Anglo-Romanian Relations in the Aviation Industry (1966-1993)
By the mid-1960s, the whole European aviation industry had begun looking at two main solutions in order to survive competition from the USA: European cooperation, and exports to markets still closed to the Americans. Against this background, Anglo-Romanian dealings in the aviation industry over a period of almost thirty years are a case of converging politico-military interests with major interpretative potential. This holds true for the history of East-West relations and infra-Western commercial competition, but also for the transformation of domestic decision-making patterns and the change in economic priorities. While Britain became Romania’s first commercial partner in order to offer a new outlet to the aviation industry, Bucharest was looking at the U.K. to pursue a strategy of industrial modernisation and political visibility. The story of their intersection sheds light on the lower-level reality of Détente in Europe. The degree of collaboration across the Iron Curtain was not just the product of a generally improved diplomatic atmosphere, but – at least in the present case – the result of a peculiar mixture of political ambition, economic viability, and technological expertise. Indeed, the change of economic paradigm in the UK (from Neo-Keynesianism to monetarist Neo-Liberalism), along with President Ceauşescu’s fixation with foreign debt, played a crucial role in the vicissitudes of Anglo-Romanian relations in the aviation industry in the period between the demise of Détente and the end of the Cold War. This points to a reasonably articulated model, which is hinged on the category of ‘transfer’, rather than on the category of ‘cooperation’.
Chapter 5. Rombac
While the negotiations for obtaining the licence to manufacture the BAC 1-11 in its entirety were undoubtedly the culmination of over ten years of Anglo-Romanian aeronautical relations, these talks also shed light on their inherent structural limitations, especially now that the Romanians were no longer in a position to play their usual card of generating competition between the European contenders. Moreover, both the United Kingdom and Romania were about to enter a new phase coming in the aftermath of the 1970s crisis. The ROMBAC project thus came to epitomise the fact that London no longer needed to maintain a relationship with Romania for foreign policy reasons, while also symbolising the megalomaniacal stagnation of the Bucharest regime. So, just when Anglo-Romanian aeronautical relations seemed to be making breakthrough, they were actually petering out.
5.1 Competing with the Germans
Towards the end of the 1970s, a study carried out on behalf of the World Bank highlighted that Romania had made huge progress over twenty-five years thanks to a catch-up strategy based on high levels of saving and investment. Over the 1950-75 period, by mobilising resources and limiting consumption, Romania had had the highest growth rate in Eastern Europe, sustained by a phenomenal amount of investments (with an annual average growth rate of 13.1%), most of which was ploughed back into industrial production. Thanks to enormous efforts, this development was reflected in the increased exportation of manufactured goods, with some success stories,...
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