Month: December 2015

The Freedom of Speech

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Dr Ion Jinga Headshot Thoughts by Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations, New York, published in Huffington Post on 09/03/2015.

In her biography of Voltaire (The Friends of Voltaire, published in 1906), Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote the following: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” (which is often misattributed to Voltaire himself) as an illustration of Voltaire’s beliefs. Hall’s quotation is often cited to describe the principle of freedom of speech.

I am a great supporter of this fundamental principle of democracy and I expect it is exercised in good faith and without deliberately distorting the obvious truth. An article published on 8 March by the Daily Mail, with the title “Romanian fury over Channel 4 documentary as their MPs ask: What if we made a programme saying all Brits were alcoholics and paedophiles?” doesn’t make me question the principle, but the author’s good faith and respect for the truth.

I was shocked to read in the above mentioned article that : “Ion Jinga, the Romanian ambassador in London, wrote to Channel 4 asking what the reaction would be if they made a programme saying all Brits were alcoholics and paedophiles. In a letter seen by The Observer, Mr Jinga said: ‘We kindly ask you to consider what your reaction would be if TVR, the Romanian public television channel, would launch a campaign of denigration pointed towards the British citizens in our country, generalising cases of alcoholism and paedophilia displayed by some British citizens (cases we are sure you are aware of), and turning them into the general image of all British citizens in Romania.

These phrases are completely untrue, because none of them can be found in any of my letters or statements. On 13 February (four days before the first episode of “Romanians are Coming” was broadcast by Channel 4), I wrote to the producer to express surprise and disappointment at the way the Romanian community living in the UK was presented in the trailer.

The Observer never said it saw a letter from me referring to British citizens living in Romania. In fact, its article published on 7 March 2015, “Romanian ambassador bitter over C4’s migrant series” tells that:

“Ion Jinga, the Romanian ambassador in London, has written to the producers of the three-part series accusing them of reinforcing negative stereotypes. The ambassador complained that the programme has “ignored the fact that, in their overwhelming majority, Romanians living in Britain are well integrated into the local society”. He further claims that there are more than 4,000 Romanian doctors and nurses in Britain.

Meanwhile three members of the Romanian parliament have written to the British ambassador in Bucharest to claim that the channel was inciting hatred and discrimination. […]”

I am not aware if Romanian MPs sent a letter to my friend the British ambassador in Bucharest and I never comment on something I do not know. In order to make it all crystal clear, the only comments the Embassy of Romania made after the documentary film was broadcast, which are available on our website, were:

“The Romanian Embassy in London cannot comment on the opinions and life experiences of people presented in the first episode. Both the narrator and the characters in the documentary are Romanian citizens who tell their life stories, which are often sad and touching. The Embassy considers, however, that this first episode is not representative for the Romanian community in the UK, as it illustrates only a small social segment. In their overwhelming majority the Romanian citizens are well integrated into British society and appreciated by the British employers for their professionalism and work ethic. In the context of broadcasting this series, we hope that the next episodes will present a balanced and more representative picture of the entire Romanian community in the UK. The Embassy of Romania in London thanks all Romanian citizens who by their example help to promote a correct image of our community in the UK.”

Since I deeply believe that the freedom of speech is sacrosanct, I would highly appreciate a correction of the Daily Mail article (if not an apology).

Stranger in New York

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Dr Ion Jinga Headshot

I have landed to New York City on August 4th at 12.55, coming from London and bringing in my suitcase many dear memories from the seven and a half years spent as Ambassador of Romania to the United Kingdom. A distinguished member of the House of Lords who gave me a magnificent album, “The Queen and the USA”, said that: “the best place to leave for New York is London”.

On the road from the JFK Airport to the 3rd Avenue in Manhattan, where the Permanent Mission of Romania to the United Nations is located, I was thinking of Mark Twain 1889’s humoristic novel “A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”, because similarly to Hank Morgan, Twain’s fictional character who found himself moved from Connecticut to a completely different world in England, New York is to me a new experience, too. I have been before to New York, but only to attend the UN General Assembly session. I remember how fascinated I was first time by the Statue of Liberty, the United Nations Headquarters, the Brooklyn Bridge and the iconic skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building (its name is derived from the nickname for New York, the Empire State) or the Art Deco style Chrysler Tower, which make New York so unique.

I anticipated that coming to live for a couple of years to the largest American city, which is the host of the United Nations and the cultural and financial capital of the world, will be a fabulous experience, but I expected to feel, at least at the beginning, like a “stranger in the night”.

As Hank Morgan rightly remarked: “How empty is theory in the presence of fact”, I had no time to think too much of Frank Sinatra’s song because in New York events run at a very high speed. While trying to accommodate with the time zone (NY is five hours behind London and seven hours behind Bucharest), between several meetings with UN officials and courtesy calls to colleague ambassadors (the UN has 193 Member States…) I succeeded to open a bank account in dollars, otherwise using my card in euros would have ruined me soon. From the airport border police, to the bank staff and the UN personnel, all people I met are professional and willing to help. Not to mention the warm welcoming I received on Twitter from the diplomatic community here.

The most exciting moment took place on August 13th when I presented my credentials to the UN Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, by which the President and the Government of Romania appointed me as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative to the UN. The discussion I had with the Secretary General was a stimulating one. He is energetic and determined to accomplish what he set out to do, he believes in the power of relationships and, above all, he pays attention to the human dimension.

I told him how proud I am to serve my country as ambassador to the UN in a time when the international community faces an extraordinary array of global challenges which makes the UN the centerpiece of multilateral cooperation. I added that Romania has a long and outstanding tradition in multilateral diplomacy, with the highest professional standards set up by the famous Romanian diplomat Nicolae Titulescu who was twice elected President of the League of Nations, in 1930 and 1931, and that over the last 60 years the relationship with the UN was a constant priority for my country.

In September, New York will host more than 160 Heads of State or Government who will adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda. There can be no security without development, and there can be no sustained development without security. Because challenges are linked, solutions must be, too. In his remarks to the United Nations on September 23rd, 2009, President Barack Obama called for “a new era of engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect”. His words are more actual than ever.

Living in a time of engagement in this giant and volcanic metropolis which breathes dynamism with millions of lungs, you cannon feel stranger in New York, because New York inspires. I believe it is a great time to be Ambassador to the United Nations.

Romania at the United Nations: 60 Years of Engagement

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Dr Ion Jinga Headshot


Motto: “The United Nations was created not to lead mankind to heaven but to save humanity from hell“. Dag Hammarskjold, UN Secretary General (1953-1961)

On December 8th, an exhibition of the Romanian Foundation Inter-Art, with the title “Towards Progress in the Post-2015 Development Agenda and Climate Change Issues”, has been opened at the UN Headquarters. Even for a city like New York, so rich in art and culture, having an exhibition with works of 52 artists, from 33 countries, from all continents, under the same roof, is not quite common. It is a reminder of the wonderful things we can achieve by working together for humanity, as well as an artistic tribute we pay to the UN 70th celebration and to Romania’s 60th anniversary as a member of this unique organization which is placed at the heart of the multilateral system.

For Romanians, December has a special significance. It is a time of joy, because of the Christmas and the New Year. It is a time of triumph, because on 1st December 1918 the modern Romanian State has reached its natural borders, fulfilling the multi-secular dream of bringing together all historical provinces inhabited by Romanians. It was a turning point in our history, because on December 22nd, 1989 a general uprising broke down 42 years of Communist regime and Romania returned to democracy. And it is a time of celebration, because on December 14th, 1955 the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 995 (X) by which Romania and 15 other states were admitted to the United Nations.
Romania’s desire to join the UN was unequivocally expressed in 1946 by Foreign Minister Gheorghe Tatarescu, at the Peace Conference in Paris: “Romania understands to express, without delay, its full adhesion to the principles of the UN Charter, principles which my country has already put into practice”. Similar official requests followed in 1947, 1948 and 1954, but due to the Cold War an agreement within the Security Council was not possible until 1955.

By that time, we already had a strong tradition in multilateral diplomacy, with high professional standards set up by Nicolae Titulescu, Romania’s 49th Foreign Minister, who was twice elected President of the League of Nations (1930 and 1931) and served for ten years as ambassador to the United Kingdom. His legacy has been inspirational for many generations of Romanian diplomats at the UN (I have the privilege to be the 16th Romanian ambassador to New York).
In 1967, Corneliu Manescu, our 67th Foreign Minister, repeated Titulescu’s success and was elected President of the UN General Assembly. Corneliu Manescu has been also the first representative from an Eastern European country to hold such a high dignity (the waiting list for this job is now until 2067). Since that time of extensive diplomatic efforts, the famous Delegates’ Lounge at the UN Headquarters in New York is adorned by the impressive tapestry “Ode to the Man” by the Romanian artist Ioan Nicodim, a present offered to the UN in 1968.
In 1974, the First World Conference on Population took place in Bucharest, with the topic “Population and Development”. Its action plan guided the UN activity for the next ten years.
Romania served four times as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, seven times in the ECOSOC and two times in the Human Rights Council. In 2005, the Security Council unanimously adopted the very first resolution on the cooperation between the UN and regional organizations in ensuring international peace and security, a proposal put forward by the Romanian diplomacy.

Romania fully trusted and supported the UN, and the UN supported Romania in its transition to democracy. After almost two decades as a recipient, my country had become a provider of official development assistance (ODA), and in the last 25 years we had a significant presence in UN peacekeeping operations. In 1996, Romania was in top 10 contributors with more than 9,000 blue helmets, while currently our troops are in 10 out of 17 peacekeeping missions under UN flag.

As the international community faces today an extraordinary array of global challenges, if there were a time for effective multilateral cooperation in pursuit of a shared future of peace and prosperity, it is now. From this perspective, 2015 was a kind of “once-in-a-generation” year for the UN, with four major summits: in March, the Third UN Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (Sendai, Japan); in July, the Third UN Conference on Financing for Development (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia); in September, the adoption of the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, which brings a new vision on ending poverty and leaving no one behind; and this December, the Climate Change Summit in Paris – as the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted: “Climate change is the defining issue of our time.”

Because problems are global, we have no choice but to think and act global. As a country with a proud history of building bridges and trust within the international arena by promoting cooperation between developed and developing states, Romania is well placed to contribute to addressing these challenges. It was precisely the spirit of the art exhibition we have organized on December 8th, at the UN Headquarters.