“A World Without Walls“:

An International Congress on "Soft Power", Cultural Diplomacy and Interdependence

(Berlin; November 6th - 9th, 2009)
An Interview with President Constantinescu »

Emil Constantinescu

Former President of Romania

Born November 19th 1939 in Tighina, now in the Republic of Moldova, Emil Constantinescu has had an illustrious career in both academia and politics. Graduating from the University of Bucharest with a degree in law, he became a local judge; however he was forced to leave his post due to the antagonistic political climate. Following his time as a judge, he returned to the University of Bucharest where he undertook a doctorate in geology. Constantinescu became a highly-esteemed academic whilst at the university and made a large contribution to the field of geology. This included new discoveries in the field as well as publishing a number of important journal articles and books. He has lectured widely at some of the most important universities in the world and has received various global awards for his contributions to the field. In 1990, Constantinescu was elected as Vice-President of the University of Bucharest and became its President from1992 until 1996.

With the violent collapse of the Nicolae Ceausescu regime at the end of 1989, Constantinescu became an important figure in the creation of a democratic Romania. Along with many other Romanian academics and intellectuals, he became involved in the movement for democracy; in particular through his support for human rights, the defence of individual freedoms and the creation of a Romanian civil society. This support for democracy was primarily undertaken through the Civic Alliance Foundation, one of the most important NGOs in post-Ceausescu Romania, of which Constantinescu was a founding member. The Civic Alliance joined forces with other democratic opposition parties and formed the Romanian Democratic Convention (RDC). Constantinescu was put forward by the RDC to run in the 1992 presidential elections, in which he was narrowly beaten in the second round. Thereafter, however, he became the leader of this political organization.

After rising to the leadership of the RDC, Emil Constantinescu was put forward again for the presidential election in 1996, and this time was successfully voted into power. He became the third President of Romania and the first non-communist President after Ceausescu and seven years of elected communist rule. Once in power, Constantinescu went about quickly reforming the Romanian system and moving it towards a market-based economy. He slashed government spending, privatised government-run businesses, liberalised prices and attempted to tackle the problem of corruption.

Furthermore, Constantinescu attempted to improve Romania’s global image and its relations with other countries. This involved bilateral agreements and the improvement of relations with many countries. Constantinescu also understood the importance of joining the EU and NATO, and worked hard to improve relations between Romania and these institutions, pushing hard for membership in both of them. In 1999, Romania became a key ally for NATO in the Kosovo conflict, allowing NATO to use its airspace and paving the way for stronger ties and future membership. Constantinescu also opened up talks with the EU over accession . In 2000, as his Presidency was coming to an end, Constantinescu opted not to run for a second term, fearing that Romanians believed that he was only attempting to join NATO and the EU for political gain and not due to national interest. Although he was not in power when Romania became members of these institutions, his presidency was vital for laying the groundwork of Romania’s accession.

During his period as President, Constantinescu received many awards for his commitment and effort. In 1998, he was awarded European Statesmen of the Year by the Institute for East-West Studies, New York. He was also awarded the Coudenhove-Kalergi European Award for contributions to the development of Europe, the promotion of European integration and identity and promotion of the free movement of ideas.

In 2000, Constantinescu left the Presidency and returned to working as a professor in geology at the University of Bucharest. He remains, however, heavily involved in politics through working for many NGOs, both in Romania and internationally. He is president of the Association of Citizenship Education, of the Romanian Foundation for Democracy and also the founding president of the Institute for Regional Cooperation and Conflict Prevention (INCOR). In 2001, Constantinescu was appointed as president of the international commission for supervising the parliamentary elections in Senegal. In March 2003, he founded the Peoples’ Action trend. This was set up to encourage “active participation of citizens in democratic development and to defend the institutions and values of democracy, freedom and law” in the new era of Romanian integration into the EU. In particular it was aimed at encouraging young people to participate in politics and understand the problems facing Romania today.