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 Iohannis in EP address: We need to streamline EU's decision-making capacity, Romania - fully engaged in this exercise


The European Union needs to streamline its decision-making capacity, an exercise Romania is fully engaged into, President Klaus Iohannis declared in his address on Wednesday to the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg, specifying that "the lifting, in March, of air and maritime border controls must be naturally followed within the shortest time possible by the removal of land border controls."

"The Union has the legal and institutional instruments to achieve its goals and the response to the pandemic and the crisis that followed is illustrative. But it is equally obvious that we need to streamline our decision-making capacity," Iohannis said.

"We need to closely analyse what measures can be taken in a context where some consider that real efficiency of decision-making mechanisms is impossible without reopening the Treaties, while others radically rule this possibility out. There is no doubt that measures such as those discussed in relation to Qualified Majority Voting in specific areas of foreign and security policy can be taken without reopening the Treaties," Iohannis told the EP plenary sitting.

"Without excluding changes to the Treaties at some point, we need to use all available possibilities under the existing Treaties for smoother and quicker decision making. Romania is fully engaged in this exercise," Iohannis went on to say.

"The effects of the pandemic, Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, the Middle East conflict - all these are just a few of the dramatic developments that have put to test in recent years not only our ability to respond, but also our sincere attachment to the Union and to the values and principles that hold us together," he argued.

"My country is probably one of the best examples of the European Union's transformative power. Accession brought us indisputable and most concrete benefits. The flow of European funds to Romania since accession has allowed us to carry out essential infrastructure projects. More than 600,000 young Romanians participated in the Erasmus program, thus acquiring the European way of life. The Union means a space of safety, protection, prosperity and diversity," Iohannis explained.

The Romanian head of state also referred to the Schengen Area. "The European Union remains, par excellence, a free movement area. the lifting, in March, of air and maritime border controls must be naturally followed within the shortest time possible by the removal of land border controls. Only this way will Romania's contribution to the reinforcement of the security of the entire Union be accurately and concretely reflected," appreciated the head of state.

"The European project requires, day by day, attention, effort, patience and honesty, if we want to live freely in a united and prosperous Europe. Today's Romania is a strong promoter of coordinated action, in the spirit of European values. We have the responsibility to to support a Europe that carries forward these principles and values, including to our friends from the European neighborhood who have chosen our model of democracy and development," stated Iohannis.

He emphasized that European elections represent a "key stage of this process. The priorities that we will define together after these elections will have to help us respond pragmatically to the challenges of the present and better prepare us for the future."

According to the president, "our Union is facing unprecedented geostrategic challenges. Our future and the future of the next generations depend on each and every decision we are taking now. On a global level, the rules-based international order is being challenged over and over again. Russia pursues its aggression against Ukraine. Around the Union, instability and insecurity have reached alarming levels. The open conflict in the Middle East, the situation in the Red Sea, and the worrying developments in the Sahel, all these have a systemic impact on our own security."

"Climate change, economic difficulties, and illegal migration continue to generate their own negative impact, adding to the complexity of global dynamics. On top of all these challenges, we witness a crisis of values and, as far as I see, a crisis of public trust in our institutions. We are indeed facing an erosion of values within the European Union, which fuels the perception of decline of Europe, or at least of Europe's leadership and global role," he added.

"This is why we need to do more to promote the feeling - and the certainty - that we are all part of the same community of values, which must be protected by every single one of us. At such a pivotal moment, fundamental questions lie ahead of us. We must answer them together, as Europeans, with vision, courage, and responsibility," Iohannis declared.

"First, 'What can we do and have to do as a Union?' The current challenges are pushing us towards a transformative re-thinking of our actions. The past few years proved that our common action, as One, as a true Union, is key. Our unity has been repeatedly tested and has not faltered. More than this, it was a strategic surprise for some and brought us tactical advantages. We should build upon this," he stressed.

"Secondly, thinking further, another crucial question emerges: 'What can we do more, internally?' Strengthening our internal resilience is a fundamental condition for a stronger Union and for its increased geopolitical role. It is perhaps the most complex discussion. It includes finding the best strategies to respond to hybrid threats and to increase the functionality of democratic systems. It means developing sectoral policies, such as technology, including artificial intelligence, fighting climate change, stimulating competitiveness through industrial production, and sustainable supply chains," the Romanian head of state also affirmed.

Iohannis expressed his "belief that the success of the demarches in these areas depends on a strong Single Market, which can provide solutions to many of the problems we face, encouraging creativity and large-scale development."

"We, as a Union, are now taking unprecedented steps to move away from a reactive approach in consolidating our internal resilience. We are taking action in terms of strengthening our internal capabilities, such as infrastructure, green and digital transitions, civil crises response, energy efficiency and supply chains," Iohannis remarked, pointing out that "another obvious line of action is to continue supporting Ukraine."

"We must stand by Ukraine and its people. I have this conviction, despite certain voices invoking a European 'solidarity fatigue'. Defending democracy, territorial integrity and sovereignty, as well as the rules-based international order cannot be subject to any 'fatigue'. Romania remains engaged in this common effort. We are strongly involved in supporting Ukraine, as well as the Republic of Moldova, intensely affected by the crisis in the region. We also need to keep our focus on security. We are now moving towards a joint, long-term planning and increased convergence in the field of European security and defence. While working in full complementarity with NATO, it is indeed high time to deliver on our European ambitions when it comes to our defence industry," Iohannis declared.

He also drew attention that "we must be aware about the growing Euroscepticism. Its adepts may raise issues that are in some part real, but they give wrong and dangerous solutions that would throw our societies into crisis. It is therefore our common duty to be honest in our communication with our citizens," he said.

In his opinion, "another key question to address when looking towards our future" is "How can the Union further externalise its attractiveness?"

"The answer is clear. Enlarging our European family by accepting new members will only strengthen the Union. The historic decisions taken by the European Council last December on the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, as well as on Bosnia and Herzegovina, and on Georgia, are a victory for the entire European Union. This Parliament has been strongly supportive of this objective. Romania - and I personally - have strongly promoted it. I whole-heartedly thank you for your position! It confirms the Union's attractiveness at a time of hardship, strengthens its geopolitical weight and creates opportunities for Member States and candidate countries alike," said Iohannis.

"Enlargement is an essential part of our strategic answer to the geopolitical developments and a key investment in lasting peace, stability, and democracy in our neighbourhood. At the same time, the European Union must assume a leading global role in preserving the international order, as a precondition for preserving our way of life and our values. The European Union's economic weight must be mirrored by its international political role. The challenges we are facing are global and some of them can only be solved by promoting relationships with partners with similar values and interests. Ensuring this strategic network of resilient partnerships will make us stronger and more competitive in the long run. This is why we need to intensify our global outreach efforts towards Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America. And we do need to further consolidate the transatlantic link - this is crucial for our success!," he detailed.

The head of state is of the opinion that, "despite the views of some, we are stronger now than five years ago. We showed remarkable unity in, probably, the direst circumstances we had to face as a Union. Nevertheless, we have a lot of work ahead of us. Our European common construction is, after all, work in progress."

"As stated by Jacques Delors, the visionary European leader that we recently paid homage to, 'The European model is in danger if we obliterate the principle of personal responsibility'. Therefore, it is our shared responsibility to do our best for all our citizens. We have a special responsibility towards our youth. The future generations are looking towards us with hope and optimism in times of geopolitical volatility and socio-economic distress. The future of Europe is about the capacity of the Union to give them honest answers and to deliver in education, health, prosperity, climate security, and employment opportunities," he said.

Iohannis brought to mind the Sibiu Declaration adopted five years ago, specifying that the 10 commitments made back then remain just as valid today.

"Unity, solidarity, cohesion, the rule of law - they continue to lie at the very core of our joint European action. For my part, I remain deeply faithful to these values and principles in my future endeavours - and I am convinced that these are the basis for the work done by you here, as well. I also believe that, together, we are able to maintain the Union on the path of success, staying true to our vision of a united and stronger Europe," Iohannis concluded his address.

President Klaus Iohannis also pleaded in the European Parliament plenary meeting in Strasbourg on Wednesday for a faster decision-making process in the European Union, pointing out that, to this end, some matters can be modified without opening the treaties, but other aspects need to be changed in the treaties.

"It's about the architecture of the Union. And we have to improve it," he said.

"Because if we take Ukraine, Moldova and the Western Balkans, we will be a large union. And this decision making, especially in crisis, war, pandemic and energy crisis, has to be correct, transparent but fast. So I believe that we have to work on our architecture. Some of it may be possible to change without opening the treaties. But some issues have to be changed in the treaties," Iohannis said at the end of his intervention within the 'This is Europe' debate in the EP plenary meeting.

Treaties "are not perfect. Since we have these treaties, I hope you don't mind me telling you, years have passed. We are a different union. And we work towards a different union and I hope very much you agree we work towards a better union. So let's work on this. (...) It is not acceptable that one member is using a veto to stop all of us helping others," the Romanian head of state said.

"So if we put in a political order, we can analyze a qualified majority voting, which may be defined differently than it is now. Not only on details, but at least we should have the courage to say 'No veto' and let's take it out of the decision making process. That's something very concrete we should do," he said.


The president's speech is part of the 'This is Europe' debate series initiated by the European Parliament in 2022.