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Here to Stay: A Legation Becomes Embassy

Exactly 56 years ago, on June 1 1964, Romania and the United States decided to elevate their diplomatic relations to embassy level. The landmark decision came after years of sinuous political rapprochement in the complicated context of the Cold War and almost a century of proper diplomatic relations.

Diplomatic relations between Romania and the United States were established on June 14, 1880 when U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Eugene Schuyler as Diplomatic Agent and Consul General of the United States to Bucharest. Schuyler was promoted to the rank of Resident Minister and Consul General in 1881 and presented his credentials in this new capacity in 1882.

In 1891, Loudon Snowden, Resident Minister in Bucharest, notified the Romanian authorities of the U.S. government’s decision to raise the level of its diplomatic representation to the Extraordinary Envoy and Minister Plenipotentiary. But it was only in 1905 when the American diplomatic representatives changed their residence from Athens to Bucharest. Across the Atlantic, The Romanian Legation in Washington was established, by Royal Decree, on October 1, 1917 and became effective in January 1918 with Dr. Constantin Angelescu as the first Extraordinary Envoy and Minister Plenipotentiary of Romania in the United States.

Starting with 1956, Bucharest contemplated the possibility of raising the Romanian-American diplomatic relations to embassy level but the political tensions of the Cold War, with communist Romania yet under a strict Soviet grip, prevented it. However, in the late 1950s and early 1960s a period of relaxation injected new energy in the bilateral relations, which was immediately discernible in the increase of cultural and economic exchanges. The settlement of outstanding financial issues between Romania and the United States in 1960, as well as the emancipation of Romania’s foreign policy from the Moscow dictates, as highlighted by the ground-breaking Declaration of April 1964, brought the issue of elevating the level of diplomatic relations back to the negotiation table.

Between May 18 and June 1, 1964 bilateral consultations with a trade focus were held in Washington, D.C. The Romanian delegation was led by Gheorghe Gaston-Marin, Vice President of the Council of Ministers of Romania, while the American delegation was headed by H. Averell Harriman, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. At the end of the talks, on June 1, 1964, the joint press release revealed the decision to lift the diplomatic relations to embassy level.

Shortly afterwards, on June 4, the Romanian mission to Washington was elevated to the rank of embassy, ​​and two months later, on July 22, Petre Bălăceanu, who had been heading Romania’s Legation since 1961, was appointed the first Romanian Ambassador to the United States. He presented his credentials to President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 14, 1964.

The Presidential elections delayed the appointment of the American counterpart in Romania until December 4, 1964, when William A. Crawford, who had been the U.S. Envoy to Bucharest since 1962, took over in the new capacity as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. He was the last diplomatic representative to have presented his letters of accreditation to Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, the head of the Romanian state, on December 24, just a few months before the latter’s unexpected death.

Photo 1: The Decree through which the Romanian Legation to Washington was elevated to the rank of Embassy

Photo 2: Scînteia newspaper, a feature from August 16, 1964 about the first Romanian Ambassador to the U.S., Petre Bălăceanu, presenting his credentials to President Lyndon B. Johnson

Photo 3: H. Averell Harriman and Gheorghe Gaston-Marin at the bilateral consultations in Washington, D.C., May-June 1964

Photo 4: Petre Bălăceanu, the first Romanian Ambassador to the United States (1964-1967)

Photo 5: William A. Crawford, the first U.S. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Romania (1964-1965) presents his letters of accreditation to Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej on December 24, 1964

Diplomatic relations between Romania and the United States went through a period of extraordinary development in the late 1960s and during the 1970s, which was short-circuited by the growing isolation and rigidity which characterized the terminal phase of Ceaușescu’s dictatorship during the 1980s.

After the fall of communist dictatorship in Romania in 1989, in the new international climate, the Romanian-American relations were relaunched and expanded on all levels thanks to the efforts and abilities of exquisite diplomats in both capitals as well as numerous artists, scholars, business people, athletes who breathed new life into the old transatlantic connection. After 30 years since the end of the Cold War, Romania and the United States now enjoy a multi-faceted relation – diplomatic, military, cultural, economic – which has attained the highest level in the bilateral history, a privileged context best expressed by the letter and the spirit of the Strategic Partnership.

Read more (in Romanian) on the Facebook page of the Diplomatic Archives of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs/ Arhivele Diplomatice ale Ministerului Afacerilor Externe

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