Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
With Romanian Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu
Remarks at Joint Press Conference, Presidential Palace
Bucharest, Romania, June 22, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
FOREIGN MINISTER PLESU: Ladies and gentlemen, we are very pleased to have had Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as our guest. As you know, her visit had been announced on several occasions previously, and now it has materialized.
The Secretary of State has given us the pleasure of speaking about the role played by Romania in this part of the world in the past few months as being a crucial role until the very last moment of the developments in the Southeast. She said that, due to its exemplary behavior, and, I quote, Romania can be considered a member of the NATO family. This is not mere politeness, as some of you may be inclined to believe, because you know very well how hard it was for us to have such a consistent and rigorous position during the recent period. We did this because we believed that that was the foreign policy option that served national interest and the foreign policy option that was consistent with the values we adhered to. If there was a touch of servility in our behavior, as some said, that was the only type of servility that can be excused -- servility to national interest. The way our partners appreciated this behavior confirms the fact that we acted right.
At this time, when the dark part of the conflict in Yugoslavia is drawing to a close, we should all ask ourselves -- no matter what our opinions were -- where we would stand had we pursued a different policy. Where would we have been placed now? On whose side? In which camp? In which alliance? In what kind of cooperation process? With whom would we have stood now, had we pursued a different policy?
As I said, the dark side of the conflict is about to end, and we now have to build what could become the positive effects of the tragedy that is about to conclude. There should be at least two such positive effects. One of them will be the democratization of Yugoslavia. The second one will the economic and democratic consolidation of Southeast Europe. For this purpose, there is a Stability Pact and the prospect of international cooperation that would set things in motion.
We discussed this prospect. We came up with proposals on behalf of the Romanian side, concerning our participation in reconstruction, concerning the role of catalyst, of bridgehead that Romania could have in the coming period, and concerning the use of the Southeast Cooperation Initiative, whose presidency we hold until next March, as an instrument for the implementation of the Stability Pact.
We discussed the need to have a Romanian co-chair some of the economic meetings, and the need to hold in Bucharest one of the meetings that will prepare for the implementation of the pact. We discussed the need to encourage Romanian private investment in the reconstruction process, and we discussed the fact that all the countries in this region ought to feel they participate directly in this pact. Its meetings should circulate from one capital to another, and co-chairs should also circulate from one country to another in the next period.
We also proposed to come up with nuanced projects, and to explain to donors and initiators that plans for the overall region should not be linked to local plans concerning the return of refugees and the reconstruction of the conflict area. We should not link delays in the clarification of the political issue in Serbia to the launch of a Stability Pact that concerns the whole region. This Stability Pact prompts huge expectations in this region. Everybody expects a lot from it, and it will have to meet those expectations.
Our dialogue also touched on concrete issues. We discussed the need to intensify military cooperation with NATO. We would like to be the first to begin the Membership Accession Plan, and we need support to achieve this goal. In brief, it was a meeting which not only offered us the prospect of a development that we and the region need but also gave us the feeling of having done our duty. Thank you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much. I am very pleased to be back in Bucharest and to have had the chance to meet with President Constantinescu and Foreign Minister Plesu.
I thanked President Constantinescu for Romania's strong support and his personal leadership for NATO's stand against ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Your government's support for NATO operations and your help in isolating the Milosevic regime was invaluable, and as chair of the Southeast Europe Cooperation Group, you helped forge common approaches to the crisis. Romania has established beyond any doubt that it is a valued partner for NATO and a respected voice in the international community, and your sovereignty and territorial integrity is of paramount importance to the United States.
I know that the conflict in Kosovo has brought economic hardship to the Romanian people. Today, I have assured President Constantinescu that the United States will help you cope, and our Congress has already approved additional new economic support for Romania, and we're looking for ways to do more. Now the fighting is over. The refugees are going home, and Milosevic has been stopped from threatening all of Southeastern Europe with instability and violence.
But a great deal of work lies ahead to secure the peace, for we recognize that Europe cannot be fully stable until the sources of strife in the Balkans are effectively addressed. This means we must work together as partners to fully integrate Southeast Europe into the continent's mainstream.
The international community, with Romanian participation, has agreed to support a broad program of economic and political reform, improved security cooperation, and support for the rule of law and human rights in the Balkans. Two days ago, President Clinton and his colleagues in the Group of Eight pledged their strong support for this initiative. The European Union and other Western nations have done the same, but, if the initiative is to succeed, then nations in the region, including Romania, must lead the way. And in many respects, Romania is already leading. President Constantinescu and Prime Minister Vasile and his government have been determined supporters of democracy, ethnic tolerance, and economic reform.
Romania's example is one we would very much like to see Serbia emulate. We do not want to isolate the Serb people. A democratic, law-abiding Federal Republic of Yugoslavia would have an important role in the region's development. But Serbia, under Milosevic, has no place in a community of free nations and can expect no part in the assistance we will provide.
Today's meetings also demonstrated that our bilateral cooperation is strong and growing. The United States is committed to advancing the Strategic Partnership our Presidents announced in July of 1997. Our governments have worked together on an action plan to advance Romania's military reform. We support Romania's NATO aspirations, and I am pleased to announce today America's backing for Romania's candidacy to be OSCE Chairman in office for the year 2001. This is a major opportunity for Romanian diplomacy, and we look forward to working with you as you advance your candidacy.
In closing, I want to thank the Government of Romania for the hospitality it has shown during what is obviously an all too brief visit. I hope very much to be able to return at a somewhat less frenetic time to see more of your country and explore in greater depth some of the vital issues upon which we touched today. For I am confident that our countries have much to gain from even closer cooperation in the months and the years ahead. Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Could you say whether there is a possibility for Romania to receive international financial support from international institutions, considering the damages Romania has suffered as result of the conflict in Yugoslavia, and if the response is 'yes', please mention those institutions?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes, well let me say that we know that the conflict has, in fact, imposed serious costs on Romania, and it's our aim together with the European Union to make the long-term economic development of Southeastern Europe a priority of our transatlantic agenda. We will support the nations of Southeast Europe in forging a better future for the region and one obviously based on democracy, justice, and economic integration and security cooperation. We are, in fact, providing additional funds of substantial value and will be looking for more because we do believe that Romania has suffered as a result of the conflict and has played a very important role. But all this is to be developed, and we will be working very closely, obviously, the Foreign Minister and I, to make this happen.
QUESTION: Madam State Secretary, what, in your view, is Romania's role in the future of the region? I'm not only referring here to the reconstruction of the Balkans, but to the future stabilization of the region that, in the end, will mean the stabilization of Europe.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say that, maybe this is because I'm basically an optimist, but I believe that as horrible as the crisis in Kosovo has been, that ultimately there must be some good that comes out of it. And I think that it is now evident that the international community is recognizing the importance of having democracy and stability and economic reform in the region, and that there is a widespread desire to support that kind of progress.
In my many conversations with the Foreign Minister -- we have met, now, many times, either bilaterally or when we had meetings with the front-line states -- I have particularly appreciated his commitment to Romania being a part of a process of integration and working with other countries to present a very strong message of the necessity for cooperation. And he mentioned in his statement the number of opportunities that exist for Romania to take a leading role in pushing this overall process forward, whether it is as Chair of various SECI meetings, or as part of co-chairs as we look at the framework of the Stability Pact. We expect Romania to take a leading role because of the experience that Romania itself has had, and also the willingness to really take this kind of a leadership role within the region.
Let me say that one thing that is very important. President Clinton and the other leaders have in some way described that what should be happening here, in Southeast Europe, should be similar to what happened in Western Europe after World War II. Now, there are not the sums of money that were part of the Marshall Plan, but the spirit of it needs to be present here, and part of that spirit is that this is not just an activity where there are donor nations and recipients. Those who are to be beneficiaries of it have to be a part of it. They have to do what the West Europeans did, which is, while keeping their individual identity, promote a unified approach, and take part in the planning of what happens. And I have already seen, both in the President and the Foreign Minister, the desire to be an active participant in such a stability.
QUESTION: To what extent did Romania's support for NATO's intervention in Yugoslavia bring our country closer to integration into the North Atlantic alliance?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think, as I have said, the support that was given, I think, was very important and especially -- throughout the whole crisis, and in many ways has already made Romania part of the NATO family. I have outlined to the President and the Foreign Minister that obviously the steps forward are to take an active role in this Membership Action Plan that we have laid out. And the exemplary behavior of Romania throughout the crisis is a sign that they will be very good partners as they move through the Membership Action Plan with the goal ultimately of being a NATO member.
QUESTION: Madam, you mentioned here that Romania is a valid partner for the United States and the international community. This valid partner lost, due to this war, $850 million. Do you think that there will be any possibility for us to get at least part of this money back? I'm thinking of the United States and also of the financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank, which are based in Washington. Thank you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, as I said earlier, I think everybody recognizes that Romania, as well as the other front-line states, took serious losses as a result of this crisis, and as a part of the various plans being made for the region, obviously trying to help the economies here, is going to be a major aspect of this.
I think there are also opportunities, within the economies, of doing more things together which will provide additional incentives, I think, for investors to come in to the region and to Romania specifically. As you mentioned, the World Bank, that has been taken care of, and I'm hopeful about the IMF. I think that it is very clear that Romania has taken some very important steps in order to reform its economic system and prepare itself for the next phase. So, I am hopeful and all I can tell you is that we all recognize the sacrifices that have been by the Romanian people, and part of the whole project of working with Southeast Europe is a way to try to help the economies rejuvenate themselves and, in fact, take a whole new step forward by increased economic cooperation.
QUESTION: This is really a follow-up on a previous question. There has been much discussion about helping countries in Southeastern Europe with debt relief, and the Prime Minister of this country has specifically suggested that will be a critical measure because repayment and servicing of debt has been a very serious matter to be considered here. What's the U.S. position on that, please?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We had some discussion about this and obviously we are very concerned about the size of the debt, and again when I return, we will be having further discussions on the subject.
QUESTION: Mrs. Secretary of State, Mr. James Rubin stated in Pristina that, I quote: "For, the United States, we did not support independence in Kosovo, and Mr. Thaci knows this. But nor are we here to take anybody's dreams away." Does it mean that the United States supports Kosovo's independence?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think Mr. James Rubin stated it the way I would. There is no accident in that. Let me say that what we believe is that under the agreements currently made, we have made very clear that we support a very high degree of autonomy for Kosovo. There will be a civilian administration now under the United Nations which will develop a political process. There will be a whole series of things that happen in terms of getting elections into place, officials into place, and we have said that we do not want to take people's dreams away.
Our position is that we have not been for Kosovo independence, but we have been and will continue to be for this period to be used in a way that will allow a political process to evolve and allow them to have the highest degree of autonomy.
At the same time, we will be working very hard for supporting democratization movements within Serbia. We believe that ultimately a democratic Serbia could change the entire situation in the region, and that we should support open media in Serbia and really work all of us together to get a democratic Serbia.
And while I am on this, let me just add something. I think that it is very important that we understand that what Kosovo was about was about tolerance and the possibility for multiethnic societies to exist as they do in Romania. And therefore, we support the fact that Serbs should come back -- Serb people, not the military forces -- should come back to Kosovo, that Serbs should be allowed to go back to Krajna, and that the Serbs -- we have no fight with the Serb people -- and we want to see them have the ability to live within a democratic system, and I think that that is something that we are all dedicated to, also as part of this Southeast European initiative.
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