Right Direction | US visa waiver for Romanians: We just have to keep working on it — an interview with Ambassador James Rosapepe

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JAMES Carew Rosapepe was born on May 20, 1951, in Rome, Italy.

Tiberiu Dianu

He is the son of two freelance journalists. He grew up in New York before moving to the Washington area in the late 1960s. Rosapepe attended Yale University as an undergraduate student. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1997/11/28/to-get-where-hes-going-diplomacy-did-wonders/2fa94ede-8587-4fce-82a9-630bedb30e82/

He was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates (1987-1997). Then he was appointed as Ambassador to Romania during the Bill Clinton administration and ended his mandate during the George W. Bush administration (1998-2001). An internal State Department report was strongly critical of Rosapepe’s leadership and management during his ambassadorial service, while crediting him with several accomplishments. https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-1999-12-22-9912220008-story.html

Upon his recall from Romania, Rosapepe was appointed to serve on the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland. He left the board to run against incumbent Senator John Gianetti in District 21, whom he defeated in the 2006 election for Maryland State Senator in District 21. He was unopposed in the 2010 and 2014 elections. Maryland State Senator Rosapepe (2007 – to present) currently sits on the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee and serves as a Deputy Majority Whip.

I have known Ambassador Rosapepe since the summer of 1999, during the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., when the festival hosted programs on New Hampshire, Romania, and South Africa. https://folklife-media.si.edu/docs/festival/finding-aids/CFCH.SFF.1999.pdf I also remember the fact that, during Ambassador Rosapepe’s mandate in Bucharest, I started to receive at home the U.S. Embassy in Romania informative bulletins, the first initiative of its kind to connect people on the embassy mailing list.

During the period of October 3 and 4, 2019, James Rosapepe attended, as a Board Chair, the annual ALIANTA/The Alliance Gala, in Washington, DC, at the Conrad Hotel and the Romanian Embassy, respectively. https://alianta.org/

On October 4, 2019, the Alianţa organization announced the launching of a new initiative, The Visa Waiver for Romanians, in order to support efforts in the U.S. Congress to end discrimination in the U.S. Visa system against Romanian citizens. Currently, Romania is one of only four European Union countries which are not part of the U.S. Visa Waiver program, which allows EU citizens to visit the U.S. without a visa.

With that occasion, Ambassador James Rosapepe granted me an exclusive interview.

1. Mr. Ambassador James Rosapepe, Romania is one of the only four EU members currently excluded from the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. Can you tell us more about the advocacy campaign to allow Romanians to visit the United States without visas?

Yes, well, the Alianţa [organization] is launching a campaign today [October 4, 2019] to work with the Romanian Embassy, but also work with other communities that are excluded from the Visa Waiver, like the Bulgarians, and the Croatians and others, to get Romania in the Visa Waiver [Program]. It’s very important for American families, it’s very important for American businesses.

2. Yes, thank you so much. In your opinion, what do Romania and Romanians have to do to make this U.S. Visa Waiver Program an achievable objective?

I think Romania has worked very hard to do that, in terms of strengthening its borders, improving security, working very closely as an ally of the United States. So, I think, Romania is doing its part. I think the Romanian-American community and American businesses active in Romania, and other Americans who care about the [U.S.] Partnership [with Romania] need to be active and knowledgeable in talking with the members of Congress, and encouraging the President and Congress to bring Romania into Visa Waiver.

3. Thank you so much. And the last question: Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has met twice with the American President, Donald Trump, first in June 2017, then in August 2019, and every time the U.S. Visa Waiver has been a topic of discussion. How do you think this issue will be eventually resolved?

I am not sure. We just gotta keep working on it.

4. Thank you so much, Mr. Ambassador.

Thank you. Thanks a lot.

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, D.C. and can be followed on Medium. https://medium.com/@tdianu

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