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Bucharest, June 18 /Agerpres/ - Romania's representative to the NATO Emerging Leaders Working Group, Radu Magdin says in an interview with AGERPRES that the Romanian troops are highly respected for their bravery in the theaters of operations, and this respect on field should generate political capital, in order for Romania to have more influence within the North Atlantic Alliance.
In addition, Magdin referred to the Middle East conflicts and the solutions to ease tensions in the region, as well as to the risks facing the US and NATO amid increasing contacts between China and Russia.
As for the forthcoming appointment of the EU Commissioners, Radu Magdin is skeptical about Romania's chance to keep Dacian Ciolos at the agriculture portfolio.
AGERPRES: Mr. Magdin, you are a member of the NATO Emerging Leaders Working Group. Tell us more about this structure because the general public's knowledge on this matter is pretty scarce.
Radu Magdin: Everything starts from this anniversary year. 2014 is a very important year for NATO and not just in terms of de facto developments, I'm referring to the events in Crimea or ISAF's withdrawal from Afghanistan. It's an anniversary year. This year we celebrate the 65th anniversary of NATO, 10 years since Romania's accession to NATO, 15 years since the accession of the Visegrad states, 25 years since the Fall of the Berlin Wall, so it's a multiple anniversary moment.
Within this context, there have been many questions raised on the direction we follow, on the direction NATO follows, and therefore the NATO Secretary General, whose term ends in October, when he will be replaced by Norwegian [Jens] Stoltenberg, so incumbent secretary general [Anders Fogh] Rasmussen said during the preparations for the NATO Summit in Cardiff this autumn that he wants three key reports - one from NATO's Parliamentary Assembly; one from a group of experienced gurus, or elders, whatever we choose to call them, wise men, experts of mature age on security topics; and one from emergent leaders from NATO member states. There are 28 NATO states now, and only 15 of us were selected. It was not as much a national nomination, as a proposal, a self-proposal; we filed a set of applications and we have been selected based on our CVs. In my opinion, a sort of regional balance was also followed, people from Eastern Europe were chosen; I was chosen for Romania, and a Polish female colleague who works in Brussels was chosen for Poland. Nevertheless, I definitely think that the message that was given was that Romania is important. We're a big country. Definitely, Poland, Romania and Turkey will be the forerunners of any operations in the context of a regionally more aggressive Russia, and implicitly I think it's a very big plus for us.
AGERPRES: If asked, if you had major decision powers, how would look your proposal for the consolidation of the alliance in these quite delicate moments on a global level? We have soaring terrorism; we have a comeback of the Soviet Union, if I may say so. What would your proposal be?
Radu Magdin: We have already drawn up a five-page document guided by the principle of being brief and to the point so that the document, which we have submitted to the NATO secretary general, the colleagues in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the group of wise men, may be read. What would be specific to us and different from, say, a set of proposals on which we could all agree regarding the future of the Alliance, is very great emphasis on communication and the fact that NATO should not be abandoned.
The fact that we, being in a sensitive neighbourhood in eastern Europe, are stressed out by the increase in Russia's actions in the region does not mean some communication battle has been won or that all of a sudden we can stay calm since NATO, all of a sudden, exists and dispatches more planes, more ships and stations more troops in Romania, Poland or any other country in the same region. We believe it is very important for comprehensive action to exist to conquer, as the Anglo-Saxons would put it, hearts and minds. It takes honorary ambassadors, people to get involved in discussions with the community, ties need to be getting closer with the media, analysts and this entire sphere, because if we take a look at what has been happening over the past months - and articles were written about that - today's Russia is not the Russia of 1989 or 1991; it is a strengthened Russia, including from the point of view of strategic communication.
Perception many times matters more than reality proper. We have witnessed a genuine intelligence war in Kiev; we have seen imperial elements that were present even in presentations; and not to mince words, we have witnessed an entire information war on key media markets. For instance, the German market, where pro-Russia, pro-NATO and pro-US information comes together. On truly important markets, this tension emerges quite clear. And my opinion is that it was not by chance the entire 'descent', a word with no immediate equivalent in Romanian, the successive descent of important American visits to Bucharest - Vice-President Biden, the CIA director, the secretary of defence. This automatically means that Romania is a key player. The important thing is that Romania should be a key player, not a key pawn in this game of chess.
AGERPRES: You have said that you saw some contradictory information in Germany that, although positive about America, was in favour of Russia. Does this situation betray Germany's position?
Radu Magdin: Germany's position is complicated but it has to be balanced because we many times magnify things through the national magnifying glass. Willy-nilly, we are doing it today by looking at things through the lenses of the national interest. Our national interest is for us to become a prosperous, stable and safe country. NATO helps us especially with the last part, the safety and security dimensions. As far as Germany's perspective is concerned, Germany surely has a historic memory, the memory of East Germany and West Germany, but at the same time Germany has been working a lot over the past two decades to resume normalcy in its relationship with Russia, having invested very much in a bilateral economic partnership, and we do not mean here only energy, it is also about access to the Russian market for big multinationals; it is about an entire partnership.
Any partnership is built in time and very much confidence is invested into it. Automatically, it is not easy for Germany to come and say, 'Russia, you know you should no longer play in the neighbourhood because that could ...,' or if it does do it, it has to do it with very much tact precisely not to harm the bilateral partnership of the past two decades.
AGERPRES: But are not these solid economic interests of Germany related to Russia somehow damaging NATO's interests?
Radu Magdin: Yes, they are. But there is a saying in politics that capital does not stink. The same as in financial hubs there is Arab capital coexisting with Palestinian capital and Jewish capital, there is Russian, German and American capital in the City of London coexisting, so money will find its way, so to say. The question now is how money turns into an obstacle to security and how money discredits foreign policy actions. For instance, Germany might have played better than other countries did. If we are to look at France, we see that it is facing a problem: it has a defence industry manufacturing high-quality equipment, it has operational contracts with Russia, the already famous Mistrals; it finds itself in a situation in which it has the contracts in theory and for the sake of industry it has to sell weapons, while on the other hand it has no guarantee that the same weapons will not be used against any NATO member state later on. At least from this perspective, Germany finds itself in a situation in which it has said: 'Ok. Immediate weapon moratorium.' Undoubtedly, as far as perception goes, the United States was the country that has most clearly came to assuage our worries as Eastern European countries.
AGERPRES: NATO's secretary general has recently stated that we have to adjust to the fact that Russia perceives NATO as a foe. What would such adjustment entail?
Radu Magdin: First of all it would entail us realising what our vulnerabilities are and making sure they will not be exploited. Apropos of what the US descent I mentioned earlier means: it was not some security descent or administrative and political; it was a descent at thought level if we look at the people who came. It was Kaplan, then Friedman and they somehow detailed the fact that the new challenges against statehood and regional security are more perverse than they used to be. By the way, Russia will certainly not dare play with Romania Poland or the Baltic states, because Article 5 would automatically activate, and, willy-nilly if you are the United States or any other European country you cannot spoil your image by not defending your treaty brothers. That does not mean they cannot act much more perversely. They cannot act at economic level, at the level of influencers, they cannot try to undermine the self-esteem of a nation, and by doing so to slow down various projects.
AGERPRES: Do you think that for the sake of its own image the United States would risk a wide-scale war?
Radu Magdin: I have attended an event, as I was welcomed to the group of emerging NATO leaders. That was a very interesting event in Washington, organised by the Atlantic Council, where also attending was Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former national security adviser under US President Carter. Zbigniew Brzezinski said a very clever and common sensical things: what has happened now under the Obama administration is a pivot to Asia, the fact that the United States realised that strategically speaking the big challenges in terms of population, in social, military and commercial terms would come from the US bilateral relationship with China and from what we can call fights in the Pacific, rather than from the trans-Atlantic area, which is seen as more secure. Now, what has happened with Russia casts things in terms of credibility. If I, the United States, fail to act, I will not make my European partners more trustful in me in relation to a re-emerging, more aggressive Russia; what certitude will South Korea, Japan and the Philippines, all US Pacific partners states, have? Automatically, if I am strong in Europe I display confidence for the Asia pivot; if not, my foreign policy credibility would come to zero. That is why I believe the signals sent by the United States should be considered very seriously.
AGERPRES: Are we going back to a cold war?
Radu Magdin: I do not think we are there yet. I would draw a comparison: currently we are in the schoolyard after one of our classmates infamous for being more aggressive by nature than others, with a past history of aggressiveness, has seriously shoved another classmates, having probably taken away the latter's sandwich from home and undisturbedly eating it while we are watching out in terror. A cold war would be if we were not speaking to each other in the schoolyard or if we gathered together all of us to somehow isolate the more aggressive guy. For the time being, we are still in shock 'watching out calmly,' but uneasy inside us, as the aggressive mate is eating the sandwich of the shoved mate. I believe easing tensions is being attempted. Various guys in the schoolyard are trying to reason with the aggressive guy and tell him 'I hope you will not do it again.' He is saying, 'Do not worry. I think I am getting full,' but we are still talking to each other. So, we are in no cold war yet.
AGERPRES: A certain rapprochement between China and Russia has been recently noticeable. Would such an alliance not endanger what I would call NATO's world military supremacy?
Radu Magdin: Russia and China are complementary and both Moscow and Beijing realise that. At the same time, they are only apparently natural partners because they have diverging interests, as a rising Chinese population could cross the borders and little by little colonise de facto swathes of Siberia.
On the other hand, you cannot control such vast a land when you have 140-150 million people, as Russia does. You can never know what will happen in the future. If we take a look at the Russian and Chinese geopolitical thinking, their present interest is to join sides, because Russia can supply China the necessary energy and development resources, while China can provide Russia a financial market if there were a boycott on the European market.
Since we are not talking here about an immediate solution, because there are no immediate solutions and both Russia and China know that, but there are solutions covering three, four, five years, because in the current context, let us say, Europe starts buying as much energy as possible from Arab states - liquefied gas or shale gas when they start buying more energy from the United States, then we will certainly not need any more energy. Russia will be left without contracts. Again, this is not in the short run, but in 4-5 years' time. The contract with China does no start immediately either. We are talking about supply starting in 2017 or 2018, if I am not too much mistaken.
At the same time, we have to remember that in this bilateral relationship each negotiates toughly because we are talking about strong schools indeed. Take this treaty signed by Russia and China: it took ten years of negotiations for it to happen. Categorically, on the home stretch, if we take a look at the structure of the treaty, it was presented by Russia as a victory, but China is the big winner, in that it got a very good price, besides having secured resources for itself. I am sure that had Russia not been in a hurry to conclude the treaty, more in a hurry than China, even better prices would have been won.
AGERPRES: And so I return to my question: Doesn't this treaty jeopardize US and NATO interests?
Radu Magdin: Theoretically the rapprochement between the two giants is made to worry us, at least theoretically. Now, the purpose of China is not to be aggressive. The purpose of China is to have a sustainable rise, to resolve its internal issues, all the while projecting more and more force. It would rather be in China's interest to weaken the United States and the perception of American power and in this sense help Russia than to enter an effective conflict with the United States. Although, yet again, we are speaking of various gestures that are typical for power and partnerships.
On the other hand, it is a natural rapprochement from another point of view. If we are to look at what is happening in Europe and the United States, the fact that we are negotiating a major commercial treaty for commerce and investments, this Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP, the fact that we are clearly tending towards - the only difference is who negotiates better at the expense of the other, it is a matter of time though for this geo-political accomplishment - we are clearly tending towards a common market between Europe and the United States.
So, at the moment that these colossi, that together probably do not reach China's population in size, but together have resources, institutional experience, an educated populace that is prosperous, that relies heavily on innovation, research, which are, in fact, the economy of the future, that have resources for food security... It matters a lot and automatically as naturally the US and Europe are very good partners, Russia and China can also learn to be good partners. I'm not sure though if, at the moment, they're no more than good friends.
AGERPRES: In recent times a premiere was recorded in the history of NATO, namely that it has two adversaries. We have Russia and now we have terrorism. Until now this never happened. We see a rise in terrorism, we have terrorism in Syria, in Afghanistan, and we've gotten to the point where we have terrorism in Africa as well, in Kenya. How do you see this ascent of terrorism, given that NATO has spent large sums to combats it, people have died, there were theaters of operations open in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and still terrorism seems more powerful than ever?
Radu Magdin: The problem is that in every situation, it doesn't matter what you do as a first intervention, but what happens with the respective society after the 'tyrant' disappears. What happens in the context of that society's need to redefine its social model and find another charismatic person, assuming they also rely on the father-figure model. The problem is, if we are to look at what is happening in Iraq and other states, that you can't stop a resurgence. What you can do is try and create conditions so that it does not appear. This means prosperity. Prosperous people have no wish to fight. (...)
It's very hard to come to a prosperous populace, in a stable environment and bother them by saying "Let's fight, 'Hasta la victoria siempre', let's go this way". Whereas, in the context in which the social climate is not great, the economic climate is not great, at that moment the seeds of revanchism and the wish to find a new social model find a place to grow, and liberty is not something easy to understand. We can see that we, as a state, with democratic tradition until the communist period, had 24-25 years until we could look and say, when comparing to other states: "We're well". And even we cannot say that we are on the highest of highs in social maturity. It's a thing that lasts decades. If we are to look at a context in which insurgency existed, even post-2003 there's 10-11 years, that, it's true, have drained the West's resources in that country, but, on the other hand, have not helped a lot with the legitimacy of the local authorities because the issue always arises, given that you've gotten used to a bigger brother, to expect them to come and solve your problems. Whereas, if the current administration of Iraq would be a stronger administration and would assume ownership, if there was a more powerful assumption, a stronger empowerment on local issues, which is what is hoped for Afghanistan after the departure of President Karzai - in that context, if people don't assume responsibility, they are vulnerable.
The problem is that there the alternative does not come democratically and it does not come following elections, but it comes as violence, the risk being, at the apogee, Sharia, or more specifically (...) the establishment of an Islamic state. If we think about it, this is the essence of many of the violent terrorist groups in the Middle East.
AGERPRES: Then what are we do to about this area in the Middle East? Because since the end of colonialism, we have perpetual instability, we have clashes. What would be the solution?
Radu Magdin: It's very hard, because a lot of options were tried out. I believe the best option would be the one that leads to prosperity and to greater peace, namely to [proverbially] teach them how to fish. To help them as best as possible to find their own way to success. Now it's very easy to say, for example I can read MBA books from the United States and then come here as an entrepreneur and realize that a series of regulations do not apply, but we should try cooperation at a level of experts to help these people find their own way. (...) The public opinion also does not understand, because there is where the problem lies, in the public opinion at home. Given that we've been affected by the economic crisis, people don't understand why we need to be interventionists, why our own have to die abroad, why spend money for the flooding in Bangladesh, when we have flooding at home - this is one of the arguments used by Farage (e.n. - British politician, leader of British Euroskeptic UKIP party) in the context of floods in Great Britain.
At the moment, the general solution, not an immediate one, is - we can come with general solutions and the rest is up to the respective societies, to help them as much as possible with professional assistance - the medium and long-term solution is to gain back public opinion in the sense of a fair debate regarding what we want from life. (...) We must understand that this world is not peaceful in nature and that democracy, just because it exists here, does not mean it is naturally understood everywhere in the world.
Furthermore, just as in life we are competing amongst each other for a better job, for a better wage, to become head of the homeowners' association or President of Romania, as the case may be, if we are to see different leadership roles, globally these exist at a level of states. We want a strong Europe? A strong Europe means internal prosperity and stability, security on our borders and whether we like it or not, we must understand that our borders are permeable. Whether we are speaking of waves of immigrants coming in a small boat from the northern coast of Africa or people that legally cross borders and then later on commit all sorts of things in the European space - we must have a contingency plan, for all this. The best thing to do, to be sure that nobody invades you, is to be sure that he is well at home. And that is what we must invest with priority.
AGERPRES: Let's come back to Europe, to the crisis in Ukraine. To what extent do you believe the conflict there affects Romania?
Radu Magdin: It categorically affects us and firstly places us in a state of alert. I believe that firstly, categorically, at the level of institutions with responsibilities in the state security sector, various scenarios were analyzed, as it is done everywhere in the world. I believe what hurts us the most is not what happened in Crimea, although it is a very bad signal regarding respect for international law and opens up Pandora's chest regarding other interventions, but looking firstly at the safety of our borders and I'm not referring to our border with Ukraine in the north, but what may happen in the southern area, near the mouths of the Danube - a historical obsession for a neighboring friendly country.
Furthermore, what could happen in Transnistria, in Odessa, if complaints arise, and also from this perspective what could happen to the Republic of Moldova. Because there are two very important years and several risks are overlapping - geopolitical risks overlap with economic risks, security risks and with, if we can say so, leadership risks, because we have key elections in Romania this autumn, as well as key elections in Moldova.
In this case, my opinion is that it's simple for somebody from the outside to say: "You know, you should be careful money from somewhere else doesn't enter your country, 'cause who knows where that money ends up". The solution, however, is to have a coherent calendar on the bilateral investment agenda in which we offer guarantees to each other. We should guarantee that foreign companies can enter a de-bureaucratized regime and one of respect towards capital in Romania and in conditions that are foreign to any concept of corruption, and then on the other hand, we can refuse foreign capital that comes, to say so, with geopolitical implications. And that is very hard to do in a poor country.
AGERPRES: We already have foreign capital. The Gazprom implications...
Radu Magdin: We do. And foreign capital, regarding the fact that it is "odorless", can come through intermediaries, can come from offshores, can come through Cyprus, can come from Switzerland, you may never know where it comes from.
AGERPRES: And this could manipulate political decisions?
Radu Magdin: Categorically. And another thing: any country is vulnerable in this respect. That is why, generally, alienation of critical infrastructure is avoided, so that nobody shuts down electricity in factories... But you can also have a strategic investor with several thousand jobs and he can announce that at the start of September those people no longer have a job. (...) Most probably those people would protest and that adds governmental pressure upon you, locally and not only. So these situations must all be analyzed, especially since it is a key year, bot for us and for the Republic of Moldova.
AGERPRES: What do you believe Romania must do to become a more influential member of NATO?
Radu Magdin: I believe that we have two historical opportunities. A historical opportunity, to say so, and an operational opportunity regarding NATO. I'll start off with the operational opportunity: there is a lot of respect for Romanians that are in the theaters of operations. It is incredible how brave they are, what extraordinary people they are, the impression they make on their colleagues. I've placed more emphasis on this succession of qualities because that is how it is. When you talk to foreign colleagues and they tell you, even if the discussions are among civilians, though, categorically, we all interact with the security sphere from time to time, but it is incredible the respect that Romanians garner in an operational sense and this thing must be capitalized upon politically.
The second issue is the geopolitical opportunity. We are yet again on the map and we are yet again important. If you look at a map of Europe you'll realize that NATO cannot truly work in the area without Poland, Romania, and Turkey. We are three key-pieces and we are perfectly aligned. In this context the question is what do you do. Do you put your resources at disposal, just like that, because you're a good guy or girl, or do you ask for something in return? And I believe this is a great opportunity. Yes, categorically, we will work together for the joint plan, but at the same time, let's build another military base, or extend the military base, let's invest some more in the surroundings, let's bring some prosperity, because we are returning, yet again, to the essence: prosperity, security, stability. If we are poor but honest in a complicated security environment, we may not defend ourselves as best we could.
AGERPRES: I know you served in the European Parliament. What chance do you give Romania to keep its current position in the European Commission, specifically that of European Commissioner for Agriculture, knowing that Romania is not the only one to seek a portfolio in Brussels, even if policy makers have reached a consensus at internal level?
Radu Magdin: The main difficulty is not that much related particularly to Romania, it is rather a relatively customary approach. If we look at the European Commission's structure in various terms, from 1990 onwards, since I have been carefully following European affairs - and not just in this period - I can tell you that keeping the portfolio is very difficult, even when there is continuity at the level of Commissioner. As far as I know, this has never happened in the last 15 years, during the last three terms of the European Commission. (...) We have no guarantee that if we maintain our candidate we automatically get Agriculture - on the contrary, the practice is against us - against one getting the portfolio of Agriculture assigned two times in a row. Plus that there are other states interested in the portfolio of Agriculture too. It definitely is on the list of priorities of the upcoming holder of the EU Presidency - Italy, just as it is on ours, too. We do not necessarily have to get Agriculture assigned again, but we can use this lever in our attempt to get another very good portfolio and not return to this semi-honorary kind of portfolio like multilingualism or land a less relevant portfolio.
AGERPRES: And what would, in your opinion, be a very good portfolio for Romania?
Radu Magdin: Absolutely everything that has to do with economy, everything related to the Energy portfolio, there is plenty of money at the Environment, at Regional policy, the matters related to innovation, research. Let us not forget that we often walk into the pitfall of immediacy and do not put forward the idea of investments and fail to have a medium- and long-term vision. If we look at the European trends, what happens with the budget of the European Union? The cohesion part, the part assigned to regional funds, or agriculture are slowly and steadily losing ground in favor of the new economy, ie everything related to research, innovation, to Horizon 2020, to this area. We understand the structure of the country and that we need to invest in agriculture, provide help, but we could really use more IT clusters, now that we speak about the new economy, investing so as to have more centers like the one at Magurele wouldn't be bad at all.
Let us not forget that this crisis sheds light on yet another aspect. One kind of job is not automatically replaced with a different kind of job. Some 500,000 - 600,000 jobs can be lost in a context of austerity, jobs are shed in the administrative sphere, in other areas of the private sector, in the classic industry, and on the other hand we see a host of jobs emerging in IT & C. But it's not the same people who just switch from one job category to another. Restarting the SOP HRD plays a key role here and for everything that has to do with retraining.
Times have changed since the communism experienced by our parents, when one kept the same position, the same job in the same facility from the start to the end of one's career - yes, they were respectable professions, serious people who worked all their lives for themselves and their families. And it's in our generational logic to be at job No. three, four, five or even more by the age of 45 - 50. We often wonder, when we have already spent more than 3-5 years in a job, if we are not stagnating and whether we don't want something else. So we clearly need to consider things from this perspective too, which should not be underestimated.
Let's definitely set our sights on important and well-funded portfolios and let us also look at the weighty legislative portfolios. For everything that is related, for instance, to agriculture, Commissioner Ciolos has done a very good job and he is well-acknowledged for this - he deserves to be applauded not only by Romanians, but also at European level - but the big issues related to reform and regulation have already been sorted out. The big-scale files to be put forward on the market are energy and everything that has to do with energy security, everything related to the Internet, innovation, technology, then again there will be regulation files. Again, Trade is yet another very important portfolio. (...)
We must understand one thing about the Commissioners, namely that political stature matters. Often, although one is respected as a technocrat, the fact that one is a major politician - Minister, Prime Minister - that one has done something in his life, ripples to the public at that moment. We need a highly skilled negotiator in the European Commission, regardless of his profile. And even if it were the portfolio of Agriculture, or Regional funds, this still doesn't mean that the Commissioner comes to visit Romania and says: "You know, I have a 30 billion worth of portfolio and I thought that, since I'm from Romania, I'd give you 10 billion." Things don't work like that, everything is done on a project basis, hence the great disappointment experienced by many in Romania. Many Romanians though that if several tens of billions of European funding flow to the center, they would be then shared out into the territory based on quotas or on political considerations and that we would split the funds among us, unbothered by anyone. But when they saw that the absorption of funds implies projects, monitoring, that it involves invoicing after every move and not a discretionary use of money, this cut much more of ...
AGERPRES: And this was visible in the absorption rate.
Radu Magdin: Exactly. It reflected in the absorption rate, but my opinion is that leaving aside the fact that we are used to periodically doing penance, we must understand that we are not really that bad and that Romania is not lacking direction to the extent we would often pretend it to be. As you travel to Europe and see other countries you are aware of a fantastic effervescence in Romania because since the '90s we have had periods and periods, there have been times when we put the brakes on - like in the 90s, when we lost so many trains - and then suddenly we had a credit boom, a period of political reform, and a period of justice reform, all overlapping. We are so distraught, with the due quotation marks, also because all these processes overlapped and we had no room for debate (...) we didn't afford a social balance.
AGERPRES: We were forced to do in just a few years what other did in decades.
Radu Magdin: Exactly. But this does not mean that Romania is not moving forward. For instance, it is amazing to see - as you move away from Bucharest deeper into the country - how very interested are the people in the local communities in developing projects, in finding out what are the things that they could do and also in gaining expertise. We can see how, of course, the municipalities first, or the bigger cities, are beginning to move, you can see that there is an effervescence and that they are trying to attract funds. And we already have successful cases, from Suceava to Alba Iulia, in various parts of the country. However, we need to understand something fundamental: our destiny as a country is very much dependind on our individual destiny. Or, in other words, if I keep my ambition as an individual or as a country, then, of course, I will work harder, I will do good, I won't expect things from the state and I will try to do alone as much as I can.
My opinion is that a kind of constructive envy that we have in Romania will very much push us forward and someone will come and say: 'Look, the President of the County Council across the street managed to raise much more money.' And that someone from that moment on will feel pressured to develop successful projects, to be successful. And this means in fact that there is competition.
AGERPRES: How do you think about this recent wave of Euro-skepticism? We seem to have now very many extremists gathered in the European Parliament. Is this endangering the European construction or it's just a temporary situation?
Radu Magdin: I didn't look at this wave from an alarmist perspective in the first place, but I rather prefer to look at it from the perspective of communication and strategy. I ended the last paragraph by using the word 'competition.' I see populists and extremists everywhere among the politicians today, among the classical politicians, mainstream, as they are called by the Anglo-Saxons. In fact, what are we talking about? We are talking about people who propose something new, something that they express very clearly, more emphatically, while using their emotions, but without being able to tell us exactly of what use is to us. And we are so much taken aback by this propaganda wave and so much disappointed in the previous products [...] that did not function for us, so that we are ready to buy this new thing. And when I say 'us' I'm not referring to Romanians in particular, but rather to a largely confused Western European population. We also had this big chance of the transition period. We started from the very bottom. And starting from the bottom is like when you are poor and as your wage increases more and more you are glad and pleased about the fact that you are making progress. If we were to compare our life in the 1990s or the 2000s or even in the 2010s, my opinion is that most Romanians are doing well at present.
In exchange, the situation in the Western world is quite different. They had already lived several decades of glory. If we take for instance France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, countries that founded the European Union, they lived the so-called 'trente glorieuses' - the 30 years of prosperity and economic growth immediately after the beginning of the European integration process. After which they stagnated too. In the case of Spain for instance there was a time of prosperity due to its capacity to best absorb the European funds. This country was so good in getting the money that it even became difficult for it to spend it.
Therefore, it was logic that Romanians weren't affected by the crisis in the same way as the people living in these countries that used to know prosperity. The economic crisis hit us the most in the crediting sector, since very many Romanians had money borrowed from the banks and they suddenly found themselves in the situation where they couldn't pay them back and they were forced to negotiate with the banks, whereas the Western Europeans had already known prosperity and when you suddenly become poor after being rich of course that it is very hard to endure.
AGERPRES: You saw that in England they more and more discuss about a possible referendum to question into whether the country should exit the European Union or not. Will the EU have a chance to survive if England leaves it?
Radu Magdin: Yes, it will survive. The real question is: will Great Britain be able to survive if it leaves the Union? In theory, if we were to look at the strategy, London has always been on a superior level, because of the fact that it used to be an empire, the Great Britain. Obviously, there is a very high intensity of talent there and strategic vision. If we were to look, to put it like this, to the blood that is being pumped into the veins of the British economy, to the City of London, while leaving aside the classical industry, we will see that the City of London is diversifying. I had recently been to London so that I was able to see with my own eyes what is happening there - the fact that they started to trade, as the second centre worldwide after the one in China doing it, the Chinese yuan, the fact that they entered the field of Islamic bonds, the fact that they are building more and more buildings to be bought with Russian, Arab and US capital. Clearly, they are diversifying.
They are also preparing for the worst scenario in which there will be a referendum in the first stage and the answer to that referendum will be 'no.' I believe that what we see right now is rather a deviation from the right-wing policy and a trap for David Cameron in which he is about to fall. The same trap in which Nicolas Sarkozy was caught and the same trap in which Francois Holland is about to fall and only Angela Merkel managed to avoid it. Instead of expressing their own values, their commonsense, the conservative doctrine, in the respective case, the centre-right doctrine in Sarkozy's case and the left-wing doctrine in Hollande's case, they are walking on someone other's territory who is already identified with the respective topic.
You cannot go after Marie Le Pen and beat her at her own game, regardless if you represent the right-wing or the left one. You cannot be on Farage's territory and pretend to be better than him at his own game. What you can do instead is to fill your public agenda with the topics that are similar to those that matter to you and thus strengthen your basis. You can do this corroborated with the economic results, of course. Or, right now, the game that the British are playing is a very dangerous one, since they are trying to combine a movement towards the right of the government and of the de facto British politics with signals talking about unity - what happens now in Scotland - and also a very tough game in relation to Brussels, if we were to look at the manner in which they are playing with Juncker's position right now.
Or, what happens if, for instance, Juncker becomes President of the European Commission and Cameron's little plan fails? In that precise moment, his political position will be weakened. What will happen then? His political opponents will come to him and say: 'You do not count in the European Union.' Automatically, the question arises, in the context in which almost 50 percent of you trade is in fact intra-community trade, what market could you possibly find, in the context in which you exit the Union, to replace basically half of you prosperity?
It's not easy to change everything like this at once, when a regime of negotiation similar with the one practiced by Switzerland or Norway, what does it mean in fact? That, in fact, you will need to follow about the same rules, my rules, while you will no longer be invited at the table.
And another thing that has to do with realism and capital. I'm not sure if the big states such as France, Germany [...] are sure that they won't cry much after the UK. It rather seems like the Liberal wing, given that, if we were to look at the political strategy in the European Union, the Liberal wing is like a counterweight to the French-German engine, including the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and also the states that were at the recent with Mrs. Merkel in an attempt to temper a little bit the situation with Juncker - all these states will rather feel as a minority as soon as the UK leaves the system. With respect to the rest, I'm sure that there is going to be a big coalition closer to the moment of the actual exit, a coalition made by the people in the City, the British industrialists, and such mainstream politicians as Tony Blair, peter Mandelson, labourists and including the pure European conservatories.
For they also have a wing of the Conservative Party that is Euro-skeptical. Although let's not forget still that great Britain had a lot to win, including under Thatcher, John Major and not just them, from its belonging to the European Union. AGERPRES
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