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Secretary Cohen Press Conference in Bucharest, Romania

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
December 07, 1999

Press Conference in Bucharest, Romania

Minister Babiuc: Very briefly let me say a few words. I think we can say that the meeting was a success and I say this for two reasons: an important document was signed on the creation of a joint engineering unit; and, we also agreed to sign a regional information agreement for crisis situations. We also had an exchange of ideas on the situation in the region and we agreed on the general evaluation of the regional situation. We could therefore demonstrate that there could be a fruitful cooperation in South-East Europe on security issues, which was unusual for the region. And I believe we have reasons to look at the future with confidence. I also had bilateral talks with Secretary Cohen, which will continue after we leave this building for the Government headquarters. We have identified new areas of cooperation between the U.S. and Romanian forces, and we agreed to have closer ties and a more substantial support from the American side. I believe we can say that cooperation and security are the two important concepts for this region; that we will build further, together, with countries in the region and other countries like the United States and Italy, and we will have a stronger bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and Romania. Thank you.

Secretary Cohen: First, let me thank you, Minister Babiuc, and your Ministry of Defense to help shape the reform of the military that is now underway. One of the things that Minister Babiuc and I discussed several years ago now was the development of an NCO corps for the Romanian military. That development has been undertaken by our Marine Corps, and today we've had the opportunity to meet two very fine instructors that we have here from the (U. S.) Marines. So this is just one example of the types of contacts we have and will have in the future to help develop the military capability in Romania.

Q: How close is Romania to being qualified to become a NATO member? If it is not qualified yet, which are the fundamental changes need to be made?

Secretary Cohen: As you know, NATO has indicated that it will assess whether there would be additional members to come in. That decision will be made in the year 2002. During that time we intend to work very closely with Romania to help it achieve its goal of becoming a member of NATO. There are very steep steps, as we indicated before, to arriving at that open door of NATO membership. They include, of course, developing a market economy, promoting democracy, and establishing civilian control over the military, and being able to demonstrate that the new aspirant can be a contributor to NATO security, as well as a consumer. So what I can say at this time is that, under the leadership of Minister Babiuc, Romania is undertaking (actions) to achieve these goals and we will work very closely with Romania in the coming months and the next several years.

Minister Babiuc: I would like to add only one thing: that a very interesting instrument has been created in the meantime to assess the progress in each country. It's the annual training plans which marks a stage in the development of each country, and this is evaluated in Brussels in order to see how steps are implemented in each candidate-country. These are small intermediate steps to be undertaken until the year 2002, on the way to NATO.

Loara Stefanescu, Romanian Television (RTV): For Minister Babiuc, there has been great talk lately about assuming responsibility for security in the region and Europe. Taking into account the political, military and diplomatic experience of Kosovo, do you think the candidate-countries are ready for that.

Minister Babiuc: It is a very interesting question. If we were to look historically at the development of countries in this region of Europe, the answer should be negative. If we evaluate the conduct of these countries when the successive crises in former Yugoslavia erupted, I think that the answer would be encouraging because the countries in the region did react. They have cooperated with European and NATO countries and have attempted together to find solutions to the crisis. They have been and are at present in Bosnia and Herzegovina, are present in Kosovo, and have been present in Albania, and if we look at the past meetings of the Defense Ministers in South-East Europe, these countries prove their preoccupation to cooperate among themselves for that very reason of assuming responsibility for the security and stability in the region. The presence of the United States, Italy, and other NATO countries among us is, I belive, a reason to encourage us on the way we took. That is why I said in the beginning of my remarks that the results of this fourth SEEDM Conference are full of hope. I believe the countries in the region are becoming capable of resolving the problems created by security and stability in the region. And I can only be glad to see that whenever we feel the need for support, the United States and NATO are ready to support us.

Q: Jim Manion, AFP: For both of you gentlemen, can there be stability in the region as long as Milosevic stays in power in Serbia? And did you discuss ways in which that situation can be changed at this meeting, or do you have any ideas about how a change in the leadership of Serbia can be affected?

Secretary Cohen: We did not have any discussion pertaining to Milosevic other than the crisis which he precipitated and to which NATO responded. And while we did touch upon a number of the lessons that were learned as a result of the Allied Force operation, we focused instead on a broader range of issues in terms of how the South-Eastern European countries can in fact cooperate to build a greater stability and prosperity for the region. It is my own view that as long as Milosevic remains in power, then Serbia will not be able to be fully integrated into the community of nations here in Europe. I believe there is a growing number of people in Serbia who understand that their future is not tied to Milosevic, but rather is tied to the past. Our hope is that people will have the opportunity to have free and open elections and cast their vote for a new leadership that will allow them to become integrated in the community of nations.

Minister Babiuc: I would only add two sentences. As long as there is no real democracy and economic prosperity there will not be any stability in the region. None of these are possible with Milosevic at the helm. However, we do not want to isolate Serbia. We want to bring it on the roads to democracy and prosperity, and we'll be patient enough to see that through.

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