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President Iohannis attends ceremony of marking the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Strasbourg: It’s our permanent duty to have firm stance, admit past mistakes

It is the permanent duty of all to admit the past mistakes and honour the memory of those who died innocent, said on Tuesday the Romanian President, Klaus Iohannis at the ceremony of marking the International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Seat of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

He said that on 27 January the release of prisoners of concentration camps from Auschwitz-Birkenau is marked, a moment he labeled one of the saddest memory landmarks in the history of humankind.

“Here we are today to bring pious tribute to all of teh victims of the Holocaust. We bow to the unprecedented tragedy each and every of these victims has lived individually, but that had a strong impact upon all humanity. The 27th of January, the date that marks the release of the prisoners. This day was also the beginning of hope for those who were alive on 27 January 1945. We are very lucky to still having some of these survivors amongst us, reminding us all about the need to never forget the mistakes of the past,” said Klaus Iohannis.

Iohannis asserted that this day has a double significance and responsibility.

“A first one is screening to the past and claims our moral duty to remember and be aware of the sufferance of the massacred. A second is future-oriented and urges us to educate the next generations with regard to the abominable murders of the Holocaust. It is therefore our duty to keep alive the memory of so many victims of this terrible plague,” said president Iohannis.

He recalled that by March Romania is Chairman of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

“The Holocaust Remembrance is one of the main action directions followed by Romania during its mandate, alongside the promotion of the Holocaust education and research, and the interaction with the younger generations through social media,” the head of state said.

President Iohannis also recalled that the IHRA has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Council of Europe, adding that he is confident that “in 2017, the CoE and the IHRA could create a pilot-programme aiming to train the public servants in fighting the Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism,” stressing that Romania is ready to further promote the working definition of anti-Semitism, recently adopted in Bucharest in 2016, and get involved in this pilot-project.

He also said that Holocaust education should not resume to being exclusively promoted in the classrooms.

The ceremony was also attended by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland and the President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades.

President Iohannis has participated next to the above-mentioned in the opening of a photographs and archive documents’ exhibition dedicated to the Holocaust victims, titled ‘Education and Memory. Holocaust in Romania’, organised by the Romanian rotating Chairmanship of the IHRA.

“The fact that this exhibition is displayed here – at the Council of Europe – on the very spot the European nations have gathered, for the first time, in their commitment to never repeat the horrors of the World War II, it is a symbolic gesture (…) Recalling the darkest episodes in our history and presenting the facts as they unfolded, this is the way we have decided, for instance, to commemorate (în 2016) 75 years since the Pogrom of Iasi. The abominable murders committed by the rule of that period is still an open wound for our society. As a proof of our commitment on the long term, our country’s authorities have started procedures to establish a Jewish History Museum of Romania, in Bucharest. This exhibition also shows the stories of the Romanian citizens who have helped their neighbours, Jewish neighbours or even unknown ones, to escape persecutions and deportation. Year later, their role has been honoured by the ‘Yad Vashem’ Memorial of Jerusalem, by bestowing them the ‘Righteous among the Nations’ title,” said president Iohannis.

President Klaus Iohannis is paying Tuesday and Wednesday an official visit to Strasbourg, where he will deliver a speech in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), at the invitation of the president of this body, Pedro Agramunt.

On Tuesday, the head of state also participated in a working lunch offered by the President of the PACE, Pedro Agramunt, on the occasion of the first plenary session of the Council of Europe in 2017.

President Iohannis held talks with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, and delivered a press statements alongside the latter.

On Tuesday as well, the head of state had  talks with the President of Venice Commission, Gianni Buquicchio and the CEDO President, Guido Raimondi.

The main message of the Romanian President to the high officials of the Council of Europe  reiterated Romania’s commitment and firm support to the Council of Europe’s values and standards, prevalently those regarding democracy and the rule of law.

The head of state will also underline the importance of the Council of Europe and its bodies in the building in Romania of a viable rule of law, based on democratic principles and the observance of human rights, and will talk about the initiation of new cooperation projects with the Strasbourg organisation focused to promote and support the values and standards of the Council of Europe on the continent.

In the evening, Klaus Iohannis  will meet the Romanian staff working with the Council of Europe’s structures and the representatives of the Romanian community of Alsace.

On Wednesday, the head of state will have talks with the President of the PACE, Pedro Agramunt, deliver a speech in front of the PACE and participate in a working lunch offered by Pedro Agramunt.

After the speech at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the parliamentary delegations to the PACE will have the opportunity to have a Q&A session with President Iohannis.

The visit to Strasbourg is this year’s first foreign travel of President Iohannis. He is accompanied by his wife Carmen Iohannis.

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