Speech by President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis, at the European Parliament plenary session on the debate on the Future of Europe

11:40 | 23 October 2018 |

President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis, on Tuesday, 23 October 2018, in Strasbourg, delivered a speech at the European Parliament plenary session on the debate on the Future of Europe.

The translated text of the speech can be read below:

„Mr. President of the European Parliament,

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

It is an honour and a privilege to be present here in the European Parliament. Thank you for having invited me to take part in today’s debate on the future of the European Union!

Over time, and during the last decade more than ever, the Union was marked by numerous challenges, testing our cohesion and unity, from the financial and economic crisis, migration, terrorist attacks, to the rise of populist movements. It was a decade in which the Union had to learn to adapt.

Against this background, the Union was marked by the search for a common vision, defined by the need of a «wise» balance between the particular realities in each Member State and the willingness to consolidate a genuine, future-oriented Union.

The main positive observation is that there is an element, which unites us: our European identity based on principles, values and common interests.

This common interest needs to be constantly rediscovered, re-appreciated and valorised, as the universality of these values stands in their capacity to regenerate.   

We are witnessing a new stage in the development and consolidation of the European project, when we need to elaborate a new vision regarding the future of the Union. 

In this light, I resolutely ask for unity, cohesion, solidarity and for one common European path in our endeavours to consolidate the European project.

The key to our efforts must remain «unity». For Romania, this principle represents the very essence of the European project, enabling it to cope with the multiple challenges the Union has faced so far. 

The European Union is an evolving project. New realities, both at Member States and global level, call for the development and consolidation of the European project. We should never question the fundamental principles of the European project.

A strong European project cannot leave unity aside. We need an inclusive Union, which leaves no Member State and no citizen behind.

From this point of view, ideas such as a multi-speed Europe or a Europe of concentric circles is not an option, as we wish to preserve the unified and indivisible nature of the European Union, which makes it valuable and credible in its relation with the rest of the world.

Last year, President Juncker said that Europe has to breathe with both lungs, the eastern and the western one.

I hope that our future together will also reveal that Europe has a single heart. A heart beating for all, uniting us from east to west, from north to south, a heart, which makes our citizens identify and naturally define themselves as Europeans. 

We need to assume this common goal and, if necessary, to adapt and adjust our tools in order to meet it. 

I am confident that the new stage that starts in 2019 and that Romania will prepare, as rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union, together with the other Member States and European institutions, will be a fruitful one. 

I trust that the Sibiu Summit, which will take place on 9 May 2019, will be a benchmark in planning a future for a stronger, more united, cohesive and democratic Europe. 

It depends on our strength, wisdom and will – of the Member States, European institutions and European citizens – to reach this goal.    

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Sibiu Summit is an important step towards strengthening the foundation of this future, a common, democratic and optimistic one.  

The future of the European Union can only be built with the active and direct participation and involvement of the European citizens. I trust that the Sibiu Summit will represent a moment of awareness for the European citizens.   

Our citizens need concrete measures and tangible results. They want positive news on peace, security and prosperity. At the same time, the citizens have to know that we are already working to protect and consolidate the Union’s major symbols: the Euro, the Internal Market, the Schengen area and free movement.

Concurrently, our citizens need increased cohesion, which is not only the ambition of the new Member States, with a lower level of economic convergence, but also a necessity for the older Members of the Union. 

Cohesion means unity, it is the expression of our joint action, well coordinated across the whole Union.

We have to come back to the essence of the principle of cohesion, as it is reflected in the Treaties of the Union – the centripetal force of a community of vision and action, which generates added value to the entire Union. 

Currently, the European Union is economically redressing. This would not have been possible if common vision and action had lacked when creating and consolidating the Economic and Monetary Union.  

Economic security is as important as borders security and the Union’s prosperity depends on our ability to ensure a strong Economic and Monetary Union, capable of responding to the citizens’ expectations and of facing new challenges. 

To meet this goal, we need comprehensive measures and decisions, able to guarantee the participation of all Member States to the joint efforts to achieve a stronger, more stable and competitive Eurozone. 

For Romania, entering the Eurozone as soon as possible, when the necessary requirements have been fulfilled, is a fundamental national objective. 

This year we are celebrating 25 years of Internal Market. We have gone a long way with regard to our citizens’ liberties and opportunities to travel, study and work across the European Union. 

We cannot imagine a European Union without its Single Market and its four fundamental freedoms, the free movement of goods, people, services and capital. 

We need a functioning, competitive and inclusive internal market, whose benefits are perceived by all citizens in their daily life.  

At the same time, Europe is and must remain an international leader in many fields, especially as regards the technologic and digital revolution.

Europe has the capacity and the strength to transform itself and to be a leader in connectivity.

Growth and stability, competitiveness, security and improvement of the quality of life of all Europeans depend on how ambitious and determined Europe is in terms of digitization, research and innovation.

At the same time, we have to ensure a better tailoring of our workforce to the necessities, requirements and evolutions of the Internal Market, in order to guarantee that social progress is always joined by competitiveness. 

In addition, we have to be aware that the digital transformation of the society will not be achieved unless we massively invest in education and new skills.  

All citizens – regardless of their region or social group – have to be involved in these evolutions. This must be our commitment, of those who lead Europe. This diversity and comprehensiveness will ensure our continent’s strength in the global contest to come.

We are also speaking about a future when the Union will regain its citizens, by strengthening their feeling of security within the European Union.  

The challenges prompted by migration and security are aspects of great interest for all of us. We have to act so that the European project rebuilds citizens’ trust and we have to pay greater attention to fighting terrorism and radicalisation. 

We need to act so that we become more pro-active and increase the Union’s capacity of prevention.

The response to crises by contextual approaches is not an efficient strategy, and, in this light, we need sustainable solutions. 

The European Union has to remain an area of free movement where all citizens can freely move and work within the community area, where the youth are able to travel or study, thus taking full benefit of one of the most visible and most ambitious projects of the European construction – the Schengen area.

For Romania, acceding the Schengen area is an important goal. This endeavour will significantly contribute to enhancing security for the entire area of free movement within the Union. 

The trajectory of a strong and secure EU must be an enlarged EU. For size grants strength – a relevant concept in this very competitive global context. The EU’s enlargement policy has clearly proved its value through the successive enlargements waves, contributing, undeniably, to the prosperity and security of the continent.

The enlargement of the European Union must not remain just an objective for the future generations; it continues to represent a real necessity, to which the candidate countries and the potential candidates have to devote their efforts of carrying on reforms and of genuinely and consistently adapting the European values and principles.  

 

Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

We cannot be a key player at international level if we cannot significantly influence our neighbourhood.

Keeping the southern and eastern neighbourhoods firmly anchored in the European values and maintaining their commitment for irreversible structural reforms depend also on our ability to fulfil our commitments to our neighbours.

Not least, we are also talking about a future when the Union has a foreground role on the international stage, a future when the Member States, based on shared interests and mutual solidarity, support the Union’s assertion as a global actor, having a decisive contribution to promoting the multilateral system grounded in rules. 

The implementation of the EU’s Global Strategy has already facilitated important developments in the security and defence fields and in consolidating links between the Union’s internal and external policies. 

It is our responsibility to make sure that, in the years to come, the Union will possess all the necessary tools to respond to new challenges.   

The continuation of the initiatives in security and common defence so that close cooperation is ensured and overlapping with NATO’s activity is avoided, as well as consolidating the resilience of the Union and its partners and enhancing strategic communication are objectives requiring greater attention and constant action. 

The consistency of the Union’s policy in its neighbourhood, maintaining a solid transatlantic partnership, honouring our commitments - from continuing the enlargement policies in agreed parameters to consolidating the institutional relation with the UN and firmly upholding multilateralism and its virtues – are areas in which the Union will have to prove its ability to act efficiently.  

 

Distinguished Members of the European Parliament, 

11 years ago, when Romania joined the great European family, I, a Romanian, felt extremely proud of experiencing such an important moment for my country. 

Next year, when Romania takes over the Presidency of the European Union Council for the first time, the Sibiu Summit will represent a milestone for our European family. 

It is our duty and our responsibility to shape the future of Europe. Together with all Romanians, I feel proud to be a Romanian citizen, and, equally, a European citizen. For national pride or European pride are not obsolete concepts, neither are they parallel realities. We have embraced this status, preserving and rendering strength and substance to this identity.  

 For Europe is part of our very core. A Europe that consists of our diversity. A Europe built on the concept of unity in diversity. This is why Europe is Romania and Romania is Europe. 

2018 is the year of the Centenary of our Modern Romania, a year of historical retrospective analyses, but, most importantly, of future projects. 

In these 100 years, we have learned some important lessons while experiencing some unfortunate moments and times. One of the most important among these lessons is the democracy lesson. This is why we cherish so much the values of the European family.

For this reason, Romania is deeply attached to the European project. We have a vibrant and dynamic society, continuously developing. We are a young democracy and we own the resources available to improve. The Romanians are actively connected to civic values. They have clearly proved it, they made their voice heard in defence of the rule of law and democracy. 

The Romanians have the willingness and the strength to go on further on the European course they once assumed. It is our ambition to overcome any obstacle to remain anchored in the great European family we fundamentally belong to. 

The young generation believes in Europe and is involved in debates on our future in a positive and, more importantly, optimistic manner.

The enthusiasm of these remarkable young people feeds our optimism regarding the future of Europe. Moreover, their enthusiasm compels us to responsibility.   

The advantage of this flow of enthusiasm coming from Romania derives, first of all, from its power to inspire and revive the reflex of defending democracy, which is not a datum, but it requires a continuous responsibility to care, defend and promote it.  

At present, Romania is a dynamic and future-oriented country, which has swiftly embraced and capitalised on the new technologic trends and digital service. 

A Romanian company has been world leader in cyber defence and cyber security for several years now.

On the other hand, a company founded this spring by two young engineers has become the first Romanian «unicorn». In only six months, the company has tripled its value, to an estimated 3 billion euros and has become one of the global leaders in software robots, automation and artificial intelligence.

Everywhere in Romania, from Iași to Timișoara, from Cluj to Bucharest, from Craiova to Constanța, thousands of skilled Romanian engineers – women and men – work to advance digital technologies, be they connected machines and intelligent transportation systems, 5G telecommunications and the Internet of Things, research and innovation in the blockchain space, space technologies or digital agriculture.

Data economy is the future, and the Romanian IT&C and creative sectors have one of the highest shares of national GDP across the Union.

Therefore, nobody should be surprised at Romania’s willingness and capacity to contribute to consolidating the Union’s global role in this field. 

Romania actively endorses a Union investing in the security of its citizens. The European unity is essential when it comes to enhancing the Union’s internal security. 

For Romania, as a Member State managing one of the largest EU external borders, security is a priority area, where we have already proved that we are performing in all respects. 

Today we are a security provider at the highest standards and for the whole Union, as we already are within NATO.

As Member State, we will place special importance to carrying on the measures meant to reduce fragmentation of the European security area.

We have the duty to protect all citizens, whether or not they are in the Schengen area. This is only possible through the full implementation of the latest generation security tools at the Union’s external border, by all Member States. 

 

Distinguished Members of the European Parliament, 

The European Union was built on a deep human desire, that of peace on the European continent.

This internal peace – with all its ingredients: cooperation among Member States, the rule of law principle, the fundamental rights and liberties, diversity, prosperity, social standards, working standards – has become a valuable asset we can export.

Now it is time to come back to this model and show our citizens what we have managed to create together. To see how we can protect peace together and how we are translating the need for peace today, at citizens’ level.

I always keep in mind the words of Jean Monnet: «Il n'y a pas pour les peuples d'Europe d'autre avenir que dans l'union» (There is no future for the people of Europe other than in union).

I urge you to adopt Unity as our watchword for the future. Yet, unity does not exist in itself. It is unity that we have to safeguard and consolidate constantly, while also protecting diversity, which characterises our European culture.

Thank you!”


Intervention by the President of Romania during the debate

„Mr President,

Honoured Members of the European Parliament,

Firstly, let me thank all the speech-makers, from the President of the Commission to those who delivered on behalf of their political groups. You have brought up several topics, among which the one I cherish the most: my country, Romania.

In December 1989, we, the Romanians, decided we could no more get along with the communist dictatorship and we overthrew it. Since then, we have been building a democracy that we, the Romanians, wish to be based on what we call the values of the European democracy, the values of the European Union.   

Over these almost 30 years, Romania has changed. Romania has changed deeply. We are a country in the Eastern Europe that keeps believing in the European-type democracy. Romania has a developing economy. Romania represents a stability pole in the geographic region it lies in. 

Romania is a country aspiring to the status of a leader in fields such as the ones I have referred to in the first part of my speech. Romania is appreciated and respected for the security it provides, both in the region and within NATO, or elsewhere, as well.

We have understood, we, the Romanians, have long understood that we cannot remain receivers of aid and security, but we have to shoulder a much more difficult task – which we believe in – that of a security provider. And this is what we are doing.

Romania is governed by the rule of law. Romania is a democratic country. In Romania there is political debate and in Romania what I have called a much alive democracy does exist. I won’t detail more on the domestic debates inside Romania, instead I can assure you I am resolved to keep being involved in order to guarantee the Romanians on preserving the rules and principles of a state governed by the rule of law and on carrying on a battle that is very harsh, difficult, but fair, the fight against corruption.   

I consider we have several difficulties in Europe. One of them is the connection between the citizen and the policy-maker. This connection is often loose. The citizens cannot understand what the policy-makers are doing and, regrettably, some of the policy-makers cannot realise what the citizens are expecting. In  Romania, the citizens have spelled out their expectations very clearly and I, who was elected by a significant number of Romanians, I have understood they want me to carry on with this message I started with, for a democratic Romania, a European Romania, a Romania deeply integrated into the European Union, which preserves the rule of law unaltered and fights – having remarkable results,  I must point it out – against corruption.    

There are disagreements, yes, it is true, yet, can you tell me what sort of parliamentary democracy is that without controversies? And I am resolved the European Romania, the democratic Romania will win this battle. And I will get involved in achieving this!

In the first part of our meeting, I talked about what I think of the future of the European Union. Many of the addresses referred rather to the next future of the European Union, so let me say a few words about what we, in Romania, what I think of the next future of the European Union, I am now speaking about the first part of 2019, when Romania is holding the Presidency of the European Union Council.      

A very hard period is to come. We have extremely difficult files we wish to deal with fairly, yet very determinedly in order to get a positive or optimistic result. It will not be possible all the time. One of these files is called Brexit and here, obviously, the things yet depend very much on the negotiations that are still running but we wish to reach an agreement with Great Britain and we wish this to happen very soon. 

Romania will get involved the way the Presidency of the Council is able to get involved in this matter and let me tell you here, with regard to negotiations on Brexit, we already have a first tangible, clear and transparent proof of the efficiency of our collaboration. That the 27 have worked strictly together, they have agreed on a single negotiating team, has produced remarkable results. Which proves that unity is not a dreamer’s dream, but unity is a concept of the visionary policy-makers.   

We have a file I know you have discussed on in the Parliament and which you cherish and we cherish, it is the Mutliannual Financial Framework. We have to achieve progress on this file.  That you, in the Parliament, embolden us, in the Council, to try a raise in the budget, in Romania’s opinion is a good thing, but negotiations have to be carried on, and here Romania will get involved and we are hopeful we will achieve, if not a conclusion of negotiations, at least significant progress in sensitive parts of this budget.        

A file referred to by myself and by part of the other speech-makers – migration. We have to reach a common approach as soon as possible. If we do not succeed in defining a European policy for this field, we will face major trouble so Romania will endeavour to make progress in these negotiations.

At the moment, as you are well aware, with regard to the Dublin Reform, we have got 28 opinions from 28 states, very different from each other. I consider we are able to bridge these opinions a little and to reach the first common conclusions, which later will allow us to approach this phenomenon on several levels, an approach fundamentally different from what we have had up to now.   

Up to now we have acted after a crisis, we have to act before the crisis, this is what I meant when I said the European Union has to act beforehand. We are aware about how the world functions, we have to prepare to cope with the effects of this functioning. And, finally, during Romania’s Presidency the European elections will take place and during the European campaign we will host the Sibiu Summit.

This Summit is extremely relevant for Romania and for the European Union not necessarily as it is held in my natal city, but as this Summit is clearly and uniquely dedicated to the future of the European Union. 

We will debate and shape a concept of the European Union to be clear, explicit, intelligible also by the European citizen, not only by the European policy-maker. While the elections for the European Parliament will display a radiography and teach us whether we all have been credible, whether we have succeeded in drawing up credible projects, whether we are able to design a future for the European Union or whether maybe we have to struggle a little more.

Thank you!”


Intervention by the President of Romania at the end of debate on the future of Europe:

 „Mr President,

Thanks to all the speakers for their positions! They were many, I wished them to have been more. Thanks to those who have found appreciative words for Romania! Thanks to those who have voiced constructive criticism, as I do not imagine such criticism can be done in the European Parliament.   

United in diversity – this is the concept with which I concluded the first part of my speech and the positions here in this hall indeed prove that it is here we have to work on – very different approaches, obviously each of them bearing its own weight and its own parliamentary representativeness.

Let me suggest you an approach that allows my interacting with you, the ones who have delivered speeches, and maybe with others who have not, yet. Bearing in mind the diversity of topics, and I assure you all of them are important, are arousing my interest and we have firm positions on them all, I cannot give every detail and every answer now. Together with my colleagues, I will take care that every speech-maker receives a written answer and I consider this way we will definitely improve our dialogue.

Thank you again for having voiced your positions!

In the end, Mr President, honoured Members of the European Parliament, let me come back to a few key-words, because today we are talking about how we will shape the future of the European Union: unity and cohesion, closer to the citizen, internal security for the European Union, relevance of the European Union’s international policy, approaches observing and cultivating diversity while enabling a unitary action outside the borders.  

These are the themes we are concerned with, the Europeans are concerned with. I consider it is our duty not only to find answers, but to design policies and concretely bring into use what we consider it is important both for our citizens and, to the same extent, for the European Union.

Thank you all!”