Press Availability
Victoria Nuland
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Bucharest, Romania
January 11, 2014


Assistant Secretary Nuland: Thank you colleagues, thank you media friends, for being here today. I am not going to make a long opening statement because I’ve already spoken publicly when I saw the President and when I saw the Foreign Minister. I am delighted to be back in Romania, to be here within the first six months of my tenure as Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasia at the State Department.

It is a very big year for Romania. I am also here to congratulate you on 10 years of NATO membership. We have a strong, deep and strategic alliance that is very important to the United States. We have done a huge amount together to promote Transatlantic security, to grow business and investment here and to support the democratic transition in Romania that the Romanian people have worked and fought so hard for. I am here to deepen and strengthen all those trajectories in this very important year. The United States is focused with its EU partners and allies on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership on the economic side to strengthen and deepen our economic relationship, and on another NATO summit at the end of the year to strengthen our security relationship, but as I have said at every stop in the last 24 hours, central to that is continuing to strengthen and to deepen the democratic underpinnings that make us who we are as nations. That means rule of law, that means working against corruption. It means transparency, it means predictability. It’s essential for business, it’s essential for security, it’s what we owe our citizens, so obviously we’ve been talking about those issues as well. It has been a very useful and productive and interesting 24 hours and I am delighted to answer any questions you might have.

Question: Is the U.S. Government concerned also about the freedom of media in Romania? Because you know most of the media is controlled by politicians, and I think without a free press it’s much more difficult to defend the rule of law.

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Anywhere in the world, the United States believes a free press is essential to the quality and the integrity of democracy. Free press is how the citizens of the country understand and have transparency into what their elected representatives are doing. The relationship between government and the media needs to be open and free and transparent. The United States has a long commitment here to supporting free media and we will continue to do that.

Question: As you know, the former Prime Minister of Romania Mr. Adrian Nastase, was sent to jail for the second time. This really divided the society. Some say this is a political case. The government, a party, one of them says this is a political case. The Prime Minister talks about a second Yulia Tymoshenko case. Do you think this debate would affect the functioning of the rule of law in Romania?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: I am not in a position to evaluate individual cases, that’s not the United States’ place. What I will say is that just as free media is an essential element of a strong, vibrant democracy that delivers for its citizens, an independent judiciary is essential to a strong, predictable democracy and the checks and balances within government are essential to a strong democracy. So it is concerning when there are attacks on the independence of the judiciary. It is concerning when politicians of any party decide to challenge the independent underpinnings of the judiciary. So it’s something that we watch in countries around the world. The citizens of Romania have fought hard for the right to have an independent judiciary. You’ve made great strides particularly over the last five years or so in this direction, so I would urge all Romanians, no matter what political party you support, no matter where you live in the country, to fight hard to protect and defend the independence of your judiciary and to keep it out of politics.

Question: Have you asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Victor Ponta? He’s absent now and because he’s absent do you have a message for PM Victor Ponta and does the U.S. trust politician Victor Ponta as an honest partner?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: As you know the Prime Minister was received by Vice President Biden not too long ago in Washington. We had a very good visit. There were a lot of very clear, honest messages that came out of that visit. So, it was frankly just an accident that I was able to come on a day when he had other obligations. I feel confident that the messages I was able to give the Foreign Minister will be clearly transmitted and I had a very clear sense that the meetings that I had today were representative in terms of the regular dialogue that we have with the government.

Question: But do you distrust the Prime Minister right now?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Again, I’m not going to get into the internal debate here in Romania, that’s not our place.

Question: Prime Minister Victor Ponta, as you mentioned, visited the United States two months ago and he promised then that Romania will respect the rule of law and the independence of justice, but the promise was broken because as you mentioned before there were some challenges, some attempts to promote new laws that could affect justice and help politicians to avoid being investigated, or even being released from prison. What would be the consequences if those laws would be adopted, in terms of relations between Romania and the United States?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: I think we were very clear -- the U.S. Embassy was at the time -- with regard to our concerns. As I said, I have had a very full discussion on all of the issues that are vital to our strategic partnership, whether they’re in the security sphere, economic sphere, or in the democracy/rule of law sphere. We have had some important assurances today again from the government with regard to its understanding of the international reaction to that particular round of events, but it is very important again that the citizens of Romania insist on rule of law and insist on transparency and good governance.

Question: This amnesty and pardon law is still on the agenda. How do you look at this law and could there be any reaction from the U.S. if it’s adopted?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Again, I am not going to get into the internal processes here. I think we’ve been very clear about how we viewed it at the time. I have been briefed over the course of 24 hours about the various potential futures here and it’s not all clear to me what the future trajectory is here, but I think it is very important that there be an open and frank debate about the importance of transparency, about the importance rule of law going forward. Thank you all very much. One more and then I have got to fly to the airport.

Question: How do you see the European path of the Republic of Moldova after the Vilnius Summit? I would like to tell you that officially Romania and also the Republic of Moldova made statements both pro and con about a possible union between the two countries in the future. How does the United States look at this perspective?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: The United States supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova and the right of Moldova to choose its own future. We have been extremely supportive of the Eastern Partnership and the opportunity that the European Union has given to countries to its east for association with the EU, for free trade association, and visa-free travel opportunity. We think this is an enormous positive for countries like Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. As you know, Secretary Kerry was in Moldova not too long ago to congratulate that country on initialing the AA [Association Agreement] and the DCFTA [Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement] and to encourage further progress. We’ve been in contact as well with the European Union to encourage acceleration. I think Romania has a lot to be proud of in the support and mentoring that it has given to the Republic of Moldova as it has sought to become increasingly independent, democratic, prosperous and secure, and I particularly commend the support that you’re giving now for energy independence, and in education, kindergartens, this kind of thing, and for the leadership that Romania has displayed inside the European Union in developing the Eastern Partnership. The United States and Romania are partners in supporting an independent, sovereign, democratic Moldova, and we talked about Moldova in all of my meetings today. Thank you very much!

Question: And the main message for the Government was?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: The main message for the Government is the United States wants the strongest possible, cleanest possible, democratic Romania to continue to be our great ally here in Europe and around the world.