time at the level of parliamentary diplomacy. Finally, the media dimension, the broadcasting to large audiences of the national options on matters of foreign policy through articles, interviews, Twitter is becoming increasingly important within the multilateral diplomacy.AGERPRES(RO - author: Irina Cristea, editor: Mariana Ionescu; EN - author: Corneliu-Aurelian Colceriu, Rodica State, Simona Iacob, editor: Maria Voican)

Continue reading on: