Austria, Britain, France and Italy
After the mid-1960s, political, economic, and cultural ties also expanded with other Western countries, particularly Austria, Britain, France, and Italy. Economic relations with these countries were especially important to Romania, and several trade and jointventure agreements were negotiated.
After the late 1970s, relations with these countries, as with the West in general, took a sharp downturn. In particular relations with France deteriorated severely. For centuries French culture had exercised profound influence on Romania, which viewed itself as France's special friend in Eastern Europe. President de Gaulle's visit in 1968 reaffirmed this feeling of amity. But during the 1980s, human rights abuses, the poor performance of French-Romanian joint ventures, and unfair Romanian trade practices (including the dumping of steel) poisoned the relationship.
Perhaps the most damaging episode in French-Romanian relations was a spy scandal in the early 1980s known as the "Tanase affair." Virgil Tanase, a dissident Romanian writer, accused the Romanian government of mounting a plot to assassinate himself and another émigré, Paul Goma. Shortly thereafter, President François Mitterand cancelled an official visit to Romania and relations worsened rapidly. Romania expelled several French journalists, and in March 1989, France recalled its ambassador in reaction to the persecution of signers of a letter condemning Ceausescu's rule.
Relations with Britain took a similar course. Optimistic jointventure and trade agreements in the 1970s, including licenses from British Aerospace and Rolls-Royce to build sophisticated aircraft, were followed in the 1980s by official revulsion for Ceausescu's human rights abuses. The British considered withdrawing their ambassador from Romania and stripping Ceausescu of an honorary British distinction.
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