Following several setbacks since the Romanian revolution of 1989, Romanian government efforts for general and specific intelligence reforms have experienced a revival with the prospect of NATO integration and European Union membership. Not only have the requirements for membership in these two organizations provided a clear and detailed roadmap for accession, the Romanian government has also been able to use these requirements to a great extent to justify its own general reform planning and to sell the Romanian people on the necessity of some of the harsh measures required to achieve accession objectives. Despite frequent media and public criticism, the government appears to be limping along the road to reforms and to date has been able to demonstrate its commitment to reform, as well as some progress. Indeed, several recent reorganizations of various security and intelligence organizations, the adoption of a focused national security strategy based on current realities (with appropriate strategic objectives for each specific organization), the enactment of several new laws on intelligence control and oversight and additional safeguards for civil liberties, make a reasonably convincing case for the seriousness of Romania’s reform and democratization efforts. If these efforts are ultimately successful and supported by the legislature, the public and the media, the Romanian government will likely be able to fulfill most of its goals and demonstrate real progress towards true democracy.
Romania’s current National Security Strategy reflects today’s realities and is based on “the guarantee of democracy and fundamental liberties, sustained and lasting economic and social development, accession into NATO and integration into the European Union.” Problematic areas remain with the speed of reforms within the security and intelligence organizations, the elimination of Securitate-tainted personnel, effective oversight legislation, demonstration of comprehensive control and oversight of intelligence activities, satisfactory compromise on public access to old Securitate files, and the will to eliminate perceptions of corruption of officials within these organizations and their control and oversight bodies. In dealing with these problem areas, the government is hampered by the glacial pace of the country’s economic recovery and resulting popular dissatisfaction, by a still-divisive multi-party system, by a vocal and critical media focused on scandals, and by the social and philosophical legacy of the communist era. Perceptions are particularly important during this transition period, and real progress in government transparency and accountability, evidenced best by comprehensive reforms of the intelligence services and by real progress in fighting corruption, will serve the current government to convince not only its own population but also its future international partners of its serious commitment to democracy.
Given recent U.S. experiences with old and new allies in the fight against terrorism and the disarming of Iraq, a long-term investment in Romania’s progress towards democracy is indicated: practical and sustained cooperation, exchange and training programs should be considered to assist with the professionalization of Romania’s intelligence and security services based on the principles of true democracy.