The official inauguration ceremony of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU started on Thursday evening, at the Romanian Athenaeum, in the presence of President Klaus Iohannis, Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, as well as European officials.
Romania is exercising, between January 1 – June 30, the Rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time since the accession to the EU on January 1, 2007.
The motto of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU is “Cohesion, a common European value”.
On June 30, Romania will hand over the Rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU to Finland.
Among the guests to the official ceremony were numerous political figures, members of the College of Commissioners, members of the Diplomatic Corps, representatives of the religions of Romania and cultural personalities.
On the occasion of the event, the Athenaeumwas lit in the colors of the Romanian flag.
After the official ceremony, the inaugural concert of the Orchestra of the European Union followed, the orchestra being composed of musicians from the 28 EU member-states, but also Romanian artists known internationally, such as Adela Zaharia, Ruxandra Donose, Michael Konig, Sorin Coliban and the George Enescu Philharmonic Choir, coordinated by Ion Iosif Prunner.
The conductor of the concert was be Ion Marin.
The programme included Rhapsody no. 1, op. 11 by George Enescu and the 9th Symphony, op. 125, “Ode to Joy” (the anthem of the European Union) by Ludwig van Beethoven.
Before the start of the official ceremony, the lobby of the Athenaeum saw the performance of the Madrigal-Marin Constantin National Choir and the Cantus Mundi children’s choir. The artists performed on the grand staircase in the lobby.
Iohannis: Romania takes over forefront role in Europe; main objective – more united Europe
President Klaus Iohannis on Thursday said that through the Presidency of the Council of the European Union Romania takes over a forefront role on a European level, emphasising that the main objective of Romania’s mandate is the consolidation of a more cohesive, more united and stronger Europe.
“12 years since the accession to the European Union, Romania takes over a forefront role on a European level. If we look back a bit, our country’s come back to the European family represented a specially important desideratum, for which we made all efforts on a national level and for which we all worked with devotion and professionalism, having the firm conviction that the European project is a unique construction worldwide of peace and prosperity and the only way to ensure the common progress of the European states. Today, with the same conviction, we are taking over the exercise of the presidency of the Council of the European Union, with the main objective of contributing to the consolidation of a more cohesive, more united and stronger Europe,” Iohannis said in the speech delivered to the official ceremony opening Romania’s Presidency at the Council of the European Union.
He underscored that the first semester of the year 2019 will be defining for the future dynamics of the EU, showing that the EU is currently facing various challenges, both internal and external, such as the process of the UK pulling out of the European Union, migration and security in its immediate vicinity and beyond the European continent.
“Building the European Union of today was possible because the founding fathers believed in the European project, in its ideals and values. We believe today, more than ever, that the European Union is undoubtedly a successful, powerful and viable project. The over 60 years of peace most part of our continent enjoyed stay witness to the force, daring and confidence of everyone in our capacity to efficiently and sustainably cooperate. They are the proof that ‘unity in diversity’ isn’t a mere motto, but the expression of the fact that our Union is a perennial project, capable to get remodeled all the time, without giving up the founding principles and values,” Iohannis also said.
The head of state mentioned that Romania has the mission to promote EU’s common agenda.
“We all know that exercising a presidency is a mission of high responsibility, entailing at the same time commitment and pragmatism to be able to respond of a concrete, proper and realistic manner to all challenges. More unity and cohesion – this is the path we propose for the next six months and which we will all have to consistently follow. We have a series of important files on the European agenda, such as the negotiations on the future Multiannual Financial Framework post 2020, and the context of Romania’s Presidency will be marked by the elections to the future European Parliament. On this background, we shall have to prove that through unity and consensus we can define a new page of our common project,” Iohannis said.
The President pleaded for more cohesion in the actions on the EU level, regardless if it is about a :”Europe of convergence, a safer Europe, of increasing Europe’s role as a global player or our common values.”
“Cohesion is, in our vision, an essential aspect for ensuring the progress of the European project,” the head of state showed.
He voiced the confidence that meetings such as the Sibiu Summit will provide new prospects for Europe.
“I am voicing my desire and hope that 9 May 2019 will remain in the history of the European project as a moment of reaffirming the narrative of a strong and united Union. (…) We plan on managing together during these months to consolidate the unity and cohesion, in a moment with tests and important stakes for our Union, our European Union, of all of us,” Iohannis concluded.
Tariceanu: Inclusive dimension of Romanian state – Europeanised almost completely; not also coercive dimension of state
It is fair to say that the inclusive dimension of the Romanian state, represented by the public administration, the health system, education, work and social services, has been almost completely Europeanised, but the same cannot be said on the “coercive dimension of the state,” Senate President Calin Popescu-Tariceanu said on Thursday at the Romanian Athenaeum.
However, I cannot say the same on the coercive dimension of the state. As a reminiscence of the communist past, some institutions and decision-makers still cling to the power they enjoyed before, Tariceanu said.
He added that these actors simply replaced the ideology of socialist legality with that of the rule of law, keeping their habits and calling for the same lack of assumption that they enjoyed collectively before 1989.
Tariceanu hopes that during the presidency of the Council of the European Union, the authorities of Romania will shed more light into this paradox
Deputy-Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies: Parliamentary majority will support Government to fulfill with honesty, dignity EU Council Presidency mandate
The parliamentary majority will support the Government in all its actions to fulfill with honesty and dignity the mandate at the presidency of the Council of the European Union, Florin Iordache, Deputy-Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, said.
“The parliamentary majority will support the Romanian Government in all its actions in order to fulfill with honesty and dignity the mandate it has in the next 6 months at the presidency of the Council of the European Union. Despite all political comments that must be regarded in the key of the election year in which we are, I want to assure you of the full, pro-European opening and our sincere desire for Romania to consolidate its status as a member with equal rights in this large family called the European Union,” Florin Iordache said in his speech at the ceremony for launching the Romanian Presidency at the Council of the European Union.
The Deputy Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies reminded the audience that our Romania’s decision to join the European Union was “sovereign, expressed to the highest degree when the Romanian people adopted through the referendum the new Constitution of Romania, which actually opened our European path”.
“It was the sovereign decision of the Romanian people to go through the European path and to reach here today, in the most honorable position, to lead the Council of the European Union. We want to be European and we also want to be treated as European citizens,” said Iordache.
He added that Romanians “still have the highest trust in the European institutions”.
“I personally – and I am convinced that my colleagues as well – cannot imagine Romania outside the Union. We feel that we are part of this European family and we want to work together for the good and the progress of the Union. Romania is a country that you can rely on in the European construction, and I therefore believe that my country deserves to be respected as a reliable partner in making this ambitious project called the European Union. Today, more than a decade after the accession of our country it is for the first time when Romania takes over the rotating Presidency of the EU Council. Even if my country’s role in this position is to give priority to the European agenda over the national agenda, I can say with all conviction that we assume this role in a sovereign manner, being aware that in this position Romania has the duty to be a wise mediator, calling for a consensus agreed by all the member states of the Union. We will fulfill this duty with dignity and we can guarantee that in Bucharest there is a very clear political will for Romania to fulfill its mandate at the leadership of the Council of the Union,” Iordache said.
The Deputy Speaker of the Chamber assured the President of the European Commission that “the decision-makers of the Bucharest political majority have very well understood what Romania’s role is in this position.”
“We have treated with all seriousness the recommendations to ensure a political consensus during the presidency. Prime Minister Viorica Dancila expressed the similar appeal in the Romanian Parliament, which was addressed to all political parties, and myself, personally, as representative of the Chamber of Deputies, I reiterate this call for consensus among all parliamentary groups,” Iordache said.
He added that, of course, the electoral context must also be understood.
“I am not referring only to the spring European elections, which will determine elections in all the member states. Moreover, Romania has presidential elections towards the winter, and next year we will have elections for the new Parliament. So the electoral agendas that sometimes have been expressed sharply will be felt in the next six months. But I will assure, Mr President Juncker, I assure all our European partners that the parliamentary majority in Bucharest has the wisdom, the necessary political maturity to support the Government in fulfilling the honoring mission at the Union’s Presidency. I hope that the same attitude will be taken up by the other political forces, but at least as far as the parliamentary majority in whose name I can speak, I can assure you that we will show balance, wisdom, responsibility and moderation,” Iordache said.
President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani: In Romania I feel like at home
“In Romania I feel like at home,” said, on Thursday evening, in Bucharest, the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, at the inauguration ceremony of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union at the Romanian Athenaeum.
“2019 will be a determining year for Romania and for Europe. The Romanian Presidency must guide the Councils of the EU in the months that precede the European elections, in a moment in which Europeans are requesting a more efficient Europe,” said Tajani, who spoke in French, but started his speech with the words “Good evening Romania, many happy returns” in Romanian.
“Romania has always had a European vocation. Over 2000 years ago, our Roman ancestors crossed the Danube and ended up on these lands, identifying a people who was then unique in the worlds. This journey changed the course of history. Your beautiful country derives its name from the powerful Roman presence (…) I feel like home here,” said Tajani, to the applause of the spectators.
“Faced with a Union incapable of providing rapid response, the populist sirens are gaining ground. And still, in a world more uncertain than ever, we must have, more than ever, a powerful Europe to protect our citizens. It is essential to work together for a more efficient Europe. The motto of the Romanian Presidency echoes this demand. Cohesion is a common European value, because it reflects exactly the will to not leave anyone behind,” said the President of the European Legislature.
Tajani stated that he shares the vision of the great Romanian diplomat Grigore Gafencu, who said “There is but a single Europe! Even if its body is mutilated and divided, the European idea is indivisible.”
“Nowhere has the word Europe proven more powerful than in the states in the east. The idea of a European unity brings all over the continent to mind the promise of peace and, as a consequence, the promise of freedom,” Tajani added.
The President concluded that “we are counting on the Romanian Presidency to promote this ambition and to support the idea of cohesion and solidarity. More solidarity in the future budget means that solidarity does not have to go one-way. I want to thank Romania for proposing to accommodate migrants disembarking in their countries of first arrival. It is an example to be followed,” said Tajani.
Tusk: I am positive Romania will act in the spirit of ‘A good farmer makes a good farm’
European Council President Donald Tusk on Thursday evening voiced his confidence that Romania will perform “with energy and with wisdom a true Romanian Rhapsody” during the six months when the country holds the Presidency at the Council of the European Union.
In his speech fully delivered in Romanian on the stage of the Romanian Athenaeum, during the ceremony marking the takeover of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council, Tusk voiced his conviction that Romania will do all its best to defend Europe’s interests.
“You will be Europe’s hosts and I am positive that you will act in the spirit of the proverb ‘A good farmer makes a good farm.’ I also have faith that you will grant the necessary importance to observing rules,” the European official underlined.
Juncker: I was pleading in 2014 that Romania must be part of Schengen; I remain faithful to this promise
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said, on Thursday, at the Romanian Athenaeum, that he remains faithful to his belief that Romania should be part of the Schengen space.
“Romania has its place at the center of the European Union. The European Union is not complete without Romania. The natural place of Romania is also in the Schengen Area. I was pleading in 2014 that Romania should be part of Schengen. I remain faithful to this promise. Romania must be part of the Schengen Area” said the European official.
He spoke of the “difficult and often exigent journey” of Romania and he showed appreciation for the fact that Romania kept its culture in the communist period.
“I admire your cultural and intellectual life. It is strong. It was the same during the long decades in which Romanians, like other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, paid a heavy toll until their liberation from communism. (…) I feel like this day is a cornerstone. We are inaugurating the first Romanian Presidency at the Council of the EU. We recall that in 2007 Romania joined the European family. (…) In April 2005, when I was President of the European Council, in the name of the EU I signed the Accession Treaty of Romania. I want to tell you that I remain proud of this act that I signed. I recall that the road towards the accession of Romania was always difficult and often exigent. The performances managed by Romania led to the Romanians having in their hands a European compass. The proof of their appurtenance to the EU and the defense of our common values must always be respected, without doubts and without weakness,” said Juncker.
Juncker also spoke of the challenges regarding the rule of law. “The European Union is formed of compromise, but when we speak of the rule of law and the anticorruption battle, there is no possible compromise,” he said.
Furthermore, the President of the European Commission confessed that he is relying on the “energy and unity of the Romanian nation” in what regards the Presidency of the EU Council.
“Romania is now taking over the Presidency of the Council of the EU. It is a crucial moment in our common history. Under your presidency, dear friends, we will open a new chapter in our common history that will be written at the Summit in Sibiu, where we will give true future perspective to all our citizens,” concluded the European official, recalling that this year also plays host to elections for the European Parliament.
PM Dancila: Romania will lead the Council of the EU with dignity
Prime Minister Viorica Dancila said, on Thursday, that Romania will lead the Council of the EU with dignity.
“Today, Romanians are glad we are holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU, they occupy their deserved place in Europe, the place where they should receive the same respect, the same rights and the same benefits that are enjoyed by the European citizens. With this in mind, I will represent my country and my fellow citizens in the next six months. Romania will lead the Council of the EU with dignity,” said Dancila at the official ceremony on the inauguration of the Romanian Presidency at the Council of the European Union.
The Prime Minister noted that the event is attended by part of the “architects” of the European integration of Romania and thanked them for their contribution. Furthermore, she emphasized that the adoption by referendum of the current Constitution of Romania was the starting point of the European integration process of the country.
“Looking back I believe that the most important step of our integration was when the Romanian people adopted by referendum the current Constitution of Romania. This is the starting point from which our integration truly began. It represented the act of the Romanian people that desired to align to and to assimilate the values and principles of the European union. The Constitution adopted then and which governs today the rule of law in Romania is the most powerful guarantee that our country started on the irreversible journey of European integration. The Constitution is our most important European example as it was devised in agreement with our European partners and represented the starting point in the Euro-Atlantic integration process. Today we can say with conviction that what is European is also constitutional, and, in equal measure, what is constitutional is in full agreement with the European principles and values. (…) We will prove that Romania has earned fully the role and position of member-state with full rights of the European Union, we will demonstrate that Romania deserves the respect of the European Community and the status of equal partner in the great European construction, we will prove that Romania is fully prepared to hold its head high with all the other member-states,” Dancila said.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister stated that the Government in Bucharest is well prepared to manage the important dossiers on the European agenda and to be an impartial mediator that can generate consensus at the European level.
“I say, thus, to all Romanians and our European partners the same message: dare to believe in Romania, dare to believe in Romania’s capacity to lead with uprightness and honor the Council of the European Union. Today, more than ever, we can prove that the Romanian people is a people that is truly European, attached to the values and aspirations of the community space and I want to say to our European partners that Romanians have been, are and will remain a pro-European people. We did not change our pro-European option and I see no reason to change in the future. On the contrary, we desire to participate actively in the major decisions of the Union and, thus, today, we are starting to do that. We wish to be equal partners and respected in the EU and, behold, today Romania sits at the table where the future of the European Union is discussed and decided. (…) Today, the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the Union starts under the banner of cohesion between member-states. Cohesion and unity represent our vision at the helm of the Union. I guarantee you that the ministers of the Government that I am running will manage with full seriousness the vital dossiers for the present and future of the European Union,” Dancila mentioned.
The Prime Minister emphasized that the “democratic system, the economic development and the safety Romania now enjoys are tangible results” of the European path.
“Nobody can be left behind. If we want the Union to be stronger, then all member-states must be strong, and the weak must be helped to become stronger, and if we want the Union to be respected internationally then we must, firstly, respect each other and admit that each member-state has a certain contribution to the value of the entire Union,” Dancila declared.
The Prime Minister thanked the European institutions for the collaboration in preparing the Romanian Presidency and added that she wishes, sincerely, “that after our mandate at the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the European Union will be more united, more solid and more solidary. This is the spirit of the EU, this is the vision that Romania will have in the six months it will hold the Presidency of the Council of the EU.”
Protest near the Romanian Athenaeum under the slogan “We want Europe, not dictatorship”
Some hundred persons are protesting on Thursday evening near the Romanian Athenaeum, where the official inauguration ceremony of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU, event attended by national and European leaders.
The protesters are chanting pro-Europe slogans, but are also voicing their discontent with the Government in Bucharest.
They are bearing Romanian and EU flags and banners with the messages “Europe, we’re with you!”, “Romania, no amnesty”.
Among the protesters was also former Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos. He criticized the absence of the Chamber of Deputies Speaker, Liviu Dragnea, at the event taking place at the Romanian Athenaeum, considering it “lack of respect for Romanians”.
The protest was also attended by former Health Minister Vlad Voiculescu and actress Oana Pellea.
No incidents were reported as of yet.
Gendarmes are securing the area.