President Emil Constantinescu (Former President of Romania)

08.11.2009 - Interview conducted by Ilina Nesik

Emil Constantinescu is a geologist, academic and politician, who served as the Romanian President between 1996 and 2000. He worked relentlessly to redeem Romania after a long struggle with communism. During his time as President he made it his goal to render relations with other nations, especially with the West and to improve Romania’s image abroad. Consequently, he is seen to have played a key role in Romania’s acceptance into NATO and the EU.

President Constantinescu participated in the World Without Walls congress, gave a stimulating speech and took part in a panel discussion on “Global Leadership in a World Without Walls: The Challenges Ahead.” He then agreed to have an interview with a member of the CD-News Team.

Firstly, may I thank you for coming here today. 

Since this forum is about cultural diplomacy, I would like to ask you if Romania uses cultural diplomacy as a tool in state diplomacy, for instance in the case of the integration in Europe?

I think that nowadays, cultural diplomacy is very important. However, it is impossible to substitute traditional diplomacy with cultural diplomacy; we need to add it. There is a need to do so because cultural diplomacy opens the door to civil society and academics; what it creates longer lasting effects. Traditional diplomacy is always linked in some ways to the existing power at one point in time. Its practice changes, depending on the leading party, the ideological orientation and the personal relationship between different heads of state. Cultural diplomacy on the other hand comes from the core of society, which makes it much stronger.

Do you think Romania could be the key to more stability in the Balkans?

It is very difficult to assume a role as important as “a key to the Balkans”. Mr Clinton and Mr Chirac once spoke about a “Romanian leadership”, however I refused this term. Particularly in the Balkans, we talk a lot about national pride and I think the key to those conflicts is cooperation: a capacity to understand the value of each country, the characteristics of collective psychology and the different mentalities. In the Balkans especially where, as Churchill once said, there is too much history. I remember a historian’s conference in Sofia, where a young woman asked what was to be done now to improve the situation. An old history teacher answered her: “forget a little about history in order to construct the present and, more importantly, the future”.

The only solution is a real dialogue. I think I succeeded in creating that when I imagined a trilateral system between countries: between Poland, Ukraine and Romania, that was the idea of Wachniswki; between Romania, Ukraine and Moldavia; Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey as well as between Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. This system was not based on institutions and treaties, but it constructed personal relations between ministers and academics, a space where we could openly talk about real problems.

What do you see as the greatest obstacle we face today?

Today, we face a great danger: the reign of “political correctness” coming from the states. For us, after living under communist regime, that was just a new form of wooden language. In fact, if we cannot talk about real problems, those remain. During communism, problems were frozen which put us in a very difficult situation after the fall of communism. Today we have something new. The key to overcoming today’s problems is to find generally accepted ideas and a common goal. A goal that not only politicians and academic elites share but one that people can understand, so that they can accept to pay the social or economical price to realize it. We need a real political goal, not one for an administration or a government; one that truly represents the people’s will.

President Constantinescu, thank you so much for your time.