08 October 2019

INTERVIEW Catalin Ivan: Only 300 of 6,000 reservist jobs are occupied

Firuta Flutur

Presidential candidate Catalin Ivan said in an interview for the Defence & Security Monitor that a strategic analysis of defence is necessary, as only 300 of the 6,000 job openings for army reservists have been occupied in Romania, while Poland has 54,000.

The presidential candidate stated that Romania has never made a strategic analysis of its defence, in order to know exactly what our capabilities and infrastructure are, with the government limiting itself to allotting 2% of the GDP for defence in 2015, which was absolutely necessary.

He added that the future president, as chief of the country’s Supreme Council for National Defence (CSAT), should request this analysis, and also mentioned that a solution for involving citizens in the defence policy would be to boost enrolment into reserve troops, which he currently considers to be insufficient in numbers.

Here is the full interview with Catalin Ivan:

Reporter: What institutions do you think need to be consolidated with priority in the next five years, in order to strengthen national security and defence?

Catalin Ivan: The main institution that needs to be consolidated is the Parliament. In the parliament, we should have way more consistent and solid debates on national security, on what a national defence strategy means, I think that in the national Parliament we should make the decision of whether we stay in this collective defence doctrine or if we reintroduce the idea of territorial defence doctrine within a collective defence. I think that, in this moment, maybe from a lack of understanding, but I think that more because of a lack of interest or incompetence, there are absolutely no discussions on a strategic analysis of defence. We do not know, at this moment, where we are at as a country with regards to defence infrastructure, to our capacity to defend our national territory.

We decided in 2015 pact that we will give 2% of the GDP for defence, but from thereon, to know on what you will use those funds for, what are the areas of priority, we should have a strategic analysis of defence, which does not exist. Maybe a first analysis was made when we joined NATO, but it was a superficial one anyway. We do not have a strategic analysis, in order to know if the infrastructure can support troops transports from one part of the country to another. How long does it take to transport troops from the west to east? From the north to the south, passing the mountains? What are the best means to defend the country? What should be the priority in investing these 2%? And, of course, we are talking about the offset law, about Romania’s defence industry, which is in shambles, so I think that these debates should be held way more consistently in the Parliament, I think that the Presidential Administration, the Government should be partners in this debate, but as long as we have a sterile political debate on subjects which are more mundane than solid and important for the country, there are few chance of that for the moment.

Reporter: What strategy would you approach to consolidate national security?

Catalin Ivan: It is extremely necessary to make this strategic analysis we have talked about. We do not know, right now, where we actually stand at. The state of roads, bridges, the situation of the army. Until we decide what we invest and where, we have to know where we are at. A strategic analysis presumes that someone assumes and actual state of fact; the political class, the Parliament, the government should assume that we are where we are, that the current disaster must be assumed somewhere. I think that herein lies the main cause for reticence, that is why they do not want to make a strategic analysis, because someone must assume the disaster that we find ourselves in.

We give 2% of the budget for defence, but it is not sufficient because we mostly improvise its destination, we do not currently have a strategy for Romania’s defence or security. I believe that any discussion, any analysis must start from the actual situation, from a practical situation: what is the beginning point? Where are we now, so that we can decided the next step. We do not know where Romania is today.

Reporter: Do you consider that a lack of investments in essential security companies and institutions has weakened the state’s capacity to respond in crisis situations?

Catalin Ivan: Of course. Look at the fact that we do not know right know what the priorities are, or how we prioritize threats, or what could be the most serios threat to national security, in order to know what institutions should react in real time to the imminent danger. If we would prioritize, draft a strategy from a strategic analysis, we would know how to allot funds, how to allot budget, logistical and human resources in order to deal with any scenario in the near future. At this moment, we are counting on the fact that we are part of a select family, of a collective defence, but this is not sufficient at all. I think that Romania must draft its own defence strategy, concrete steps to consolidate this strategy within the NATO partnership and not base itself exclusively on the reaction of its partners.

Reporter: What should the future president do? You said that MPs should start an analysis on the current state of affairs. What should the president do?

Catalin Ivan: He should request this analysis. That pact for 2% was checked off in 2015, but it was only a check on a roadmap. Nothing after that moment amounted to a consolidation of Romania’s territorial defence capability. I think that, beyond these checks and the fact that we publicly assume some merits, something solid most remain behind. The president, as CSAT chief, can request this strategic analysis, can impose it on the public agenda; of course, it will not the Presidency as an institution, but just as that pact was signed, this strategic analysis could very well follow and, of course, the offset law, the defence law, which must be amended in essential points.

The president has an active role with regards to Romania’s strategic defence or national security line of though, and at this moment I do not believe we have a president who has assumed this role. We have a president who checked off a moment following foreign pressure, that 2015 moment came following debates within NATO on who is contributing with what at the alliance’s budget, and there was discontent mainly from the United States that the member states do not contribute sufficiently to the alliance’s budget, and that America would not be willing to continue that level of funding, and that is when all member states assumed the 2% from national budget contribution. So that pact was checked off due to foreign pressure, but nothing practical followed after.

Reporter: How could citizens become more involved in a strategy to ensure national security? What could politicians do liven up the citizens?

Catalin Ivan: Defence education should start in high school. It is happening in increasingly more states and we will give the easy example – Poland, because on the eastern flank, they are in the north-east, we are in the south-east, with somehow similar situations. Take a look at the situation of reservists in Poland and Romania. In Poland, at the moment, there 54,000 reservists which could intervene at any time in case of a calamity, in unforeseen situations, but also in case of military conflict, they have permanent training, there are jobs supported from the national budget.

In Romania, only several thousand were allotted from the state budget, I think 6,000 job openings, but with conditions especially unmotivating for those who would be part of these troops. Think about the fact that, from the 6,000 reservist jobs, only 300 are currently occupied. Compare 300 posts in Romania with 54,000 in Poland. We are talking not only about cases of war, but also calamities, emergencies where they intervene in real time and save lives. This would be one of the solutions within reach, a law which would be more favourable for those who want to enlist as volunteer reservists and actually contribute to society’s daily life.

Translated by Ionut Preda