Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am particularly honoured to answer the invitation extended by the World Jewish Congress to attend this commemorative event today. I would like to extend my thanks to President Moshe Kantor for having invited me and to welcome the numerous participants. I am happy to see so many friends in the audience.
Today, on the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, we honour the memory of the victims of the Holocaust who perished in those tragic years of the previous century, a dark page in the history of Europe and of the world. This date is, at the same time, highly symbolic, given the international efforts to counter antisemitism and any forms of discrimination, racism and xenophobia.
The entire international community should continue to make efforts to prevent such a tragedy from repeating. I am speaking both on behalf of my Government, and from the perspective of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. One of our objectives is cohesion around shared values, around values that bring us together. Promoting efficient means of combating racism, intolerance, xenophobia, populism, antisemitism, and discouraging hate speech is one of the central themes of our efforts to foster solidarity and cohesion in the European Union.
Over the past years, Romania has taken important steps in the field of commemorating the victims of Holocaust and of promoting Holocaust education. Thus, between March 2016 and March 2017, Romania held the chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and supported the adoption of the working definition of antisemitism.
In June 2018, two years after the adoption of the definition, the Romanian Parliament passed a special law on combating antisemitism, which provides a definition of antisemitism and criminalises the dissemination and promotion of materials with antisemitic content, as well as promoting antisemitic ideas, beliefs and doctrines.
The Romanian Government has been advocating for strengthening efforts to include the issue of the Roma genocide perpetrated during the Second World War in school curricula and for providing decent social standards for the last Roma survivors of deportations to Transnistria.
We could say that, following a comprehensive process of recovery of history, completed with the implementation of the recommendations made by the Elie Wiesel Commission, Romania has become a regional role model in terms of acknowledging one’s past, condemning Holocaust denial and antisemitism, so that young generations can learn the truth about this tragic page in history.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Unfortunately, we are witnessing a worrying resurgence of antisemitism in Europe and in the world, and the recent attacks against places of worship and against the members of this community is a phenomenon that we must counter through immediate and efficient measures.
To this end, the responsibility lies with both high dignitaries, politicians, opinion leaders in countries committed to democracy, as well as with the respective societies in their entirety.
We also salute recent steps taken at European level by the unanimous adoption by EU member states, on December 6, 2018, of a EU Council statement on combating antisemitism and the protection of European Jewish communities.
We support its implementation and the national adoption, by as many states as possible, of the working definition of antisemitism.
As I have mentioned, combating antisemitism is one of the priorities on the agenda of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council. To this end, on February 7, 2019 I will have the honour to inaugurate an event organised by the Romanian Presidency, also in Brussels, concerning policies and actions aimed at providing better protection for Jewish communities across Europe.
Similarly, in March 2019, in Bucharest, we are hosting an event meant to contribute to combating Holocaust denial; the event will bring together representatives of the most relevant government-run museums in Europe and beyond focusing on Holocaust history.
It is only through remembrance that we can learn about our important duty to safeguard the fundamental values of every democratic society in Europe.
It is only through education and commemoration that we can fight against any attempt to deny the Holocaust or to incite to antisemitism, xenophobia and intolerance.
It is only together, in a Europe of shared values, that we can write the future for the new generations, a future where past mistakes must not repeated.
I believe we should all follow the example of Viorica Agarici, Righteous Among the Nations, who showed utmost humanity and courage in helping the Jewish survivors of the “death trains” after the Iași Pogrom. A distinguished representative of the Jewish community said that Viorica Agarici “rehabilitated the human race”.