This year, Romania is celebrating its 100th anniversary! It is a big, historical moment for all of us! Back in 1918, after World War I ended, the aspiration of Romanian people for a strong and modern nation state became reality. One hundred years ago, all the historical provinces inhabited by Romanians decided to become one national state: Romania. The Union was proclaimed on December 1st 1918 in Alba Iulia, and this is why we, Romanians, celebrate this day as our national day, the day of our Great Union.
The enthusiasm of that day still resonates today, as an important moment that brought much hope and joy in Romanians’ lives. In January 2007, Romania officially became member of the European family, sharing the values of freedom, equality and solidarity, which are indispensable to EU’s peace and prosperity. These benefits of the EU membership are too often taken for granted.
It is for me a privilege and an honour, as the European Commissioner for regional policy, to serve the European citizens, including the Romanians. This is a policy that comes in the direct support of all EU regions, helping them to develop, and reducing disparities. I truly believe in the strong contribution of cohesion policy to our country. In 2014 when I took office, the absorption rate of funding was 48%, but after many joint efforts, we closed the financial period with an absorption rate of almost 90%. Undoubtedly, EU funds have contributed to the current economic development of our country. Romania is currently one of the fastest growing economies in the European Union! There are many examples out there showing how much cohesion policy has improved the daily lives of the Romanians: during the 2007–2013 programming period, close to 15 000 SMEs were supported, 51 000 new jobs were created, over 40 000 households benefited from investments in energy efficiency, nearly 2500 schools were given broadband access and 100 hospitals were renovated.
There is no doubt that being part of the European Union was the best decision Romania could have made 11 years ago.
Next year will be another milestone in the history of our country. For the first time Romania will take the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, with a strong moto: “Cohesion, a common European value.” This mandate will take place under very particular circumstances (the next elections for the European Parliament and the finalisation of the Brexit negotiations). I see this special context, both as an unprecedented challenge, but also as a great opportunity to make a key contribution to the future of Europe and its citizens, and rebuild their trust in the European project.
I am certain that my country will make the best of this opportunity and contribute, during its Presidency of the Council, to a better, stronger and more cohesive Union, for all European citizens.
Happy National Day, my dear Romanians, wherever you are! Happy birthday, Romania!