The year 2018 is highly significant for most European countries. In November we will mark 100 years since the end of the so-called Great War, and for many countries it represents their first century of independence. On 1st December, Romania will mark the 100th anniversary of Great Union Day of 1918, and I and the other members of the Irish community very much look forward to participating in your celebrations.
It is evident from looking back over the past 100 years that Romania and Ireland travelled to where we are today by very different pathways, which seldom crossed. However, that all changed more than three decades ago and in the meantime our bilateral engagement has intensified and our friendship has warmed and grown strong.
In large measure this has been because of our shared membership of the EU which, for Ireland, commenced over 45 years ago on 1 January 1973. The EU has been very good for Ireland, and it is within the EU that we see our future. We are all living through some very tough and uncertain times. As the Brexit negotiations in Brussels continue, Ireland very much appreciates the understanding and support we have been receiving from Romania and our other fellow EU member states as regards upholding the Good Friday Agreement and protecting the peace that flowed from that, and on the need to avoid the re-emergence of a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Ireland wants a good outcome of the Brexit negotiations for ourselves, for the UK and for the EU – and Romania will have an important role to play in bringing this complex file to a successful conclusion during its first presidency of the EU Council in the first half of next year. That will be a very exciting and challenging time for Romania, and Ireland will do its best to help and support Romania in hosting a successful presidency.
One of the other drivers of Romania’s and Ireland’s deepening friendship has been the Romanian diaspora in Ireland, which has been estimated at 50,000 or higher. Their contribution to our economy, and our society, under the watchful eye of Ambassador Manuela Breazu, is well-recognised and highly valued in Ireland. Daily low-cost flights between our two capital cities have greatly enhanced our cultural and economic relationship and are also contributing to tourism revenue in both countries.
Romania and Ireland are the two fastest-growing economies in the EU and this presents us with real opportunities to further enhance our bilateral economic engagement. With that in mind, the Embassy appointed a Commercial Attaché a year ago and this has greatly increased our capacity to reach out to Irish and Romanian companies in order to incentivise two-way trade and business.
Our promotion efforts also benefit from the activities of a very active Romania-Ireland Business Association – or RIBA as we call it – whose support we greatly value and appreciate. Among RIBA’s many activities is an annual networking event on the final day of the Six Nations Rugby Championships. This year’s event is on St Patrick’s Day itself, Saturday 17th March, when we hope to be celebrating a great victory over England as well as being crowned Six Nations champion for 2018! I suspect that, once the rugby starts on Saturday, the fact that it is St Patrick’s Day will be lost in all the excitement!
As regards our cultural outreach – we particularly value our ongoing collaboration with the Babes Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca and Ovidius University in Constanta. We are also highly appreciative of the existence here in Bucharest of a thriving Irish dancing school, STEYsha, led by Professor Mara Cernat who is a great supporter of the Embassy. STEYsha will again put on a number of St Patrick’s Day performances for this year, including a dancing exhibition at the Park Lake Mall on Saturday at 1pm, to which all are invited.
By the way, the Park Lake Mall, which opened only last year, was built jointly by Irish and Portuguese developers and is just one example of increasing Irish investment in Romania. In fact, I recently noticed that six of Ireland’s top ten companies are operating here in Romania, and for me that clearly demonstrates that our bilateral relations are growing stronger.
Vă doresc sărbătoare fericită cu ocazia Sfântului Patrick! Happy St Patrick’s Day!
Photo: Patrick Coleman, Ambasador Derek Feely, Liviu Buzilă