marți, 23 iunie 2009

Aspects of Romanian -French relations before the First World War

The relations between Romania and France became intense in the nineteenth - century, when the local aristocrats used to send their sons to study in France. These young men will later form the intellectual and political elite of Romania. On the other hand, they will act to support the Romanian national interests. We must also mention the memoirs sent by the National Party of Wallachia and Moldavia, which requested French assistance for the modernization and emancipation of Romanian Principalities.
It is consistently stressed the contribution of Emperor Napoleon III for the achievement of the Union between Wallachia and Moldavia in 1859. Between 1859 and 1866, the great man of state helped Romanian Principalities. The support France offered generously to Romania enjoyed high - impact on public opinion from Romania in the end of the nineteenth century and in the beginning of the next century. Romania did not hesitate to express its feelings of sympathy and affection for France, the most important country of the Western Europe.
The strong influence of French culture,felt since the nineteenth century has prevented the preeminence of the Russian culture. Until the 70’s of the nineteenth century, various relationships with France have ceaselessly developed , the situation has unfortunately changed after the French - Prussian War of 1870 - 1871. The failure of France had as a consequence the diplomatic isolation of the country. Because of its traditional policy of preservation of the integrity of the Turkish Empire, France has not any longer been able to support Romania during the war of independence, in 1877 and 1878. The Deadlock occurred in French–Romanian relations is undeniable. Romania has agreed to sign the treaty of alliance with the Central Empires in 1883. The Romanian antipathy against the Russians was mutual, and Romanians, who were less strong, felt threatened by the greatest and most powerful state of the East, the Empire of tsars. An elementary prudence was the main reason for that King Carol I decided an alliance with Central Empires, searching for safety and protection . The political influence of France in Romania was undeniably in decline after this landmark date but there were some financial, industrial and banking progresses thanks to French diplomats accredited in Bucharest. However, the French capital was limited at the beginning of the twentieth century if we think of German capital.
Historical precedents have weakened Romania’s trust in the Empire of Tsars. There were cold and tense relations between the two countries. France approached Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century. Paris began to ask for an improvement of the relations between the Romanian Kingdom and Russia. This was the condition of closer relations between Paris and Bucharest.
At official level, Romanian - French relations had difficult moments at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. But the situation presented quite differently concerning the Romanian population. The Romanian people has expressed unconditional solidarity with its bigger latin sister, France. One can think only of the attitudes of public opinion and press from Romania concerning the French defeat in 1871. Immediately after the creation of Entente, an alliance composed by France, Russia and England, French diplomacy has established as a purpose to attract the neutral countries and those which were members or were found in the sphere of the rival camp, namely the Triple Alliance.
New manifestations of sympathy for France took place in the years 1909 and 1910, when French tourists from Île de France visited Romania. Then there were large floods in the region of Paris. After 1912, cultural, academic and political relations became closer. The mayor of Paris, Felix Roussel and the Chamber of Deputies president, Paul Deschanel visited Bucharest. A new breath regarding academic and intellectual relations has been given by the foundation of Franco – Romanian University Alliance in Paris, bringing together professors and students from both countries.
France will give up preserving the integrity of the Turkish Empire. The alliance with Russia was more valuable than the economic interests of the state in this region. Balkan crisis of 1912-1913 was the beginning of a new era in the evolution of Romania's relations with France. The clues of affinity and mutual interests were irrefutable. That is why Vienna and Berlin were very anxious and their alliance of 1883 with the Romanian Kingdom was endangered. Certainly that France also wanted to attract Bulgaria, not only Romania. It is the reason that Paris has adopted a more reserved attitude regarding the territorial disputes between the Romanian government and Sofia. The French have advised Romanian authorities to use moderation concerning the contentious issue with Bulgaria. Instead, Romania asked for a great support of the France. French Republic had to sustain the territorial claims of Romania. France has avoided to take any commitment. The block of the Balkanic states - which came out victorious in the conflict from this zone and whose member was Bulgaria - had been created under the patronage of Czarist Empire. The latter was the ally of France. In such circumstances, the countries that composed Balkanic alliance could be attracted by the Entente side, which in fact constituted the main goal of France. So, France was not able to fully support the Romanian Kingdom, because it would be risky to push Bulgaria to the side of Austro - Hungarian monarchy and to indispose Russia. On 1 April 1913, the conference of ambassadors opened in the capital of Russian Empire. It tried to find a settlement of territorial disputes between Romanian and Bulgarian governments. The representative of France, Téophille Delcassé suggested an agreement which provided the cession of Silistra to Romania. France intended to provide satisfaction concerning Romanian wishes. But it also attempted not to bring prejudices to fundamental interests of Bulgaria. Between Romanian Kingdom and Bulgaria there was a bitter competition for the preeminence in the Balkanic zone.
On the eve of the second Balkanic war – a confrontation between opposed Bulgaria and its former allies, namely Serbia and Greece - the French Republic has tried to reconcile opposing points of view of Bucharest and Sofia. At the beginning, France has recommended to Romanian authorities a position of strict neutrality. Romania's intervention by the side of one of the two belligerents could compromise the Balkanic block. Subsequently, however, the plenipotentiary minister of France in Bucharest will insist on the intervention of the Romanians in favour of Serbia. Taking into account that Bulgaria enjoyed the protection of the Double Monarchy, Romania's alliance with Serbia during the Second Balkanic conflict could represent an offence for Austria - Hungary. French press welcomed the Romanian military intervention and the peace concluded at Bucharest on 10 August 1913. This treaty of peace enjoyed the approval of France. Alexandru Emil Lahovari, Romania's diplomatic representative in Paris insisted on the observance of the treaty by the Great powers.
Romania has become after 10 August 1913 the most important power in the Balkan area, France supporting Romanian policy even against a few Russian points of view.
The Second Balkanic War generated the reorientation of Romanian foreign policy. Romania approached French Republic and this was an undeniable fact. France strived to improve Russian - Romanian relations. Taking into account the French insistences, Russians have abandoned the idea of revising the peace from Bucharest of 1913. But there were permanent frictions between Bucharest and Sofia because of territorial clauses of the treaty which had given Cadrilater ( namely the Southern Dobrogea) , to Romania.
Since 1914, the year of the outbreak of World War I, the relations between France and Romania have become closer and closer. Not incidentally, on 17 January 1914, the diplomatic representative of France in Bucharest, Jean - Camille Blondel realized that all members of the new liberal government of the Romanian Kingdom, excepting the Minister of Finance Emil Costinescu, had studied in French universities. Ion I. C. Brătianu was prime – minister of the new Romanian cabinet. Particularly important was the fact that the new minister of the Foreign Affairs, Emanoil Porumbaru was a friend of French Republic. In early 1914, Romania has become an important stake in the competition between the two great alliances, the Entente and Central Empires.
In the first half of 1914, there was a real intensification of economic, cultural, academic, political ties between Romania and France. The words of President of the Council of Ministers of France, Gaston Doumergue are relevant: "I know that Romanians love us and we ask only to become closer to each other. I do not see why we will not be able to intensify relations, giving them a political character. " On the other hand, France had not to leave Romania isolated, to become vulnerable to new diplomatic assaults of the Central Empires. Romanian Kingdom had to be sure of the French and Czarist aid for the perpetuation of Balkanic stability..
The visit of the tsar Nicholas II which has taken place in Constanţa on 14 June 1914, only one month before the First World War, has been a significant step to the improvement of the Romanian – Russian reports. The French diplomacy had an important role. It considered reconciliation between the two states an essential precondition to any Romanian adhesion to the camp of Entente. The political circles from Paris saluted this visit. So, immediately before the outbreak of the First World War, Romania approached France, and the same time it was far from its former ally, the block of Triple Alliance. The next two years of armed neutrality brought the inevitable - Romania's entry into the war alongside the Entente. The words of Gaston Doumergue deserve stressed in this context: "Romania is close to our hearts: she has our sympathy. But all have to know that we have the same interests. [...] It is certainly an identity of the feelings, of the cultures, of the aspirations which led Romania to make the decision in favour of Entente ".