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Foreign Affairs Minister Ramona Manescu said on Thursday that Romania's accession to Schengen remains a priority of the Romanian diplomacy.

"Evoking the period when I was MEP, I can certainly tell you that (...) all the time both [the European] Parliament and the Commission said Romania was prepared to join Schengen, from a technical and logistical point of view. (...) Practically, we function de facto as a Schengen member state, but de jure we are not regarded as such. Romania doesn't ask anything but the observance of the Treaty, we are members with full rights, we met our commitments and we seriously continue to meet them, no one can challenge Romania's contribution to the security space, because we are not talking only about the eastern flank of NATO, we are also talking about EU's eastern flank," Ramona Manescu told Antena 3 private television broadcaster on Thursday.

She maintained that the Romanian citizens "have all the right to get this well-deserved position of Schengen member state."

"This is not something we must beg for, or be made a favour. It is provided in the Treaty and it must be observed. (...) I assure you we keep this on the agenda as priority topic, and all bilateral and extended discussions will include the Schengen accession component, we won't stop from telling our colleagues in the EU that the Romanian citizens have the same rights," Manescu underscored, mentioning that, at present, in the Council half of the states support Romania's accession to the free movement area, and the others oppose.

The Foreign Minister also pointed out that the Strategic Partnership with the US must remain the central focus of the Romanian diplomacy.

She also showed that Romania has the same position towards Russia as NATO and the EU.

"Romania's position towards Russia starts in the first place from the vicinity we are in, but it is also part of the EU's position regarding Russia, as we are part of the EU, we must get in line with EU's stand. I am referring to sanctions, to certain limitations that we have in the dialogue and cooperation with Russia and I am particularly referring to the firm position we have as EU member, which we have always had, of observing the international legislative framework. We don't ask too much from Russia as an actor on the geopolitical stage if we ask them to respect the international legislative framework. (...) It is the principle which we start from and which we cannot fail to keep not even for Russia, which is here, close to us. We have no reason to make an exception, because nothing is negotiable in this story," Ramona Manescu said.

According to the Minister, the relation with Russia represents "a key point in the stability in the area, in securing NATO's eastern flank, in the manner in which we can further manage the discussions in the Black Sea. "The threats and gestures which Russia has repeatedly done in the Black Sea space, from a military stand, have been sanctioned all the time. (...) Both NATO and the EU have the same discourse. Romania cannot have a different discourse, because it is both part of the EU and NATO, and we are at the Black Sea," she added.

Manescu also said that she expected "the energy diplomacy to have its word," in regards to the resources in the Black Sea.

"Our desire is for a partner such as Exxon to stay here and continue to work together as much and as well as possible. This entails our making some steps in an expected direction. I believe things will settle in the end, enter the right track and I even want to clarify this position shortly and the US partners must be convinced that we'll be keeping the same line. (...) Mrs PM wants this as well," Manescu said. AGERPRES (RO - author: Florentina Peia, editor: Antonia Nita; EN - author: Adina Panaitescu, editor: Rodica State)

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