I am delighted to be Ambassador to Romania. I had three previous visits in your beautiful country, the first one in the early 1980’s as a schoolboy during a tour of Europe. The second time was ten years later when I came in my capacity as diplomat to work on a science and technology project. Another ten years later, I came back for a visit related to the then opening of the British Embassy in the Republic of Moldova. It has been great to follow the huge progress that Romania has been going through from decade to decade.
My time spent in Iaşi over the summer to work on my Romanian language skills has been truly delightful and a chance to learn more about the cultural and historical heritage of Moldova and the country at large.
And today I am here with you to celebrate the close and warm relationship our two countries enjoy, and to highlight the strength of our bilateral strategic partnership re-launched in 2011 with its two key components: security and prosperity.
On security, we are very active with bilateral work that spans from military – and we’ve seen our brave soldiers working together in Afghanistan - to judicial and police co-operation to enforce our countries’ laws and ensure the safety of our citizens. At the NATO Summit in Wales decisions were taken which are important for Romania and I would like to take this opportunity to salute the commitment your country has demonstrated as an Alliance member. The Summit closed a very busy week! A week in which the British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and his Romanian counterpart Titus Corlatean had a very fruitful meeting in London, precisely one day before the high level summit in Wales.
On prosperity and commercial relations, I am impressed by the record levels of bilateral trade achieved last year of 3.3 billion euro! More than that, figures from this year’s first semester shows continued growth. The British government has an ambitious program for supporting commercial activities in Romania, collaborating with the British Romanian Chamber of Commerce (BRCC) and with other local partners. We hope to see new progress made in justice reform and fight against corruption as they have direct bearing on our efforts to promote business opportunities in Romania to the British investors. For example, in November we will host a business summit in London dedicated to Romania and other countries in the region, in partnership with Confederation of Business Industry, CBI, the largest lobby business in Great Britain. Further on, at the start of next year we will organize a business mega mission in Bucharest and Sofia.
We enjoy strong mutual interests on energy security as well, as demonstrated by the visit of Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change Edward Davey last year, and, in a matter of days, the visit of Sir David King, the Foreign Secretary Representative for Climate Change. You are welcomed in Herastrau Park on Friday afternoon to talk about climate change and find out more about your carbon footprint and to enjoy the music concert by Romanian rock band Voltaj!
Our relation within the EU is another very important subject. Both Romania and the UK have welcomed the benefits of EU membership, and the Single Market is just one of them. Looking forward we will collaborate with Romania to boost the competitiveness and security of the EU, by promoting for example the digital single market or energy security. As my Prime Minister David Cameron has said, we want a Union of reformed institutions and forward looking.
The most important links remain however those connecting people! Under the Treaty of Lisbon, Romanians are free to work, travel and study across the EU, and of course in the UK. From the thousands of Romanian students choosing to pursue their studies at Britain’s great universities to the Romanian medical staff employed by the NHS, this really is a partnership between friends. I am glad we have seen so many success stories of Romanians living in the UK, and making a difference in the life of their communities, from young IT entrepreneur Emi Gal to the exceptional prima ballerina Alina Cojocaru.
Cultural life is also vital to bringing people together! The 75 years celebrated by the British Council in Romania last year demonstrate that from the interwar period to the present, the artistic spirit and thirst for culture have remained unchanged, despite historical ups and downs. I was delighted to participate this Saturday at the show “Hamlet the blind” organized by The Artists Touring Company, a British theater group that came to Romania invited by the British Council. They opened the international section of the “Undercloud” Independent Theater Festival.
Equally, there are many Britons who have left a mark on Romania, whether through their business or voluntary work. I already met some of these Great Britons, from Graham Perolls of the Hospice of Hope, with whom I will soon be opening a new hospice facility in Bucharest later this month, to Stan Platt of Light into Europe, who came to visit me with Max, a guide dog for the blind. Last Sunday I celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of the Sfantul Gabriel assistance centre with a group of fantastic children hosted by another British charity called FARA, one of the oldest British NGOS operating in Romania. Just as well, during my time in Iasi, I met with other amazing fellow nationals who are in love with your country and are spread across Romania.
Of course one of the greatest and most loved Britons who have left a mark in Romania is the Prince of Wales himself. Prince Charles has been visiting Romania almost every year after the Revolution, and has supported a number of projects on sustainable development in rural areas. He is an outstanding friend of Romania!
As far as I’m concerned, I believe that in the 21st century ambassadors must be as open to the large public as possible. You can always check what I am up to by following my Twitter account at @PaulBrummell. As a matter of fact I will be hosting a live twitter Q&A on September 30 so you are all welcome to quizz me as you please! Until then I will be finishing up my recommended reading suggested by our Facebook friends with the occasion of Romanian Language Day. I have a long list to go through, from Caragiale to Eminescu.
It is no coincidence that I have insisted in my message on interpersonal relations. People are the ones who actually make the relation between Great Britain and Romania to be a warm one and truly a “Partnership between friends!”