I arrived in Dublin during the last week of November 2013. So, looking back at the approximately 15 months spent in Ireland in my capacity as an Ambassador, the best description to summarize my experience would be: intense, fruitful and rewarding. In my opinion, in the professional life of an Ambassador, the first year of his/her mandate is the most challenging. It is the period when a Head of Mission immerses in a totally new environment and works hard to put the basis and set the pace of the entire activity for the years to come. So, this is exactly what I did: in my attempt to pursue the main objectives set up for my mandate, I covered an intense agenda of meetings with the relevant Irish officials, representatives of the business community, media and the cultural environment and, of course, with the members of the significant Romanian community in Ireland. Everywhere I went I encountered openness and availability for dialogue and for developing concrete projects.
What have been the most important achievements so far in your portfolio of Romania’s Ambassador to Dublin ? What future projects do you have in view, to contribute further to the development of the Romanian-Irish bilateral relationship, and to promote in a better way Romania’s interest in Ireland?
From quite a long list of activities carried out since the beginning of my mandate, I would like to mention the following: the official visit to Ireland of Mr. Valeriu Zgonea, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Romanian Parliament to Dublin, in June 2014 – the first ever visit of a Romanian Speaker to Ireland; bilateral consultations at the level of Political Directors in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs (Bucharest, May 2014); “The Romanian Cultural Days in Dublin”- a comprehensive event, carried out between 7 and 25 October 2014, in cooperation with the Romanian Cultural Institute. Needless to say, the agenda of activities was much richer and included various bilateral visits and contacts at Governmental and Parliamentary levels and the Embassy’s constant presence on the diplomatic scene in Dublin and in the middle of the Romanian community. As to what will follow, I want to build on the auspicious momentum in which our bilateral relations are now situated, through a series of activities which are in preparation and focus on: the political dialogue, the economic links, promoting Romania as a tourist destination, improving the consular services for the Romanian citizens.
Placed at the South Eastern, respectively Western extremities of the continent, Romania and Ireland are separated by a little over 3.000 km. However, the two countries are very close of each other because of the human bridge linking them. What is the role of the Romanian community living and working in Ireland in this very special cohesion between the two countries?
Definitely, the Romanian community (the third largest migrant community in Ireland) is a big asset in the bilateral relations between our countries. The Romanians are highly appreciated for the way they integrated into their new home country and their contribution to the economy and the increased multicultural life of Ireland. As one might expect, considering its dimension and their presence in all spheres of life, issues relating to the Romanian community are addressed in the official meetings, or during the informal contacts that I have. Without exceptions, starting with the President of Ireland, members of the Government or Parliament, Irish people in general, the feedback that I get about the Romanian community is positive. On one hand this makes me very proud and, on the other hand, renders me a higher responsibility with respect to my mandate.
How do the prospects of enhancing the bilateral trade and economic exchanges look like?
Promoting the trade and economic relations proves to be one of the biggest challenges for an Ambassador. Romanian – Irish bilateral trade amounts to nearly 450 million euro a year but, in my opinion, there is still a great potential for growth. Most of our trade is the result of the transactions between various subsidiaries of multinational companies, but the increased number of Romanian and Irish SMEs that require assistance from our Embassy indicates that the prospects are good. I feel that we should do more in order for Romania to be better known in Ireland, including (or especially) from the business point of view and that is why, increasing the visibility of our country in Ireland remains a constant priority for the Embassy. There have been positive developments since my arrival to Ireland like, for example, the successful marketing of the “Dacia” vehicles on the Irish market. Also, since the beginning of this year, I was delighted to see that two of the largest Irish industrial companies, CRH and Kingspan, have become some of the largest investors in the Romanian economy. I am strongly committed to bringing new Irish investors in other sectors, especially agri-business and IT. Last but not least, one of my priorities has been and will be to promote Romania as a tourist destination – encouraged also by the fact that there are two direct air links between Bucharest and Dublin, provided by Blue Air and Ryan Air.
What about the cultural exchanges? What are the Embassy’s main projects in this field in order to make Romania’s cultural values and traditions better known in Ireland?
Our Embassy has had a very ambitious program of cultural activities, including the yearly participation to the “International Jameson Film Festival”, supporting various Romanian actors and music groups to perform in Ireland. The most complex series of cultural events, organized for the first time in Ireland, was “The Romanian Culture Days in Dublin”. The program included a series of seven special cultural events that spanned over three weeks in October 2014. Probably the most noteworthy was the event which took place in the opening of the series, attended by over 1000 spectators: the Gala performance entitled “Voices of the Merry Cemetery”, which reunited, on the scene of the main concert hall in Dublin – The National Concert Hall, the RTE Concert Orchestra, the Choir of Sibiu Theology Faculty and the singer Rita Connolly. They played the wonderful music composed by Shaun Davey, one of the most celebrated Irish contemporary artists, as a tribute to the links between the traditional music of Romania and Ireland. The series of events included an illustration of the best in Romanian film, theatre, literature, visual arts and intellectual reflection. For the future, we will maintain a substantial cultural presence of Romania in Ireland, counting as well, on the support of the Romanian community.
Romania and Ireland will celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations on April 18. How do you see the edifice of the Romanian-Irish partnership at the moment, on bilateral field but also on a larger scale inside the European Union?
From a historical perspective, the bilateral relation between our countries is very young. However, its dynamism has been remarkable in all areas and, currently, Romania and Ireland are enjoying a solid bilateral cooperation which renders fruit within the European Union, as well. I just want to remind that during its previous 2004 EU Presidency, Ireland was a strong supporter of Romania’s bid to become an EU Member State. Eight years later, in 2012, Ireland showed the same degree of support by lifting, with two years of anticipation, all the restrictions on its labour market for the Romanian workers, which proved to be beneficial for both Romanians living and working in Ireland and for the Irish economy, as it is a proven fact, including at the level of the European Commission, that labour mobility in Europe results in net positive contributions to the economies of the host countries. What’s more, during the most recent Irish EU Presidency, in 2013, our bilateral relations were further enhanced as our countries’ interests and objectives greatly coincided in the framework of the EU Presidency, especially concerning economic growth and jobs and the Common Agricultural Policy.
As a consequence of becoming partners in the EU, the bilateral cooperation has deepened at the EU and international levels (the UN, OSCE, and UNHCR). Romania and Ireland work closely together on issues of common interest on the EU agenda, like: jobs, growth and innovation, the Eastern Neighborhood, human rights etc. I take this opportunity to underline the constant support Ireland has shown over the last few years for bringing Moldova closer to the EU.
What is your message for the Irish people on the occasion of the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day?
It is impressive to see that St. Patrick’s Day, the National Day of Ireland, has turned into a truly international celebration. It is the merit of a hardworking, respected nation, whose good name was carried abroad by approximately 50 million people who claim Irish descent. I am delighted that, during recent years, the Irish spirit has manifested itself in Bucharest, as well, on this particular day, in which several landmark buildings were greened in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. This year it is the turn of the National Theatre of Bucharest to “dress” itself in the instantly recognizable color of Ireland! I would like to wish the Irish people the traditional “Happy St. Patrick’s Day!” and to keep up the good work in building and promoting their country-which is an inspiration for many nations.