BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Romania on Tuesday to hold bilateral talks and meet with French troops stationed there who are part of NATO’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Macron’s visit to Romania, a European Union member since 2007 and a NATO member since 2004, marked the beginning of a regional tour that includes a visit Wednesday to non-NATO Moldova. Both countries share long borders with embattled Ukraine.
“Nobody knows what is in store for us in the coming weeks and months, but we will do all we can to put an end to the Russian invasion, to help Ukrainians and continue with negotiations,” Macron said at the eastern Mihail Kogalniceanu air base, where he was greeted by Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca.
In a brief address to French soldiers deployed at the NATO base, Macron praised them for “honoring our commitment to defend Europe as war is being waged again.”
France has around 500 soldiers deployed in Romania and has been a key player in NATO’s bolstering of forces on the alliance’s eastern flank following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. In May, France deployed an air defense system to Romania that NATO said “can ensure protection to the forces operating within the area.”
In the long term, Macron said ”we need to be able to protect ourselves” and went on to say NATO's multinational battlegroup in Romania — which includes French, Belgian and American military personnel — will serve as a “powerful deterrent” on Europe’s eastern flank.
On Wednesday, Macron will meet with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis at the air base for official talks in preparation for a European Council meeting in Brussels, as well as a key NATO “Strategic Concept” summit in Madrid later this month.
French spokesperson Olivia Grégoire said Macron is expected to address the consequences of the war in Ukraine, from a surge of Ukrainian refugees to the spike in energy prices and the disruptions to global grain markets.
He will also discuss Ukraine’s and Moldova’s demands to join the EU ahead of a European summit next week, she said. France currently holds the presidency of the EU Council.
Macron will “underline the importance of the strength of the European project in these troubled moments,” she said.
After Romania, Macron will head to Chisinau, Moldova’s capital, where he will meet with President Maia Sandu.
Sylvie Corbet in Paris and Barbara Surk in Nice, France, contributed to this report.
Stephen Mcgrath, The Associated Press