The past year has been an exciting one for Ireland-Romania bilateral relations. The Embassy was delighted to organise a visit to Bucharest last July by the Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach), Mr Leo Varadkar, who held meetings with President Klaus Iohannis, Chamber of Deputies President Liviu Dragnea and Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă. This was an important opportunity for the Taoiseach to consolidate relationships already well-developed through regular engagement at EU, UN or other international meetings and conferences. It was the first official visit of an Irish Prime Minister to Romania, and therefore a very positive sign that our bilateral relationship is growing stronger.
More good news arrived from Dublin in January. For the first time ever an Irish Minister – Seán Canney – will visit Bucharest on the occasion of our National Day, St Patrick’s Day, which is celebrated on 17 March. It had always been traditional for Irish Ministers to travel around the World to greet Irish communities on St Patrick’s Day, especially in places like the UK, the US, Canada and Australia where there are very large resident Irish communities. I am delighted that Bucharest has been included this year, perhaps in recognition of the high regard we have for the sizeable Romanian community now living in Ireland. The Embassy and the Irish community are preparing an action-packed and fun-filled programme for Minister Canney so as to ensure that Bucharest is on the ministerial itinerary every year from now on!
The other piece of good news is that Bucharest has been selected as the destination for an Irish ministerial trade mission, which I hope will take place in the second half of this year or early next year. This will involve bringing a number of Irish exporters and investors to Romania, with a view to developing contacts, and signing contracts.
This is further evidence that Ireland sees Romania as a business and trading partner of growing importance. The Embassy itself has been playing a more and more significant commercial role since it appointed a Commercial Attaché in March 2017. The Embassy has also substantially enhanced its support for the highly active and successful Romania Ireland Business Association (RIBA) which has been steadily growing its membership and up-grading its range of member services and benefits.
The Taoiseach will visit Romania again on 9 May for the Sibiu Summit that is expected to point the way forward for the EU, post-Brexit. Many other members of the Irish Government, Parliamentarians and senior officials have been visiting and getting to know Bucharest during this very important time for Romania – its first EU Presidency – and quite a few more will do so between now and the end of June. All of the feedback I have heard suggests that the Romania Presidency has done a great job so far, despite the difficult challenges the EU is currently facing. Ireland is a strong supporter of the Romanian EU Presidency and we are sure that it will have an excellent record of achievement to proudly point to on 30 June when it hands on the baton to Finland.
The talking point of the past year has of course been Brexit. At the time of writing there are still many uncertainties about whether and when the UK will leave the EU and under what circumstances. However, there are some certainties as well. For example it is certain that whatever happens, Ireland will remain a committed member of the EU. The Irish people are in no doubt about the fact that a stable and prosperous EU with Ireland its heart represents our best interests by far. We regret the decision of the people of the UK to leave but we respect it. Like everyone else we want a managed Brexit and in our view the deal negotiated between the EU and the UK represents the best way to achieve that. It is very much in Ireland’s interests that the negotiations produce a good outcome for the UK that also protects the Irish peace process by avoiding the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Cultural promotion is an important part of the Embassy’s activities and our celebrations around St Patrick’s Day represent the high point of the year in that regard. This year we will again host our traditional Embassy reception for official, diplomatic, business and Irish community guests. We will also attend an Irish Ball and a business networking event being organised by RIBA. One of my own annual highlights is a free, public exhibition of Irish dancing by the STEYsha School of Irish Dance. For those that would like to support STEYsha and the Embassy, please come along to Park Lake Mall on Saturday 16th March at 13:00.
Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh go léir. I wish you all a very Happy St Patrick’s Day 2019!