Romania Report



Romania has several administrative structures and processes that facilitate WGAs. First, there is the group comprising the presidential administration, the Supreme Council of National Defence (CSAT), and the MFA as focal points and overall coordinators and integrators of horizontal and vertical cooperation as well as of strategic planning. The second group is made up of the interministerial committees and working groups focused on issues of strategic importance. The general secretariat of the government, as the integrator of policies overseen by various ministries, provides an additional umbrella for coordination. Last but not least, the EU affairs departments of various ministries reflect the setup at the EU level and translate it to their own institutions. It is worth mentioning that during Romania’s presidency of the Council of the EU, the MFA’s Presidency Coordination Unit was the one that played a crucial role in streamlining consultations and cooperation among various institutions.
In terms of how the country operationalises its WGA and with what degree of success, there has been overall continuity with regard to Romania’s strategic orientation as well as to its foreign and security policies. Perceptions and political/societal consensus have not changed much over the years, and strategic political objectives have also received widespread support from society. The process of socialisation into the Western system of values and institutional framework that took place during Romania’s integration into NATO (in 2004) and then the EU (in 2007) has helped to build an institutional culture of sharing major goals and means, which is now instrumental in maintaining coordination and continuity. Even in more recent times, in which consensus on the country’s general strategy has been wavering under governments with populist and revisionist inclinations, the same elements have contributed to bottom-up pressure and continued coordination. What’s more, the ‘cooperation reflexes’ of professionals in the state apparatus have helped to prevent a discontinuation of this kind of integrated policymaking.
Furthermore, although Romania is admittedly an agenda-taker (which is not always a good thing), the EU framework is at least reflected in its domestic institutional framework, which in turn leads to internal coordination. Continuity at the top is also helped by the crucial role of the president, who, according to the constitution, has a five- year term in office and has traditionally won a second term, which means that there are usually 10-year spans of policy and staff continuity. There is also continuity in the composition of the MFA, the MND, the Ministry of Interior, and the intelligence services. Although professionals do come and go, there are many who circulate within the system of related institutions. One should mention, however, that even if this does provide for continuity, it can also cause major problems in terms of transparency, meritocracy and talent mobility. Indeed, since Romania’s public administration as a whole is rather cloistered and non-transparent, it has few sources of fresh ideas and is plagued by groupthink.
In Romania, WGAs are very often the result of bottom-up pressure from the various levels of the administration. In other words, when there is a perception that cooperation is necessary, the administration will request that the management of the institution reach out to the other relevant institutions. Alternatively, given that the level of representation on the EU Affairs Coordination Council is that of state secretary and director general, but that the heads of the EU affairs/external relations departments also participate, the middle-management level has direct access to coordination discussions and can directly interact with counterparts in various other ministries.
In comparison, there are fewer instances of continuity at the top (political) levels. This is not necessarily a result of disagreements over agendas or strategic orientation. In fact, such disagreements have only been present with the current ruling coalition, and Romania has otherwise enjoyed broad cross-party agreement on its foreign and security policy for decades. This can be attributed to the so-called ‘Snagov Agenda’, a negotiated consensus at the beginning of the NATO and EU accession processes that had all political forces subscribe to the ‘red lines’ of political infighting to prevent domestic policy disagreements from spilling over into the realm of foreign policy. Instead, the main reasons for discontinuity at the top levels is political instability, frequent changes in government, a lack of institutional memory, or the absence of the kind of continued multi-stakeholder dialogue that would ensure a common understanding of the issues at stake.
Given these circumstances, the level of coordination very much depends on the particular organisational culture of one institution or another. Cooperation and coordination are also greatly facilitated by European or other external programmes that require (and train) strategic planners to perform a number of related tasks, such as to coordinate, to do multi-annual budgeting and to set multi-annual priorities. Again, much more happens at a theoretical level and less is translated into practice, but the organisational culture is almost always built around external programmes, where they exist.
Some of the enablers of a WGA are the above-mentioned EU programmes and trainings that help prepare personnel; EU and NATO frameworks reflected in the domestic setup; UN, multilateral and US strategic partnership frameworks providing incentives and mechanisms (including fixed calendars and benchmarks) for cooperation; continuity and training of personnel in the spirit of cooperation; and continuity of consensus on the strategic orientation of the country and the priorities of its foreign, security and development policies.
On the other hand, the disablers are an insufficient formalisation of institutional mechanisms (e.g. auditing, monitoring, evaluation, multi-annual planning and budgeting); inadequate formal institutional memory; political incoherence and irresponsibility; de-professionalisation both within politics and the state administration; cronyism within the state administration, where civil servants enjoy relative impunity and there are few instruments for accountability; a lack of openness to civil society; the absence of a capacity for self-regulation; a lack of (human and financial) resources; and poor management.
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