On 28th October, we celebrate the Day of the founding of independent Czechoslovakia. On that day in 1918, the Czechoslovak independence was proclaimed on the Wenceslas Square in Prague, and we celebrate the exceptional centenary of the founding of the modern Czech state this year like Romania celebrates its centenary of the Great Union.
2018 is a special year for the Czechs not only for this National Day. We also commemorate two significant events of our modern history. The 25th anniversary of the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia and the founding of the independent Czech Republic. Also, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the invasion of troops of the Warsaw Pact to the former Czechoslovakia which was a military invasion of armies of five communist countries led by the Soviet Union. This meant the end of the so-called Prague Spring, which brought hope for the democratisation of communist Czechoslovakia and liberty. The Czech people have never forgotten that Romania refused to take part in this shameful occupation and was not among the aggressors.
As we Czechs say “much water in the river has passed since then”, and today I may proudly say that the Czech Republic and Romania are even closer partners and friends than at that time and that our relations have significantly developed.
In 1995 the Czech Parliament adopted the Agreement on Friendly Relationships and cooperation between the Czech Republic and Romania which has contributed to the onset of a new era in our modern mutual history in a significant way. From that time we have developed a lot of joint projects, for example in the field of security, tourism, social affairs, culture, education or economy.
For the Czech Republic, Romania represents one of the most important partners in South-Eastern Europe today. The Czech Republic and Romania are partners in the EU and allies in the NATO. Both countries share identical or similar attitudes on international security issues, European themes and they continuously consult their foreign policy views at different levels. The Czech Republic consistently supports Romania in its endeavour to enter the Schengen zone.
As I have already mentioned our contacts at the political level are excellent, and I am delighted that we can welcome the Romanian Vice Prim Minister Mr. Viorel Stefan in the Czech Republic at the official celebrations of our centenary on the 27th October and that we can share this highly important and solemn event with her.
At the economic level Romania represents, a traditional business partner for the Czech Republic, and without exaggeration, it is the most crucial partner in the Balkans for us. Around 1000 Czech companies are operating on the Romanian market at this moment, and their number is increasing every year. I am convinced that Czech companies have proven to be responsible investors. The trade volume is also constantly growing, which has exceeded the threshold of 4 billion EUR for the first time in 2017. Even though there are a lot of undeniable achievements, I firmly believe that we still have huge potential for more investments and that we can go forward together. To achieve this goal we organise various business forums, roundtables and seminars. I see significant potential above all in the fields of energy, transport and infrastructure, engineering, construction and production of building materials, agriculture and food industry and ICT services.
The already mentioned aspects of our bilateral relations are certainly very important, but without every day´s human contacts we could barely become real friends. In this field, culture has always played the undisputable role. This is why all the Czech Ambassadors, including me, have always supported activities of the Czech Centre in Bucharest. The Czech Centre in Bucharest is not only an organiser or co-organiser of a number of cultural events, but it is also an essential and stable meeting point for young people and their needs and different discussions about, in many cases, challenging topics. I am pleased that the Czech Centre in Bucharest has became a brand for young people.
Let me still mention one exceptional link which makes the Czech Republic and Romania special partners and that is the existence of the Czech community on the Romanian territory. The Czechs came to Banat almost 200 years ago when they colonised some areas and founded several villages. Their descendants are simultaneously both Romanians and Czechs today, and this makes them unique. The Czech Republic supports the preservation of their cultural identity and Czech habits of course, but on the other hand, I have to say that the existence of this community promotes Romania on the Czech side in an incredible way and many people choose to travel to Romania to learn the beauties of Romania.
I believe that the cooperation between the Czech Republic and Romania will get even more profound during the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU during the first semester of 2019 when Europe will face many challenges, and I wish to Romania every success.