United States and Romania, a People-to-People Relationship: An Interview with Ambassador Mark Henry Gitenstein

Ambassador Mark Henry Gitenstein

Mark Henry Gitenstein was born in 1947 in Montgomery, Alabama. He is of Romanian Jewish heritage, as his grandparents were immigrants from the city of Botoşani, Romania in the late 19th century. He attended Duke University and Georgetown Law School.

Gitenstein served as the United States Ambassador to Romania from August 28, 2009 until December 14, 2012. During  his tenure, he worked to strengthen relations with Romania on issues like fighting corruption, improving transparency and strengthening the rule of law. He also encouraged greater private sector involvement in state-owned enterprises. The U.S.-Romanian Ballistic Missile Defense Agreement was signed and negotiated during Gitenstein’s tenure in Bucharest.

I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Gitenstein at the Romanian Embassy in Washington, DC, during a symposium-gala on issues of politics, security, management and culture of the ALIANŢA (The Alliance – Friends of the Romanian-American Alliance) organization.

During the event I had a brief interview with the former ambassador.

1. Mr. Ambassador, you served as a U.S. ambassador in Romania in the past. Now, Romania is about to end the Centenary Year of 2018 since its Great Union. How would you characterize the year of 2018 for Romania and Romanians?

How would I characterize the year?

2. The year of the Centennial.

Well…

3. Good and bad, highs and lows…

Well, you know, the problem with Romania is that expectations sometimes are unrealistic.  I have to tell Romanians: “You are trying to do in twenty years what it took the United States a hundred years to go” (he laughs). You know, a hundred years  after our Constitution was enacted and we created a functional democracy we still have to watch which mobile is running the political parties and the press and, you know, there is a lot of economic concentration that took another thirty years to overcome that. So, Romania has made tremendous progress since the Revolution, in particular, in 1989, and I now am very optimistic of what Romania is doing.

4. Thank you so much. How would you characterize, in short, the U.S. relations with Romania during the current administrations, Trump and Iohannis?

Well, Romanian relationship is between two countries, it’s not between two men. And it doesn’t, in the long run, really  matter who the president of either country is as long as the relationship is people to people. And what our answer is all about is building and reaffirming that relationship. And I feel very good about what we are doing with the ALIANŢA events here, in Washington. And I am very close to president Iohannis, I think he’s doing a very good job. So, I am optimistic about where it’s going. Your ambassador is here, we have our ambassador in Romania, so we may have a very close relationship. So, it’s going to be fine.

5. Thank you. The last question. What challenges will Romania face in its near future, in your opinion?

Well, all countries in Europe are facing economic and political uncertainty in large measure because there seems to be too much chaos in Europe right now, as it relates to Brexit and the pressures, politically and economically, on all sectors in Europe, from Western to Eastern Europe. And that’s going to settle out, by forces than are bigger than even the EU. It’s going to depend on the development of the economies in these countries. And, generally, the trend is in the right direction. So, if the political systems can keep up with the aspirations, especially of young Romanians, it will be fine.

6. Thank you so much, Mr. Ambassador.

Thank you.

 

NOTE – A version of the article was published in MEDIUM.

 

TIBERIU DIANU has published several books and a host of articles in law, politics, and post-communist societies. He currently lives and works in Washington, DC and can be followed on MEDIUM.

 

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