May 9, 2019 is a very special day for Europe and for Romania. 69 years ago, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman presented the world with the spark that has grown into the revolutionary project that today we call the European Union. This year, Europe Day is the day when we are embarking towards a stronger European project. The Union will move to a new level and Romania is proud to make a contribution to that process, as a mature Member State, one that is fully committed to shaping a strategic vision for a future that will respond to the current challenges.
We are marking Europe Day under our first office as the Member State holding the Council Presidency. It is a true country project that has an influence on all the EU citizens. The Romanian Government has strived to leave its mark on the future of Europe from its position as an honest broker, a fair player, a Council Presidency that has considered the particulars of every Member State while keeping unity and cohesion at heart. These are times when we are called to reflect on our common future and when we are bound to consider the citizens’ opinions and needs. A robust and credible European Union must promote the economic and social convergence, create policies that would narrow the development gaps between the regions, between the old and the new Member States, and shape a budget that would make it possible for all these goals to come true. We have already shown – in the countless crises that we have overcome – that together we are stronger, that we are able to learn from mistakes in order to acquire relevance. This learning process is not over yet.
Now, 12 years since our accession, the Romanian state must continue to show its citizens the benefits of belonging to the European community. The four fundamental freedoms in the European Union – the free movement of persons, of goods, of services and of capital – must be our beacon in times of uncertainty and doubt. Through its efforts on concluding 90 legislative files that impact the citizens’ daily lives, the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union has sent a clear message in that regard.
It is our duty to safeguard the fundamental rights. It is 40 years since the first European elections this year. Suffrage is a safeguarded right and it must be protected. The citizens’ free votes should not be manipulated though external interferences that would benefit the obscure agendas of other actors, at the expense of the European project. The Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU has secured the protection of the votes by concluding a number of key agreements, including on the fight against disinformation and fake news and on the approval of new rules in order to prevent the European parties from misusing personal data in the electoral process.
Europe is also defined by its spirit of tolerance. The European Union is a place where all the citizens are free to live, study or work, irrespective of where they might be. Discrimination and extremism do not belong with the big European family. It is our duty as governments to make sure that such phenomena will not be perpetuated and that Europe will remain a model of prosperity, stability and tolerance.
Many happy returns, dear EU citizens!
Minister for European Affairs