Ambassador Hans Klemm at the Aspen Institute

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

I am grateful for this opportunity to introduce the topic this morning – the Western liberal order under siege.   This is an important question and a timely one and an appropriate question.  It is one that is of great concern to the United States, as reflected in a speech – coincidentally given by my boss, Secretary of State John Kerry, coincidentally at a conference organized by the German Marshall Fund in the United States, in Brussels, earlier this week.

He was looking at this question – the liberal order under threat – through an institutional lens – what effect this threat had on key relationships of importance to the United States, to transatlantic security, including that relationship between the United States and Europe, but then also the institutional structure within Europe.  I just have a few quotes from Secretary Kerry’s remarks earlier this week: “I cannot emphasize too strongly the twin propositions that unity within Europe, and the partnership between the United States and Europe, remain absolutely indispensable to global security and prosperity.”

He questioned whether there has been adequate defense of the institutional structure, both within Europe and within the transatlantic relationship.  Kerry pleaded for more pushback: “I have not heard a robust enough debate, frankly, here in Europe or elsewhere about the virtues that I have tried to lay out today, and about the importance of our alliance and what the EU provides to Europe itself,” continuing “think of the wealth created in Europe. Think of how peacefully Europe has been able to live. Think of the advances in the quality of life of Europe. Think of what Europe has accomplished in these 70 years out of the ashes of war. It is one of the greatest stories in the history of human kind and it needs to be treated with that kind of respect and sold that way. And I don’t hear it being sold that way,” said Secretary Kerry.  And then in conclusion: “the Euro-Atlantic partnership did not come together to coast along through the best of times; it was forged to address epic challenges” like those we see today around the world.

As the Ambassador of the United States to Romania, my focus of vision is a bit narrower, but here too to return to themes that the Prime Minister raised, themes of resilience and resistance, I would like to put forward to the panel an example where I believe a threat to the liberal order is being resisted and where there is resilience and that is within the U.S.-Romania relationship.  Just the week before last I participated in an annual review of the U.S.-Romania relationship that was held in Washington.  And with all due deference to former stewards of the U.S.-Romania relationship, including those in the room today, it was the conclusion of both of our governments last week, that today, in October of 2016, the U.S.-Romania relationship has never been stronger, nor has it made a more important or stronger contribution to transatlantic security and the transatlantic relationship as a whole.  And why is that? I would argue it’s primarily because of Romania’s recent contribution to our bilateral relationship.  We can look at this just along two or three dimensions.

One, there is a security dimensions.  Romania is well on the way to meeting the NATO Wales Summit goal of spending 2% of its GDP on its national defense, with making profound contributions to both transatlantic security, but also to security here in the Black Sea region and more importantly, to areas far from Romania, including Afghanistan and the fight against ISIL in Iraq.

Also, as the Prime Minister discussed, in the area of energy security.  Romania is now stepping forward to make appropriate contributions to the energy security not only of Romania, but of the European Union.

Also in areas such as cyber-security, our law enforcement agencies, those of the United States and Romania, have tremendously positive partnerships in the fight against terrorism, in the fight to counter proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, in the fight against transnational organized crime, in the fight against corruption.

In the area of security, our bilateral partnership has never been stronger or more robust.

Also, as the Prime Minister discussed, in the economic dimension.  Both he personally, but then also President Iohannis have made it clear to me that Romania seeks more from the United States in terms of its economic relationship with its transatlantic partner and has asked me to focus more energy in developing both the bilateral trade relationship between our two countries, as well as the investment relationship.  And there has been success in this area, and it’s primarily again due to the contributions that Romania has made recently, particularly to the steps made by the Ciolos government to improve its promotion of investment and trade; to improve the business climate in Romania; to set out a national strategy finally for energy, for example; to reach out to key investors, including major U.S. companies considering either new or increased investment in Romania.

And then finally, a very important dimension is one that encompasses the democratic values that we share: the respect of minorities, the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and the full embrace of the democratic future and an eagerness to strengthen democratic institutions, including full defense of the rule of law.  And frankly, ladies and gentlemen, as I have discussed many times before, it’s Romania’s recent increasing credible fight against corruption that has raised its stature, not only in the eyes of the United States as a full democratic partner of my country, but also it is becoming exemplar for this part of the world, for this part of South-Eastern Europe.

So in terms of promoting security, in terms of promoting prosperity, in terms of promoting democracy, it is Romania’s contributions that have led to this moment in history where our partnership has never been stronger.  The challenge now is, as the United States faces a critical election, and as Romania in December faces a critical election, to emerge from those two political events in a way that the two countries can continue to strengthen their bonds and continue to contribute to the stability, security in Europe, in the transatlantic area, but most importantly here, in the Black Sea region.  I think the new government that will take power in December presumably will have a very strong legacy on which to build, but as the Prime Minister said, further efforts to reform public administration in Romania will be very important, the continuation of the fight against corruption will be very important, reform of Romanian capital markets to increase both foreign and domestic investment will be very important and this is work that jointly I look very much forward to engaging in come 2017.

So with that I would like to pose a challenge to the panel: not only look at what threats the liberal order here in Romania, here in Europe, in transatlantic region states, but also to those points of resilience, those points of resistance to those threats on the liberal order.

Thank you for your patience.