For decades Romania was ruled by a Communist tyranny. In 1989, the Romanian people rose up and ousted dictator Nicolae Ceausescu from power, elected a democratic government, and set about reforming the economy. Those efforts paid off. At the recent NATO summit in Prague, Romania, along with Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia, and Slovenia, were invited to join the alliance.
As President George W. Bush said, “Since those days of liberation, Romania has made a historic journey. Instead of hatred, you have chosen tolerance. Instead of destructive rivalry with your neighbors, you have chosen reconciliation. Instead of state control, you have chosen free markets and rule of law. And instead of dictatorship, you have built a proud working democracy.”
But the path of reform is not easy. Romania still has a long way to go in creating a prosperous free-market economy. Corruption has been a serious problem. As Romania takes on the responsibilities of NATO membership, it is critical for the government to clamp down on corruption and push ahead with market reforms. As President Bush said, “NATO’s invitation to join was also a vote of confidence that [the government] will continue the hard work of political, economic and military reform.”
Romania is already demonstrating its commitment to fighting the war on terrorism. Following the September 11th, 2001, attacks on the U.S., Romania declared itself a de facto NATO ally. It sent an infantry battalion of four-hundred troops and a nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare unit to Kandahar, Afghanistan. In addition, a Romanian military police platoon is helping to keep the peace in Kabul.
As President Bush said, “The Romanian people have made a great effort to meet the standards of NATO membership. That effort is succeeding. America respects all that you have done and all that you will do in the cause of freedom. And America will be your partner in continuing the work of reform.”