Romania still mulls moving embassy to Jerusalem  

Despite Middle East turmoil following a US decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Romania’s increasingly Eurosceptic government still wants to imitate Washington.

Ana Maria Luca
Ana Maria Luca NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Romania still mulls moving embassy to Jerusalem   - NewsMavens
Liviu Dragnea, WikiCommons

Why this story matters:

Tensions were high in the Middle East and Bucharest, after the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem. Romania's Social Democrat government has been trying for a month already to copy the US and move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, despite Brussels advising member states to maintain balance in their foreign policy. 

Romania’s Social Democrat government has been going out of its way -- some say even strayed way too far off the path -- to make friends with Israel, and especially turn Israeli PM Binjamin Netanjahu into an ally.

“Our gesture has a huge symbolic value ... for Israel, a state with an unbelievably large influence in the world and with which we have had a special relationship for many years,” Social Democrat chief Liviu Dragnea told the Antena3 TV talk show in mid-April.

Last Friday, Romania, together with Hungary and the Czech Republic, blocked an EU resolution condemning the move.

“Romania cannot contradict the United States,” Social Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea said on Monday.

Experts say that most Romanian politicians don’t understand the regional politics of the Middle Eastern  -- beyond the US and EU stances on it -- and by overlooking these aspects, Romania risks being sucked into the type of complicated regional morass it has avoided for decades.

The source article provides an overview of the interesting history of Romania’s relations with Arab countries and how a change in foreign policy might impact Bucharest’s national security.

Details from the story:

  • With President Klaus Iohannis and Dragnea at loggerheads over the location of the embassy in Israel, Viorica Dancila, Romania’s first woman PM, has been caught in the middle. Iohannis publicly asked for her resignation several times, calling her “unfit for her post.”
  • The row started on April 19, when the Social Democrat-led cabinet adopted what was supposed to be a secret memorandum drafted by the Foreign Ministry, proposing a start to procedures for the relocation of the embassy, but without notifying the presidency, which, according to the Constitution is in charge of the country’s foreign policy.
  • The Palestinian embassy in Bucharest urged Romania to reconsider, saying the move would violate international law, the decisions of the Council of Europe and Romania’s own long-standing position on the settlement of the Palestinian conflict. 
  • Relations between Romania and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, PLO, were strong during the Communist era in Romania, although, unlike the other Soviet satellites, Romania did not break off relations with Israel.
  • Traditionally, Romania has abstained on UN General Assembly decisions on the Arab-Israeli conflict and has supported a two-state solution. Bucharest still has good relations with Ramallah, especially in terms of education; hundreds of Palestinian students graduate annually from Romanian universities. 
  • Romania has also maintained pragmatic relations with other capitals involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict, such as Syria and Iran, and kept open channels with all sides, following Ceausescu’s policy of engaging both with Iran’s theocracy and with Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad’s secular Socialist regime.
  • As the protests in Gaza ended in a bloodbath, Romania’s diplomats were ordered to participate in the Jerusalem inauguration, despite most EU countries boycotting the event.
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