By Vandana Sinha
WASHINGTON – Maryland Del. James C. Rosapepe said Friday he is excited and ready to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Romania now that the Senate has confirmed his appointment.
The Prince George’s Democrat, who was one of 33 ambassadors approved by the Senate Thursday night after facing no opposition, expects to leave for the Eastern European country in early January.
Rosapepe said he will follow the diplomatic path etched out by President Clinton, who visited Romania in July.
“The priorities are ones that the president laid out … which is to work with Romania as they reform their economy, strengthen their democratic institutions and try to integrate with the West,” he said.
Until then, the 46-year-old College Park resident will spend the next two months tying up loose ends in Maryland, including resigning his delegate seat and deciding what to do with his Washington-based public policy consulting firm, Rosapepe and Spanos.
While he represents the United States in Romania, his wife, Sheilah Kast, will stay behind in Maryland, continuing to host “This Week in Business,” a weekly news show aired on public television.
“My wife will come over with me initially, but she will actually stay here because of her job,” Rosapepe said. “There is a tremendous burden [on her], but she’s very supportive, very enthusiastic about it. She wants to spend as much time as possible in Romania.”
His diplomatic interests stem from his involvement in Eastern European issues, underscored by Clinton’s 1995 decision to name him to the board of the Albanian American Enterprise Fund, a $30 million investment fund that promotes business development in Albania.
The 10-year Maryland lawmaker also chaired foreign exchange programs and served as member of the U.S. State Department observer team for local and national Croatian elections.
“He’s well qualified to take on the job,” said Alfred Moses, Rosapepe’s predecessor who served from 1994 until this August. “He has an interest in the area, knowledge in public policy and a commitment to serving the people of Romania.”
While Rosapepe is uncomfortable predicting whether Romania will earn membership into NATO in 1999, scholars said the Clinton administration will offer support when the country makes significant progress in its journey toward democratic ideals.
“There are two things that are sure,” Rosapepe said. “One thing is that Romania is very interested in joining NATO, and the second thing is the United States is very interested in helping Romania be a very strong candidate for membership.”
Rosapepe said he will support economic privatization and stable macroeconomic policies, issues that Romanian lobbyists in Washington believe are top priorities.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to serve as ambassador to Romania,” he said. “It’s a time of enormous opportunity in Romania and the U.S. is committed to helping Romanian people take advantage of this opportunity and play some sort of role.”