Article in Huffington Post, 24/11/2013:
In the history of each nation there are special moments that celebrate the triumph of its achievements. 1 December 1918 is such a moment for Romanians. Ninety five years ago, by the votes of the overwhelming majority of people in Transylvania, this Romanian province was united with its motherland. By similar votes earlier that year, The National Assemblies of Bessarabia and Bukovina also had decided on the union with Romania.
Romanians’ dream to live together in a unitary state was a national project for centuries. Back in the history, the first union of the three medieval Romanian principalities – Walachia, Moldova and Transylvania – was achieved in 1600 under the rule of Prince Michael the Brave. Even though the union was broken after his assassination, it remained a symbol for the generations to follow. Then, on 24th January 1859 Walachia and Moldova merged into a single country, which in 1866 took the name “Romania”.
In ancient times, Romania’s territory was inhabited by the Dacians, described by Herodotus as “the bravest and most honest of the Tracians”. The Kingdom of Dacia was conquered by the Roman Emperor Trajan at the end of one of the bloodiest wars of the Antiquity. Last week, we celebrated together with Victoria and Albert Museum 1900 years since Trajan’s Column, commemorating the Dacian Wars, was built in Rome. A marvel of its time, the Column is also the beginning of the history of a nation, carved in stone. From the battles depicted on the Column a nation was forged and a language was born, the only Latin language in Central and Eastern Europe.
An impressive real life replica of Trajan’s Column is hosted by V&A. Since then, Romanians have remained without interruption within the same geographical space. Our name, as a Country and a Nation, comes from Rome – the capital city, and Romans – the citizens of the Roman Empire.
Dacian soldiers enrolled in the Roman legions have built the Antonine and Hadrian Walls. There are archaeological findings proving their presence in Britain for more than 300 years. Nowadays, Romanians continue to be skilled constructors in Britain, since almost 40% of the work force that last year built the Olympic Village in London was Romanian.
More recently, Romania and the UK were closely linked through their Royal families, Queen Maria of Romania being British by birth and grand daughter of Queen Victoria. These ties remained strong albeit Romania became a Republic, and last year, when The Queen celebrated the Diamond Jubilee, King Michael of Romania was seated next to Her Majesty, as a sign of respect and in recognition of the excellent bilateral relations between the United Kingdom and Romania.
Indeed, Romania and Great Britain have an outstanding cooperation and on 10 October the Romanian and British Foreign Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the bilateral Strategic Partnership, while acknowledging the positive contribution that most Romanians in the UK make to the British economy. The only shadow in this picture is the culture of blame spread by part of the British media and a few politicians. Populist rhetoric may win votes today, but the price is paid with the lives and reputation of thousands of hard working Romanians. Among them, almost 6000 Romanian students, many enrolled to the best British universities. Bill Rammell, Vice Chancellor at the University of Bedfordshire and former Minister of State for Further and Higher Education, said “Students from Romania perform exceptionally well”.
I have lived for many years abroad, enough to see that people usually first learn about Romania in what they read in newspapers or see on TV, which is generally limited and recently marked by scaremongering about migration.
As Ambassador, I had the opportunity to discover Britain’s true values: national pride, an incredible rich history, cultural diversity and high moral standards. Therefore, it comes as a great surprise to see how attitudes towards Romania have become so easily formed by misguided and biased opinions. I think the British public deserves to understand my country from a different perspective.
Between the Two WW, Romania was a regional power with a ruling elite educated in London, Paris and Berlin. Had my country not experienced 42 years of Communism, today Romania would have been at the same level of prosperity as the United Kingdom, France or Germany. Interviewed in the Wild Carpathia documentary film, HRH The Prince of Wales, a longstanding supporter for the conservation and promotion of Romania’s fantastic natural and cultural heritage, has described this land in most inspired words: “This is Romania. I have never seen anything like this”.
What Romania has its best, apart of its natural beauty, are its people. Migration may have seemed a solution during a time of economic crisis but now Romania’s GDP growth rate is the highest in Europe. According to the latest confidence barometer compiled by Ernst & Young, Romania re-emerges as a significant target for regional investments. More than 4,800 British companies are registered there, with a total investment of over 4.6 billion EUR and the UK takes the fifth place as Romanian exports destination within the EU. Therefore, we can no longer afford to lose our best brains and our skilled workers.
It is not surprising to speak in London, a capital city of civilization and economic liberalism, about the National Day of Romania, because more than 100,000 Romanians live and work in the UK. While respecting Britain, they remain Romanians in spirit, proud of their origins and confident in their future.