Romania is ruled by foreign ambassadors, an online publication writes, referring to an older narrative used extensively in recent years by populist, nationalist or corrupt figures. This time, the argument used to support the narrative is a statement by Senate Speaker, Anca Dragu, who said she has regular meetings with representatives of the diplomatic corps.
NEWS: “Romania is ruled by foreign ambassadors, who every week meet with high-ranking officials who report their every move – decisions and bills – in the political and economic fields, a situation that goes against the provisions of the 1961 Vienna Convention, which forbids foreign diplomats to interfere in the domestic affairs of another state. The confirmation comes from the second-highest ranking state official, Senate Speaker, Anca Dragu, in a shocking interview for Aleph News.
During the interview, Dragu (somewhat proudly) reveals that every week she has two-three meetings with foreign ambassadors, reporting on the state of reforms and other similar information. Of course, as a rule, talks between foreign ambassadors and high-ranking officials don’t exclude topics such as domestic developments or government negotiations”.
NARRATIVES: 1. Romania is ruled by representatives of the diplomatic corps. 2. Contacts with Romanian officials and expressing opinions/requests/recommendations linked to Romania are considered interference in the country’s domestic affairs.
BACKGROUND: The principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of another state is one of the main arguments used by authoritarian or corrupt regimes, allowing them to continue their abuses against their own population undisturbed. The obsession with “non-interference in domestic affairs” is another method to divert public attention from other pressing issues. Instead of providing explanations or taking responsibility over their countries’ problems, authoritarian regimes accuse (directly, by means of officials, or indirectly, via media institutions or affiliated commentators) foreign countries who warn against such issues of interfering in the internal affairs of their countries. Countries like Russia and China, known for their authoritarian sideslips and the foreign policy aggression, frequently employ the non-interference principle as an argument. The idea was also adopted by extremists, isolationists and Eurosceptics, who use it including to challenge the role of the EU (the Commission, the Council, etc.) in the policies of member states. In Romania, Nicolae Ceaușescu repeatedly pleaded for non-interference in domestic affairs. Subseuqently, the idea was used, to a greater or lesser extent, by public figures or politicians associated with populism, nationalism or corruption. The narrative about the interference in the internal affairs of other states also underlies the theory that Romania is a Western colony.
PURPOSE: To undermine Romanians’ confidence in partnerships with Romania’s Western allies. To promote nationalist ideology and conspiracy theories about “Romania as a Western colony”.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: The Senate’s remit also includes foreign relations, while the Speaker’s prerogatives cover the representation of this institution in foreign relations (Art. 35, paragraph g. in the Senate’s Statute). Trying to learn more about the developments in a certain country – including by asking state officials direct questions via formal channels – is part of a diplomat’s job description, which does not only involve conveying certain messages, but also improving relations. This means acquiring a better understanding of the country of accreditation in order to paint a better image back home. Such information can be useful not just to other governments, but to regular citizens who wish to travel or do business in a new market. There’s no evidence or argument in Anca Dragu’s interview that the diplomats she met with instructed her what to do. Moreover, the Senate holds no executive power.
The referral to Article 41 in the Vienna Convention disregards two important aspects. First of all, in international practice, Article 41 in the Vienna Convention was considered irrelevant whenever interventions were deemed necessary to defend human rights or vulnerable or oppressed populations (take, for instance, former Yugoslavia). Secondly, “non-interference in the internal affairs of another state” is an ambiguous phrasing and there’s no international consensus over what “interference” actually means. World powers are not isolated, but work together as part of an international community where they interact with each other. These interactions observe agreements and treatises and are often bound by membership to certain international bodies and organizations, which in turn are governed by norms and regulations. Non-compliance with this plethora of regulations, accords, treatises and principles often takes various forms, and it’s hard to argue that their observance is tantamount to interference in domestic affairs, all the more so as a diplomat’s role is to speak on behalf of the government he represents.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: Senate Speaker, Anca Dragu, meets regularly with representatives of the diplomatic corps. Article 41.1 of the 1961 Vienna Convention stipulates the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of another state.