- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Romanian optimism

Romanian President Ion Iliescu cited terrorism, globalization and the damage to U.S.-European relations as obstacles to overcome but declared himself optimistic that Romania will meet those challenges as part of a greater alliance with Western nations.

“I remain an optimist with regard to the future, and I assure you that Romania will be a firm promoter of democracy, liberties and human rights, justice and social peace as a responsible member of the international community,” he said in a speech at George Washington University this week.

The address was the major public event during his Washington visit, which included meetings with President Bush, congressional leaders and business executives.

Mr. Iliescu recounted Romania’s transformation from the overthrow of the brutal communist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, in 1989 to a market democracy and imminent member of NATO and the European Union. During that period, Romania became one of Washington’s closest Eastern European allies. Romania supported the United States in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Senate this week showed its appreciation with a resolution that recognized the “strong and vibrant relations between the United States and Romania.”

Mr. Iliescu, in his speech, said Romania “has come a long way” in the 14 years since the collapse of communism. The transition included economic shock therapy that helped create a bustling capitalist market that grew by an annual rate of 5 percent over the past three years.

“The sacrifices we made to pass from totalitarianism to democracy have not been in vain,” he said. “Today Romania is, indeed, a consolidated democracy based on the rule of law, respect for human rights and a functional market economy.”

Mr. Iliescu thanked the United States for being supportive during the transition.

“Our progress could not have been possible without the support of our American and European friends and allies,” he said. “We know that America respects our hard work, patience and determination to overcome the legacy of the past and tenaciously project our future.”

He noted that U.S.-Romanian trade grew by 20 percent last year, to “beyond the level of $1 billion.” U.S. investment in Romania reached $694 million by major American corporations, including Lockheed Martin, General Motors and Coca Cola.

Mr. Iliescu said Romania also is confronting its dark heritage during World War II, when a fascist government massacred Romanian Jews.

“Romania today is committed to protect and highlight the cultural heritage of its minorities,” he said.

Mr. Iliescu’s government also has adopted laws against human trafficking and anticorruption measures to protect foreign investment.

Romania is one of seven countries due to join NATO next year and is expected to enter the European Union in 2007.

“As a future NATO and EU member, we are committed and determined to use our potential for the good of our democratic community,” he said, adding that Romania will support the further expansions of both organizations to include the countries of the Balkans.

Powell thanks UAE

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell this week expressed the Bush administration’s appreciation for the support from the tiny Persian Gulf state of the United Arab Emirates, which backed the U.S. war on terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mr. Powell met with Sheik Hamdan bin Zayed al Nahayan, the UAE’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, who described his country’s relations with the United States as “outstanding.” The UAE is one of the few Arab nations that is helping in the reconstruction of Iraq, having pledged $215 million to the effort.

Mr. Powell said he thanked “his highness for the support [the UAE] has provided to our global war on terrorism.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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