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17 May 2005
16 May 2005
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(To be checked against delivered speech)

Speech by Traian BASESCU, President of Romania

Challenges for European Societies

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Heads of Delegation,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is not by chance that, as President of Romania, I chose to address the session on "Challenges for European societies", during the Third Summit Meeting of the Council of Europe. Romania has been in the vortex of European history during the last century, having overcome, like most of our East European neighbors and friends, world wars and totalitarian systems. We are placed in a pivotal European region, open towards South East Europe, the wider Black Sea area, the Caspian Sea and the Middle East. We are thus all the more sensitive to the larger movements of the European and world scene that influence our region.

Addressing this high level Forum of the Council of Europe is of particular significance as this Organization has been the long-standing and faithful companion of Romania during its historic journey from the stage of a country in transition to that of stable democracy. That is why we emphasis the interdependence between sound democratic development of a society and its strength in overcoming internal and external challenges.

We have all witnessed the increasing number of new or reinforced menaces endangering our democratic community: terrorism, corruption, organised crime and trafficking in human beings. Those are real threats, with real, terrifying consequences that affect everyone, governments and citizens of Europe alike. Our strength in facing these challenges lies in solidarity, promoting democratic values and reinforcing the respect for human rights. Those are the basic standards and values that led, at the end of the World War II, to the establishment of the Council of Europe, and they are today as significant as they were then.

I would also like to refer to another kind of solidarity, social solidarity. We should put in practice integrated policies in the field of environment, prevention and management of natural disasters, in a sustainable development perspective. We need to promote sustainable development with a view to improving the quality of life for European citizens. We are keen on multilateral and transborder cooperation in this field and we value the Council of Europe contribution to the fostering of the relevant cooperation between member states.

By cultivating solidarity, in all domains, we avoid the peril of creating virtual dividing lines within our own community. We believe in one Europe, whole and free.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me take the opportunity to outline some of Romania’s challenges and achievements. The signing of the Accession Treaty to the European Union, on April 25 this year, can be interpreted as the end of a long and, often difficult, period the period of transition from a totalitarian system to a consolidated democratic society. We have managed to bring this period to a successful conclusion and I would like to underline in this context the significant role carried out by the Council of Europe, a constant partner of my country.

Now we have to concentrate on consolidating our democratic society. We are closer than ever to accomplishing this goal but we still have to face important challenges. Since I took office in December last year, one of the main priorities of our Government is the unprecedented fight against corruption and organised crime. We are determined to undertake the reform in the justice and home affairs field in order to eradicate them. We also have to preserve and promote democratic stability, first and foremost, by way of good governance, constant dialogue with civil society and fostering diversity.

I would also mention our achievements, which reflect the sprit of the Council of Europe’s core values. Romania has put to practice, quite successfully I might add, a new style of governance close to the people, one that can be subsumed as: no minority should feel left aside, no citizen should be alone. This is not important only for us but also for the countries in the region, and I would say, for the Council of Europe. I am proud of the Romanian-Hungarian partnership, as I am proud of the contribution of the Hungarians of Romania to the political and economic development of my country.

We, Romanians, are promoting everyday dialogue with national minorities, including them in the decision making process. Minorities are a source of mutual richness for the European countries. Special attention has been brought to Roma population, taking into account their particular social difficulties. We encourage therefore further work of the Council of Europe in this field.

Distinguished audience,

We should take full advantage and further develop the unique approach of the Council of Europe, based on human rights perspective, in the fields of social cohesion, education and culture. We strongly believe that the activities of our Organisation aimed at promoting stable and cohesive societies, democratic culture and active citizenship, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue should have an increasing role in strengthening the core values of the Council of Europe.

The Council of Europe has proved its capacity to respond to the threats and major challenges to our societies. We express our satisfaction for the opening for signature of the Convention on the prevention of terrorism, the Convention against trafficking in human beings and the Revised Convention on laundering, search, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds from crime and I am pleased to announce that Romania will sign all of them.

An important step was also made, last year, concerning the task to increase the Court’s effectiveness: the adoption of Protocol 14 to the Convention. In March this year Romania also ratified the Protocol. We join the invitation addressed to Member States to support, by immediate ratification, the entry into force of the Protocol. We wish every success to the Court in continuing, on this new procedural basis, its remarkable efforts in building a Europe of justice.

In our turn, we, the Member States, must contribute to the success of the Strasbourg system of protecting the human rights, by assuring its direct reflection in the national legal systems. Romania is in an extensive process of reforming and improving its judiciary and we trust the success of this endeavor.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Unfortunately, the Council of Europe is confronted by a series of problems related to the respect of human rights and democracy in a number of „gray zones” which are threatening the security and stability of the European continent. I will mention here just one case of such a “gray zone”: the Transdnistrean region in the Republic of Moldova.
Romania has a legitimate interest in the settlement of these issues and in the developments taking place in its neighborhood. In our view, the best way to erase those “gray zones” from the European map is to promote the respect for human rights, the state of law and democracy all over the continent. Romania stands ready to share its experience, acquired during the accession process to the European structures, to the countries in our vicinity, from the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and countries in the Western Balkans and across the Black Sea, now facing similar challenges on their road towards the Euro-atlantic integration.

I can't help recalling here another painful experience that we must confront in unity. Today Romania is one of the countries directly affected by terrorism, three Romanian journalists being kept captive in Iraq. I call on you to support the safe return of all the journalists defending freedom of expression, irrespective of them being Romanian, French or from elsewhere. I would also like to express my gratitude to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the President of the Assembly for their statements of solidarity with the captive journalists. Likewise, my appreciation is extended to the distinguished representatives of non-governmental organizations, especially to the Organization Reporters without Boarders for their awareness raising campaign on this issue.

Distinguished audience,

In this new environment the Council of Europe must reassert its primary aim to ensure peaceful unification and democratic stability in Europe, while consolidating its role as a pan-European political forum. The Council of Europe is the only pan-European organization in which all European countries co-operate on an equal footing. The Council of Europe has to contribute to a greater Europe without dividing lines. We could reach such a goal by increasing its political role.

We have to strengthen cooperation between the Council of Europe and other international institutions such as the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe or the United Nations. We are endorsing the prospects, underlined by our Summit, for increased cooperation with the OSCE and we highly appreciate the perspectives open for wider cooperation between the Council of Europe and the European Union. We should also mention here that the true nature of the transatlantic relationship, that of a partnership for peace, development and democracy, should be reinforced and consolidated.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As the future Chair of the Committee of Ministers, starting November this year, Romania will ensure the political success of the Summit by implementing the Council of Europe's goals and priorities, as adopted in the Action Plan. The final documents of the Summit, the Declaration and the Action Plan, are not only a summary of our aims and values but also a road map to their implementation in the future.

We are proud to take on this mandate after our Portuguese friends. We wish them a successful term and we assure them of our full cooperation.

Dear Colleagues,

Allow me to join the tribute already paid to the inspiring life and Pontificate of Pope John Paul II, a staunch messenger and unexhausted defender of human rights.
Before concluding, I want to express my gratitude to the Polish authorities, and particularly to President Kwasniewski, for organizing this major European event in Warsaw.

Thank you for your attention!