5 December, 2023
The Romanian foreign minister Teodor Meleşcanu (photo: 

As president of the Council of the EU Bulgaria’s northern neighbour so far abstains from taking unequivocally side on the Venezuelan issue, upon which there is not common European consensus. It is a convenient motive to wait for the development of the ambiguous case

Vladimir Mitev

This article was published on 6th February 2019 on the site “The Barricade”. 

Bulgarians, who used to see the neighbour Romania as a standard of Euroatlanticism have probably been surprised that even though Bucharest has taken over the presidency of the Council of the EU it hasn’t recognized yet the self-declared “temporary president” of Venezuela Juan Guaido – a recognition for which the USA has been insisting and which has already been made by a number of leading countries in the EU, including by the Bulgarian government. What does Bucharest think about the case “Venezuela”? A lot of Romanian media ask the same question.

On 26 January 2019 the high representative on foreign policy and security Federica Mogherini has come out with a position on behalf of the EU, in which it is stated that the presidential elections in Venezuela of May 2018 have not been free, fair and have no democratic legitimacy. The EU affirms that the National Assembly (which was suspended by the Supreme Court in Caracas, because of election irregularities) should be reinstated and that if no free, transparent and credible presidential elections are organized “the EU will take further actions“, including „recognition of the country’s leadership in line with article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution“. The position doesn’t mention the name of Guaido and it is underlined that the EU will work for political and peaceful exit from the crisis.

In the same day the Romanian foreign minister Teodor Meleşcanu expresses a position, which repeats the European one: “Romania supports the idea for snap presidential elections in Venezuela, which are to resolve the crisis in this country. Only if this plan fails, our country could be able to take the side of the parliament in Venezuela and the new leader Juan Guaido. We support the National Assembly – the Venezuelan parliament, because it is a democratically elected institution, whose power should be recovered and respected. In our view, the civil rights, freedom and security of the members of the National Assembly, including those of its president Mr. Juan Guaido, have to respected too. The Venezuelan people has the right to demonstrate peacefully, to choose freely its leaders and to decide the future of its country”, says the veteran diplomat and former chief of the external intelligence service of Romania Meleşcanu before Digi FM. He adds that on 31 January in the frame of the unofficial meeting of the foreign ministers of the EU in Bucharest Romania will put on the agenda for discussion the position of the member states on the situation in Venezuela and how the crisis could be resolved. “In our view, the interest is to have a united position of the EU, which will give significant weight to our activities”, adds Meleşcanu.

However, at the meeting in Bucharest no united European position was reached. Italy blocked the attempts of the EU as a whole to recognize Guaido as the Venezuelan head of state. Other countries, such as Greece, Ireland, Slovakia expressed their reserves from legal point of view. At the end of the day a lot of EU countries recognized Guaido as a temporary Venezuelan head of state. But Romania hasn’t done it so far. Immediately after the unofficial meeting of the EU foreign ministers, Teodor Meleşcanu affirmed that Bucharest observed ”with great attention and care what is going on”. “We are convinced that there is need for a political process of talks between opposition and majority, so that a formula is found for maximally rapid organization of free and correct elections in Venezuela”, added the Romanian foreign minister.

There is no lack of media pressure upon the government in Romania to take a position, but it doesn’t seem to be so powerful, as it had been in other cases, which had been interpreted as a choice “between the West and the East”. “Who is the ally of Romania in the case “Venezuela”?”, asks an analysis at the site of the Digi 24 television. Both this and other media hint that by refusing to recognize Guaido Romania takes a pro-Russian position.

Romania has been generally considered to be the most loyal ally of the USA in the region, but a look towards the nearer and the more distant past shows that the country had its moment of more independent line from the current hegemon’s policy. In 1968 Bucharest is the only country of the Eastern block, which doesn’t send troop to suppress the Prague Spring. Romania is also one of the few EU countries, which haven’t recognized the independence of Kosovo, which was established after a NATO intervention against the Russian ally on the Balkans Serbia.

“I saw that positions have been taken on EU level. This is a very serious problem, which doesn’t have to be neglected through political or economic activities. I am convinced that on the level of the europresidency this topic will be discussed and I want Romania to enter in the frame of a nascent consensus on EU level. I hope that such a consensus will be created, and we will contribute to it and will represent the united voice on this topic”, says the president of the Romanian Senate and coleader of the ruling coalition (together with Liviu Dragnea) Calin Popescu-Tăriceanu.

Until there are no new official statements, the words of both Tăriceanu and Meleşcanu can be interpreted in the sense that as a europresident Romania is obliged to take position on such key issues, only when the whole of the EU has reached consensus. What hides behind such a formula? Is it coordinated with the European partners? Is it an expression of responsibility? Is it a way to evade external pressure on the topic? Is it a simple waiting for the situation’s development, which is too ambiguous and disputable from the standing point of international law?

The answers will gradually crystallize in the following days. What each attentive observer will notice is that Federica Mogherini herself doesn’t hurry with extreme evaluations and decisions. It goes to Montevideo, where today starts an international conference on the Venezuelan crisis, which has been called upon on the initiative of Uruguay and Mexico under the aegis of the UN. Probably the high representative of the EU on external policy will conduct there talks on the formation of a European-Latin American contact group, which has been agreed upon on a ministerial meeting in Bucharest. Apparently, the europresident Romania so far follows the lead of Mogherini, as it waits for the development of the ambiguous processes.

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