October 12th, the Spanish National Day marks the date when a group of brave men arrived to the coasts of Guanahaní, the first island sighted and visited by Christopher Columbus.
This feat, whose significance remained unnoticed for some time, represents a great milestone in Mankind History. Some years later, another Spanish naval expedition managed to circumnavigate the globe for the first time in History between 1519 and 1522, and this year we celebrate the 500 years anniversary of this great step for human knowledge, world trade and communication.
After two years of COVID related restrictions that prevented the Embassy of Spain from hosting the reception on our National Day, the improvement of the sanitary situation let us gather again and celebrate with the Spanish community and our many Romanian friends.
However, we could not have foreseen that a war in Europe would come to shake our lives when we were just overcoming the pandemic. The brutal and illegal Russian aggression was launched on Ukraine, dashing our hope for a speedy recovery. Once again, the EU has showed unity and strength with its reaction, not only with the sanctions but also with great solidarity towards millions of refugees that have come to the EU seeking for a safe place.
But even in this tremendously difficult context, we must celebrate that Spain and Romania continue to strengthen our relations. We are close partners in the European Union and also close Allies in NATO. Both Spain and Romania defend democracy, freedom and peace together and we share a common European future.
Spain and Romania are linked by strong political, economic and cultural links, and we consider our relations to be excellent. Our Strategic Partnership remains an important instrument to vivify our close bilateral relation, which grows deeper every year.
The human and cultural ties between our societies are probably the best thermometer of our bilateral relations. More than a million Romanian citizens have chosen Spain as the country where they want to live, and the Romanian community in Spain is known for its exemplary integration. The Spanish community in Romania works on a daily basis to offer their best to further develop bilateral relations and contribute to the prosperity of this country. I want to have a word of gratitude to all the Spanish entrepreneurs, workers, the teachers of Spanish in Romanian schools and academic institutions, the Spanish military officers that work within NATO military structures in Romania, and many others.
As far as the economy is concerned, the economic relations between Romania and Spain have increased considerably since Romania became an EU Member State. In fact, bilateral trade has almost tripled since 2007. In 2021 total levels of bilateral trade reached the level prior to the pandemic. And data of the first semester of 2022 show that trade between our countries remains strong and continues growing.
In addition, Spanish companies installed in Romania and the different projects developed, mostly as public procurement contractors, have also multiplied since the entry of Romania into the EU 15 years ago. And we expect these economic ties between our countries to increase and diversify even more.
Regarding education, I would like to underline the excellent job by the eleven Spanish Bilingual Sections in many Romanian public schools across the country. Thanks to this program, thousands of Romanian children have the opportunity not only to learn Spanish but to get their Spanish Baccalaureate, which opens new educational and job opportunities for them, both in Spain and in the 20 American countries where Spanish is the official language.
The Instituto Cervantes in Bucharest continues to be a reputed educational and academic institution in Romania. This institution did not stop teaching Spanish during the pandemic, but coped with it thanks to the professionalism of its personnel, new technologies and new ways of online tuition, and in this academic year, the number of students of Spanish in the IC will recover the pre-pandemic level. The Instituto Cervantes is, together with the Cultural Section of the Embassy, the flagship of Spanish culture in Romania, and its activities always attract a good audience interested in Spain, our language, history and culture.
On October 12th I also want to mention that the Embassy will present this week the third edition of our project “Libros a la calle”: during the next six months, the passengers of Bucharest subway will have the chance to enjoy literary excerpts by well-known Spanish writers, framed into beautiful illustrations by Spanish and Romanian contemporary artists.
On this important date, October 12th, I want to invite everybody to join us celebrate the National Day of Spain and the excellent bilateral relations between Spain and Romania, two countries and two communities of citizens sharing historic and language roots and, and most remarkable, a common path based on the defense and promotion of democracy, human rights and the International Law.
Happy National Day! ¡Feliz 12 de octubre!