May 25, 2019

In Europe We Trust

By Brândușa Predescu, Ambassador of Romania to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

I vividly remember the day my country, Romania, became a member of the European Union. It was a cold, chilly winter day, but I was overjoyed. I am sure that on that day, the 1st of January 2007, all Romanians felt the same.

EU accession was seen by Romania and its people as the natural fulfilment of a national aspiration – a symbolic reintegration with Europe and everything it stands for – freedom, peace, prosperity, security, rule of law, human rights. And now, after 12 years, we have the honour and the responsibility to be at the helm of the EU Council.

Our turn has come to give something back to Europe, to bring to the fore again a key message that needs to be clearly promoted: it is unity that makes Europe strong. Unity is for Europe the greatest chance and the only way forward. 

The National Museum George Enescu opened in the Cantacuzino Palace, Bucharest.
Photography by Dragoș Asaftei.

Therefore, the choice of the motto of the Romanian Presidency, “Cohesion, a common European value” came naturally.  It underlines the need for unity and cooperation at all levels – among EU Member States, their citizens and with the EU institutions. The Romanian EU Presidency promotes “cohesion” as a fundamental European value but also in the broadest sense of the word, from political, economic, to social and territorial cohesion. Following this approach, the agenda of the Romanian Presidency encompasses four key priorities:

First, Europe of convergence. We believe that a cohesive Europe has to provide equal development opportunities to all its citizens. We can reach this aim by promoting connectivity and digitalization, implementing regional and cross-border cooperation projects, stimulating entrepreneurship and the competitiveness of the European industry.

Landscape in Romania. Photography by Dragoș Asaftei.

Secondly, a safer Europe through increased cooperation between Member States against the new security challenges and through upholding initiatives in the areas of justice and security.

Thirdly, Europe as a stronger global actor, by supporting a consolidated role of the EU on the international stage, beginning with advancing the enlargement agenda and the European path of our neighbours in the Western Balkans and of the countries of the Eastern Partnership. 

Last but not least, a Europe of common values as a key element of our efforts to rebuild citizens’ trust. Promoting the values included in the Treaties, such as cohesion, equality, freedom, democracy, human dignity, justice, and solidarity, is important for ensuring genuine support for the European project.

The Athenaeum, Bucharest. Photography by Dragoș Asaftei.

Europe represents above all a community of values which we must defend and protect in these troubled times. That is why during the Presidency, Romania is working to advance a citizens-oriented agenda. Files with a concrete impact on the daily life of European citizens are particularly significant. Romania’s presidency is future-oriented and forward-looking. In preparing for the next institutional cycle of the EU, Romania aims to build on the reflection on the future of Europe. This substantial reflection process will culminate in the informal Summit of European leaders in the Romanian city of Sibiu, to take place symbolically on the 9th of May, on Europe Day. 

Indeed, I believe the European elections and the Sibiu Summit are two milestones of our Presidency. As it looks now, these elections are, more than ever before, crucial for defining the future path of the EU. That is why continuous meaningful communication and dialogue with citizens are very important in maintaining and increasing the support for the European Union and thus ensuring perspectives for its successful future. Especially young people are called upon to actively engage in EU affairs. This is something I am personally very attached to and try to encourage in the frequent dialogues I have with high school and university students. 

The city of Sibiu hosts the 2019 Summit on the future of the EU.
Photography by Dragoș Asaftei.

As I said, unity is the one key ingredient that fuels the European project. Without unity, the EU is nothing but a number of countries. “There is only one Europe! Even if it has a mutilated and divided body, the European idea is indivisible. Europe cannot revive in the Western part of the continent if it dies in the Eastern part. Nowhere the word Europe has a stronger support excepting in the Eastern part. Half of the European population keeps in mind the idea of the European unity as a promise for peace and liberty”. These were the words used in 1948, when the division of our continent was already a fait accompli, by Grigore Gafencu, eminent Romanian diplomat and former foreign minister, one of the ardent proponents of the idea of a United Europe.

Today, in a united European Union, as we commemorate 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and of communist regimes in Europe, in 1989, we should remember those times when Europe was divided. And we must not let it happen again. Unity should guide us when our leaders meet in Sibiu on Europe’s Day. Unity must remain the essence of the European project and the force that allows us to overcome the major challenges that the EU is facing.  A united Europe is good not just for Europe, but also for the world. 

The advancement of the European project should be regarded not as optional, but as imperative, as a duty for our generation. Having been separated from the rest of Europe for almost half a century behind the Iron Curtain, Romanians unreservedly appreciate the undeniable benefits of belonging to the EU. It is in this logic that Romania and Romanians want to see the European family prosper based on the values and principles that forge a common European identity while protecting and cherishing what makes Member States and their citizens unique. 

What Nicolae Titulescu – the prodigious figure of Romanian diplomacy in the inter-war period, twice-elected president of the League of Nations – used to emphasize almost a century ago is as valid today as it was then. “Romania’s policy is influenced by the perfect convergence between Romanian and European interests. All of our present and future actions in the field of foreign policy have emerged and will emerge from this fundamental principle.” Romania is Europe and Europe is us.  

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Photography by Robert Huiberts for Diplomat Magazine.

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