Dear President of the European Parliament,
Dear President of the European Commission,
Dear Members of the European Parliament,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am honored to be here today, before you, as Prime Minister of Romania.
We took over the European mandate from Austria and I would like to reiterate on this occasion my sincere thanks and congratulations to the Austrian Presidency. At the same time, I would also like to thank our partners in Trio, Finland and Croatia, with whom we have had a very good coordination in the preparation of a common, balanced work program for the next 18 months.
In the following, I will present today the priorities of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and our vision on the future of the Union.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Europe has always known to overcome obstacles, to revive after the less auspicious episodes of history. The European project itself, in its present form, has been modeled by the many crises it has gone through.
Today, finds us in a complex moment of the European construction process. But as you well know, any situation of this kind can be transformed into an opportunity, a new beginning.
This is why I’m telling you that from my point of view, the rotating presidency held by Romania for the next 6 months is not just a formal duty. There are over 500 million European citizens waiting for an answer about the future of their home, which is called Europe.
I therefore believe that it is important to show the citizens of the Union that the European institutions work for them and mostly, they have results that improve their lives and future prospects.
I am aware that the first phase of the rotating presidency will be intensive and shorter in time as regards the decision-making process. That’s why I count a lot on your support to complete as many as possible legislative files on the agenda and to meet challenges at European level.
The vision of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council on the European project is structured around the idea of “cohesion as a common European value”, declined in all its dimensions:
-political cohesion illustrated by the need for unity between Member States;
-economic and territorial cohesion, in order to reduce development gaps between Member States and between regions;
-social cohesion, important in terms of preserving the four freedoms of the Internal Market of the European Union;
This concept of cohesion is transposed in a transversal manner within our thematic priorities, which are divided on four main pillars of action: Europe of convergence, Europe of security, Europe as a global actor, Europe of common values.
Convergence Europe is the first pillar of action of the Romanian Presidency at the EU Council and aims at ensuring economic growth, social development, reducing gaps, competitiveness, connectivity and sustainability.
The Single Market is, of course, the Union’s greatest achievement, the core of European construction. As a result, one of the objectives of the Romanian Presidency at the EU Council is an active legislative agenda in the Internal Market field in order to complete the necessary framework for its proper functioning.
We must strengthen the scientific and technological base of European industry, which can stimulate our international competitiveness and, at the same time, we can generate economic growth and jobs.
We will continue to promote digitization, including in the field of European industry. The digital offensive has already been promoted by the previous Estonian and Austrian EU Council Presidencies and we will continue to work in the same sustained rhythm.
We will focus on the development of functional links between East and West, North and South, to facilitate connections of all kinds, operationalizing the four freedoms of movement and increasing competitiveness of the European economy and living standards in less developed regions.
I was telling you about the need for a long-term policy in the industrial field, and equally important is the regulation of the Energy Union. These two themes will occupy an important place on the agenda of our presidency.
The second pillar of Romania’s presidency will be Europe of security. We are facing security challenges that threaten citizens’ safety. The European Union is confronting a wide range of risks and threats that can undermine the values and prosperity of our open societies.
In a world of accelerated digitization, we must advance in terms of protecting citizens in the virtual space. We need to strengthen the Union’s resilience to cyber-attacks. So, cyber security will be a prerequisite for any project on the information society.
Regarding the security of the Union, we will also treat with all seriousness the negotiation and finalization of initiatives on the coherent management of migration flows, the strengthening of the Union’s external borders, emergency interventions, the fight against terrorism, the citizens’ safeguarding in the virtual space, the operationalization and even extending the mandate of the European Prosecutor’s Office to terrorist offenses, such as strengthening of judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters.
We want to contribute in finding viable solutions in these areas of migration and to promote cooperation between countries of origin and transit, including in combating trafficking in human beings.
The third pillar we have proposed for Romania’s presidency is Europe as a global actor. In our view, the main direction of action in this area must start from the common agreements assumed by the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy.
In the field of security policy, we will promote strengthening the defense and security capabilities of the European Union, in close complementarity with similar processes within NATO.
At the same time, we must focus on our proximity on what the advancement of the Union’s enlargement policy means. This year’s 10th years anniversary of the launch of the Eastern Partnership will be an important moment in this respect. Particular attention should be paid to the Western Balkans.
We will also support the implementation of EU commitments at international level. Key areas are the promotion of trade interests, the modernization of the multilateral trading system and the extension of the economic partnership and free trade agreements.
The fourth pillar on which the presidency of Romania will unfold will be the Europe of common values. In other words, in order to stimulate European political cohesion, we aim to promote the principles and values that unite us.
At the same time, we must firmly fight a series of issues that some societies within the Union are still facing, such as racism, intolerance, xenophobia, populism, antisemitism or hate speech.
We want a more democratic Union, so we will promote equal treatment aspired by all Member States and all European citizens. This is essential for the citizens’ trust in the European project.
I tell you this from the perspective of the Romanian citizens I represent as Prime Minister and who, despite their very strong attachment to the Union, feel unequal treatment of Romania, especially when our country is being criticized for issues that are natural in other Member States, or when Romania is facing certain conditionalities that does not exist in other countries of the Union.
Romanians feel inequitable when they see their country being held outside the Schengen area and I would like to thank President Jean Claude Juncker i and President Antonio Tajani i on this occasion for their total support for joining the Schengen Area.
I have given you these examples from my country to understand that some decisions taken at European level regarding some Member States, ultimately affect the citizens of those countries and, one way or another, they determine the confidence they have to the Union. So, all the time when making decisions we have to think about the citizens of the Member States that are affected by our decisions and we must eliminate any form of differentiated treatment so as to strengthen the common values of the Union.
Education and culture are the key to Europe’s future, both from the individual perspective of the European citizen, as from the point of view of strengthening the European project.
It also requires solutions that will involve young people in shaping a strong Europe based on common European values.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are all following the decisions in the British Parliament and it is obvious that Brexit will be the focus of attention during the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU. We will turn this history tab of the Union, but we also need to learn from this situation.
In May, our democracy - the largest transnational democracy - will choose a new European Parliament.
I propose to capitalize the future electoral context, as it is an opportunity for us, those who believe in Europe, to promote a stronger Union geared towards its founding principles, in resonance with our European spirit.
I believe in a strong Europe - through unity, in a better Europe - by fulfilling its commitments to its citizens and globally and, why not, I believe in a more European Europe - by promoting genuine European values and stimulating its citizens to feel that they belong to the European space. A strong and unitary Europe in all its dimensions - political, economic, social - is the best solution for the future of the European project.