It is a great pleasure for us to welcome, on 2 May 2017, the anniversary of 69 years of diplomatic relations between Romania and Israel. Not by chance, this date is very close to the anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel, since Romania recognized it the day after its creation. We would like to emphasize the privilege we have, of a very special relation, based not only on shared values and common goals, but also on profound ethnic, cultural and historical ties.
In the years that have passed since its founding, Israel achieved its historical aspirations, becoming a modern country with an expanding economy, social and cultural life. Since 1968, our bilateral relations reached the age of maturity. The opportunities we have in front of us are excellent and both parties are committed to the strengthening of our cooperation. Today, our countries enjoy an active and pragmatic relationship based on similar political, economic and geo-strategic interests and common values.
The excellent level of our political dialogue is confirmed by a very active rhythm of our contacts. Last year, the Romanian President and the Minster of Foreign Affairs paid visits to Israel. This year as well will reveal an intense program of high-level contacts. These regular visits are a clear sign of our commitment to further expand our bilateral relations and in the same time to continue the intergovernmental dialogue in order to materialize joint development projects. Among the key fields of our cooperation, we would mention agriculture, tourism, energy, infrastructure, as well as defense matters, where there is excellent cooperation, along with healthcare and environment.
Romania chaired between March 2016 and March 2017 the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which became an important benchmark in our relationship. The most important IHRA success during our chairmanship relates to the adoption of the working definition of antisemitism. It is our aim to set an example of responsible conduct for other international fora and for national governments, in order to inspire them to adopt a legally-binding working definition of antisemitism. At a national level, Romanian authorities are strongly committed to sanctioning all forms of antisemitism and Holocaust denial. Our political commitment in fighting against all forms of discrimination is enforced by a comprehensive legal framework we have developed to this end.
There are poignant reminders of Romania’s Jewish heritage and roots in this land. Our country is unique in Eastern and Central Europe for its scores of well-maintained synagogues (nearly 100, of which half are still used for worship) and more than 800 cemeteries scattered throughout Romania. Romania had courageously taken responsibility for recognizing the fate of the Jews in Romania during the Holocaust, to set-up the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania and to implement its recommendations.
Besides the political, economic and cultural bonds, the community of Israeli citizens of Romanian origin represents a special and valuable asset for our long-lasting partnership as well. Playwright Eugene Ionesco, actors Molly Picon, Edward Robinson and John Houseman, conductor Sergiu Comissiona, opera star Alma Gluck; pianists Clara Haskil and Theodor Fuchs, writers Isaac Peltz and Elie Wiesel are some of the internationally known Jewish Romanian personalities in the artistic world. Violinist Miriam Fried, now an Israeli citizen, was born in Romania, as was Saul Steinberg, an artist best known for his New Yorker drawings.
In the light of our joint achievements, we express our firm belief that our longstanding friendship will continue to grow, towards our people mutual satisfaction and benefit. It depends on us to fulfil the potential of this relation and we trust that we will be able to do this, for our cooperation to become even stronger in years to come.