Interview with His Excellency Paul BRUMMELL
Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Romania
Vasile SIMILEANU: Your Excellency,
I’ll ask a direct question: what is the current stage of bilateral relations, political, social, economic and military of the United Kingdom and Romania?
Paul BRUMMELL: The UK is a close friend of Romania. Our strategic partnership, reaffirmed in 2011, is based on two pillars, that of security cooperation and that of cooperation in the field of prosperity. Our relationship continues to be conducted at the highest level, with British visitors to Romania last year including the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence.
As regards our security cooperation, the past year has seen a continuous strengthening of the bilateral defence relationship. As UK Defence Minister Michael Fallon said when he met Romanian Defence Minister Mihnea Motoc in London on 19 May, ‘Romania is a key NATO ally’. The UK Chief of Defence Staff visited Romania in April to discuss our ongoing programme of bilateral defence cooperation, and this year so far UK troops have participated in three multinational land-based exercises in Romania. Bilateral cooperation across the law enforcement agenda is strong too and recent success stories have included the dismantling of human trafficking networks, drugs seizures, and the return to Romania of looted Dacian coins seized in the UK.
As regards the prosperity agenda, our bilateral trade is at record levels: reaching some 3.95 bn EUR last year. UK exports to Romania grew by 17.5% in 2015, though the balance of trade remains in Romania’s favour. Earlier this year the British Romanian Chamber of Commerce opened a branch in Cluj, its first outside of the Romanian capital, reflecting our determination to further develop trade and investment links with Transylvania.
But the bilateral relationship is above all about people, and I’m delighted that it is underpinned by so many positive exchanges and contacts, whether from the many British charities who are supporting people in need in Romania or the Romanian students getting great marks at British universities.
V.S.: Britain is an attraction force for Romanians seeking employment. Do you consider that Romanians have been integrated into the British society? Has Britain promoted multiculturalism? Do you think that Romanians in the UK are a bridge between our countries?
Paul BRUMMELL: The UK is a vibrant open multicultural society, and Romanians are among those who have contributed to the enriching of British life. From the doctors and nurses working in our National Health Service to the Romanian construction workers who helped build the impressive facilities which made the London 2012 Olympics such a success, the contribution made by so many Romanians in the UK is welcome. I was delighted to host at our National Day reception in Bucharest in 2015 an exhibition of the work of photographer Ion Paciu featuring Romanians who have forged successful careers in the UK in very different areas. For example George Iacobescu, the CEO of the Canary Wharf Group in London; ballerina Alina Cojocaru and actress Anamaria Marinca. A small minority of the Romanians in the UK have committed crimes; but this is one of the reasons why our bilateral law enforcement collaboration is so important.
V.S.: The United Kingdom has been one of the pillars of the European Union. BREXIT has been a huge surprise for the European political environment. Does it represent a vote of censorship of EU policies?
Paul BRUMMELL: The 23 June referendum was a major democratic exercise, in which more than 33 million people voted. Their decision was clear, that the United Kingdom should leave the European Union, and thus, as our Prime Minister Theresa May has made clear, this is what the British government will deliver.
But while we will be leaving the EU as an organisation the United Kingdom remains a European country. We will remain integrally involved in the diplomacy and politics of our continent, and our relationship with Romania, as with that with our other allies and partners across our shared continent, will remain crucially important to us.
V.S.: If BREXIT turns out to be real, how will the United Kingdom‘s relationship with EU Member States evolve? What challenges will be in the relations with Romania?
Paul BRUMMELL: The process for leaving the European Union is set out under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Clearly this process will be a complex one, in which we will seek to ensure the best possible outcome both for Britain and for our future relationship with the countries of the EU. As such, the Prime Minister has made clear that the UK will not be invoking Article 50 this year, as we take time to think through our objectives and approach.
But as regards the development of the UK’s relationship with Romania what is I think both clear and uncontroversial is that it is in the interest of both the UK and Romania that our productive bilateral partnership in both the security and prosperity fields should not only be maintained but developed. Diplomatic relations between our countries were established some 136 years ago: we have a deep history of shared connections and values and must continue to build on these.
V.S.: The world as we know it has changed a lot! It is very difficult to adapt our strategies, at continental and global levels, to all challenges and changes in the geo-strategic and geopolitical environment. In this context, please indicate the position of the United Kingdom towards the following topics: The situation in the Middle East; Syria – DAESH – Al Nushra relationship; Turkey (after the cup) vs NATO; Russia – Ukraine relationship.
Paul BRUMMELL: This is quite a list. I’ll try to take each of these themes in the order you raise them.
We are deeply frustrated at the lack of progress on the Middle East Peace Process. A just and lasting resolution that delivers peace for both Israelis and Palestinians is long overdue. We believe a negotiated two-state solution is the only way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: there is no better alternative that can deliver peace and a Palestinian state in reality and on the ground. We do not underestimate the challenges, but firmly believe that peace is possible if both parties show leadership.
We continue to urge Israel and the Palestinians to refrain from actions which make peace harder to achieve, including as regards the building of settlements and demolition of Palestinian property by Israeli authorities.
As regards Syria, as UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made clear at the UN Security Council Summit on Syria, there can be no political process without a genuine ceasefire, and there can be no genuine ceasefire, unless there is a genuine political agreement that we can have a transition away from the Asad government. Because it is the Asad government that is responsible for the vast majority of the 400,000 deaths so far. It is the Asad regime that has dropped, and continues to drop, barrel bombs on its own citizens along with the two incidents documented by the UN/OPCW of the dropping of chlorine gas. And the international community must enforce an immediate end to the bombardment of Aleppo and other civilian areas in Syria, do all we can to end the sieges and end the chokehold that is preventing aid getting in.
As regards Daesh, its expansion into Iraq since 2014 has created a major humanitarian crisis. Over 8 million people are in need of assistance, including over 3.3 million people displaced from their homes. The UK has allocated £80 million in humanitarian aid and is playing a leading role in the Global Coalition of over 60 nations committed to defeating Daesh. These efforts have yielded progress. Daesh is losing territory in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Thousands of people have been freed from Daesh’s rule and many of those who have escaped have now been able to return to their homes. But while Daesh has failed to create a state, it has not yet been defeated as a terrorist organisation. Daesh and its followers continue to inflict suffering through terrorising communities in the Middle East, and attacking innocent civilians around the world in an attempt to stoke divisions and hatred.
At the United Nations General Assembly, the UK, alongside Belgium and Iraq launched a global campaign to bring Daesh to justice. Currently, Daesh and its followers continue to act with impunity as they attempt to stoke divisions and hatred around the world. This campaign is focused on addressing that injustice and empowering survivors.
Regarding the situation in Turkey, the British Prime Minister has underlined that the UK firmly condemns the attempted coup by certain members of the Turkish military. Britain stands firmly in support of Turkey’s democratically-elected Government and institutions. We call for the full observance of Turkey’s constitutional order and stress the importance of the rule of law prevailing in the wake of this failed coup.
We have continued to call for due process to be followed and human rights respected, including during the visit of the Minister for Europe and the Americas, Sir Alan Duncan, to Ankara in July. We have long encouraged Turkey to work towards the full protection of fundamental rights, particularly in the area of freedom of expression. Progress has been made on reforms in some areas in recent years, but, as the European Commission has highlighted, there has also been backward movement in some areas.
Finally, as regards relations between Russia and Ukraine, Russia must fully respect Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity. It is for the people of Ukraine to decide their country’s future and Ukraine must be allowed to make its own sovereign decisions. Crimea and the Donbas are part of Ukraine and were recognised as such by Russia and the rest of the international community. What Russia has done and continues to do breaches its obligations under international law.
The UK welcomes the renewed ceasefire which began on 1 September. We have always been clear that any solution to the Ukraine crisis must be political not military. For the ceasefire to become sustainable we urge both sides to withdraw from the line of contact, to engage fully with the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and engage constructively in dialogue around implementing the Minsk agreements.
The European Council has agreed that the duration of EU sanctions on Russia is linked to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements and we continue to fully support diplomatic efforts towards implementation by all parties. We call in particular upon Russia to meet its obligations, to stop equipping separatists and to withdraw its forces from Ukraine.
The UK’s decision to leave the EU has not changed our position on Russia. We will continue to protect UK interests and those of our allies and partners.
V.S.: Anglo-American geopolitics school forms the basis of many NATO strategies! The United Kingdom of Great Britain is seen as a talassocratic state, a true ally of the United States. How will bilateral relations with the US evolve?
Paul BRUMMELL: The United Kingdom and United States are natural and strong partners and allies. We share many values. Our peoples are closely connected. UK exports to the United States are more than double those to our next biggest export market. The US is the single biggest source of inward investment to the UK, providing jobs for some one million Britons. Our troops train together, and we work closely together in helping to make the world a safer place.
In Bucharest, our Embassies work together closely. Just last week I shared the stage with my US counterpart, Ambassador Hans Klemm, at an event showcasing the contributions of the UK Bribery Act and US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in helping to tackle corruption in the business sector.
V.S.: The 2014-2016 period has been an agitated one for Europe. We have faced an unprecedented migration wave and a series of terrorist attacks!
What joint security strategies of NATO and the EU should be promoted to tackle these issues?
Paul BRUMMELL: The British government considers terrorism to be among the greatest threats to world security. As part of the global coalition, we are working to defeat Daesh on all fronts, including by confronting the poisonous narrative that lies at its roots.
And there is a clear link between the fear and upheaval created by such terrorism and the upsurge in migration as desperate families flee from areas blighted by terrorist groups and by conflict.
The UK has always believed that the migration crisis requires a comprehensive approach, addressing both the root causes of the migration and their consequences, and providing people with opportunities to stay closer to home. This means working to bring about an end to conflict, and helping those countries which are the origins of mass migration flows to reduce the drivers of irregular migration by building stability, and tackling criminal smuggling gangs.
The UK has played a leading role globally in responding to the migration crisis. We have already committed some £2.3 bn in response to the conflict in Syria. Until Article 50 negotiations have concluded, the UK remains a member of the European Union, and we will continue to work with EU partners, for example in ensuring a more effective management of the EU’s external borders, joint action on people smuggling, and stronger cooperation with third countries.
V.S.: How will Britain’s relations with emerging states: Russia, Turkey, China, Brazil and India be? What about those with Member States of the Commonwealth?
Paul BRUMMELL: The United Kingdom will remain an outward-looking, trading economy. We intend to thrive and prosper on the world stage. Our voice will remain prominent, including as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and a member of NATO, the G7, the G20 and the Commonwealth. We are the only major country which is simultaneously meeting the NATO target of spending 2% of our GDP on defence and the UN target of spending 0.7% of our GNP on development.
We will aim to remain closely allied with our European neighbours, and develop the strongest possible economic links with them, as well as with our close friends in the Commonwealth, in North America, and other important partners around the world, including emerging economies.
Our vision is one of a United Kingdom that is respected abroad, tolerant at home, engaged in the world and working with our international partners to advance the prosperity and security of our nation for generations to come.
V.S.: How do you assess the military relations with Romania? What are the prospects?
Paul BRUMMELL: Romania is a key NATO ally and I’m delighted that the past year has seen a sustained development of the UK – Romanian bilateral defence relationship. We have welcomed Romania’s commitment to allocate 2% of its GDP to defence spending as a NATO member.
Some of the highlights of our recent bilateral defence engagements in support of NATO assurance measures have included Exercise Sarmis, held in Romania, which saw around 150 personnel from 3 Rifles working alongside their Romanian and US counterparts. The contribution of some 75 British personnel to Exercise Steadfast Cobalt, which concluded in June, validating the NATO Response Force 17 command and control elements. And the work of the British Military Advisory and Training Team with 151 Battalion The Black Wolves in Iasi.
V.S.: Your Excellency,
Please address a few words to GeoPolitica readers!
Paul BRUMMELL: I hope you will find these comments interesting.
September 2016, Bucharest
Interview by Vasile SIMILEANU