Prime Minister of Romania

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 23 January 2001

I am very happy to be here today among my former colleagues of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly. Allow me to thank your President, Lord Russell-Johnston, and the members of your Bureau most warmly for inviting me to address the foremost representatives of democracy, the quintessence of the European spirit.

This is my first foreign visit as Prime Minister of Romania. Our meeting today is not due to chance, but is the logical consequence of the constant attention paid by my government to the development of a privileged relationship with the Council of Europe. In recent years, the Council of Europe and other international organisations have found in Romania a credible partner in the combined efforts to consolidate democracy and stability in the European continent. Romania’s admission to the Council of Europe confirms that Strasbourg does not hand out blank cheques. Romania is firmly resolved to honour all its commitments towards the Council of Europe by harmonising its legislation with European standards.

It is over seven years since Romania became a member of the Council of Europe. Over that time, the members of the Organisation have helped us to rebuild the edifice of democracy. We began by signing the Council of Europe’s most important legal instruments: the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Social Charter. Today, Romania is among the most active members of the international community in working for the progressive affirmation of human rights in Europe and throughout the world.

The honouring of undertakings and commitments entered into with the Council of Europe is one of my government’s constant concerns because by strengthening democratic standards in Romania we are at the same time consolidating the political criteria for European Union membership, which is one of my government’s major objectives. Less than two months after the formation of the government which I have the honour to lead, through action designed to fulfil the requirements of the post-monitoring dialogue, the Romanian Parliament has already completed the debate on the bill dealing with the legal status of real property confiscated after 1945. Another very important bill deals with local self-government, the organisation and operation of the local public administration. It was passed by the second chamber of the Romanian Parliament last week. Those two hills are important components of building democracy in Romania. All that sends out a clear signal on the way in which we are pursuing our legislative activities. It sends the Council of Europe a clear signal about our determination to respect our undertakings.

My government will pursue those efforts with determination, regarding the activities conducted in the Council of Europe as part of the strategy for joining other European and Atlantic organisations, including the European Union. My government has for the first time five women ministers. We will work on the basis of the experience that we have gained at the Council of Europe.

(The speaker continued in English) I bring your attention to the extraordinary transformations that Romania has achieved since 1989. The daily routine sometimes prevents us from clearly seeing what a long way we have come: from a totalitarian regime to democracy. Human rights that eleven years ago were trampled are today solidly entrenched assets. We do not always seem to remember that those rights have been secured through a relentless fight against the legacy of the communist regime. Although it was much harder in the first years after the December revolution, protecting human rights remains an everyday battle.

As a younger member of the great family that is the Council of Europe, Romania has joined enthusiastically in the building of a democratic European society. The admission to the Council of Europe has been a strong incentive and a turning-point on our path to democracy. We are striving to promote our shared democratic values and human rights principles throughout the continent.

I take this opportunity to emphasise the satisfaction of receiving, within a few days, two new members. Due to our collective efforts, Romania’s included, Armenia and Azerbaijan will join us in Strasbourg the day after tomorrow. While reaffirming our belief that our continent’s future lies in its unity and its strength in diversity, we hail the challenging role played by the Council of Europe in that process. One reason why Europe is known throughout the world as a family of democracies is because of the overriding role of our European Convention on Human Rights.

Europe is forging itself a new identity. We need to look back to the spirit and philosophy of the founding fathers’ project for our continent fifty years ago – the vision of Europe as a community. The Council of Europe – the first organisation of pan-European vocation – has had the clear vision to proceed in a decisive way to rapid enlargement towards central and eastern parts of the continent. The European Union and Nato have been more cautious, but the time has come to assume the challenge of a reunified continent. I see our Europe as an open work yet to be finished.

If the Council of Europe is looked upon as a key organisation in promoting intergovernmental co-operation throughout the continent in an innovative and even courageous manner, we as member states have the responsibility to ensure that our Organisation’s credibility is upheld, especially in protecting and promoting human rights. In that respect, we particularly appreciate the Council of Europe’s intensive work on standard-setting and the improvement of existing mechanisms. Setting up the legislative framework in newer member counties is one of our most relevant activities. It is aimed at ensuring the basis for a genuine unity – de jure and de facto – of our continent.

(The speaker continued in French) (Translation) At the beginning of the new century, Romania faces the new challenge of fully integrating into the European Union and Nato. In that way, satisfying the requirements of every stable and prosperous democratic state becomes a fundamental criterion. The programme of the new democratically elected government is constructed on the foundation of a strong social-democratic vision. That is tangibly reflected in the emphasis on social solidarity, traditional family values and the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter. We have decided to augment the market economy with a human dimension by supporting a programme of modernisation and sustainable development.

That approach seeks to tap the country’s human potential, the private sector’s resources, partnership between the public and private sectors, as well as external relations and international co-operation.

Economic growth and the assurance of macroeconomic stability will be achieved through a coherent set of budgetary, economic and fiscal policies, which entails ongoing dialogue with international financial institutions and the European Union.

We are counting on technical and financial assistance from European experts and on substantial foreign investment, in an economy which, in a few years, will be an integral part of the European single market.

The government’s social policy is set to undergo sweeping changes, relying on a balance between competition, co-operation and solidarity in order to provide a decent life for all Romanian citizens according to European standards.

The thorough reform of the judicial system has a high priority on the government’s agenda, with the aim of achieving real democratisation, constructing an independent and responsible system based on the rule of law – that is to say, a functional and efficient system based on service to the citizen.

Reorganisation of the central and local administrative system seeks to consolidate the authority of the state, while decentralising and demilitarising the police and other public services, reducing bureaucracy and depoliticising administrative structures.

Full affirmation of the identity of minorities and inter- cultural co-operation, based on a civic model of tolerance and mutual respect, follow from the application of the principle whereby minorities represent a major resource for the development of a modem society.

As the younger generation represents the future, the utilisation of its potential will be promoted through the elaboration and application of unitary legislative measures and a national education programme in which the rights of children and young people are protected.

Combating corruption and reducing phenomena such as tax evasion, money laundering and organised crime are among the main tasks for the government, in close co-operation with our European partners.

Romania’s firmly expressed intention to speed up preparations for joining the European Union should be met by a favourable response to its request to remedy the injustice of excluding Romanian citizens from free movement in Europe.

I should like at this point to quote Nicolae Titulescu, a former illustrious Foreign Minister of Romania and President of the League of Nations, who in 1930 addressed the Assembly of that body in the following terms:

“Ultimately, the League of Nations does not rely on States, but on each and every one of us. To doubt the League of Nations is to doubt mankind. As your President, I would be betraying the confidence you have placed in me if, in this hour of grave difficulties, I were not to proclaim to the world our credo: ‘Here, we harbour no doubt!’

Mutatis mutandis, we say the same thing: ‘In Bucharest, let us harbour no doubt’.”

(The speaker continued in English) In the last eleven years, the European continent has suffered experiences that we all thought were long buried in the past. Crises and conflicts have emerged in the Republic of Moldova, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Kosovo. The threat of serious instability will continue, as real as can be, unless we bet on democracy and stability in these countries as well. We should understand Europe’s farther regions, or we will never have the proper stability to build up our desired future.

I draw your attention especially to the fact that a member of the Romanian parliamentary delegation to the Council of Europe is prevented from being present at this session by his illegal imprisonment. The mere fact that a member of this honourable Assembly is subject to such degrading treatment is testimony to the lack of willingness among the illegitimate regime in Tiraspol to observe the most elementary human rights. We express our deep concern about the fate of Mr Ilie Ilaçcu, who is a Romanian citizen, a member of the Romanian Parliament and a member of the Romanian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Each and every citizen should constitute the ultimate reason for resolute political action, and even more so when it concerns one of our colleagues.

I appeal to you to do everything within your mandate to make sure that the position of a member of this Assembly be honoured and respected. The governmental authorities in Chisinau continue to be obstructed in exercising their constitutional control over the national territory on the left bank of the Dniester. On a more general plane, the activities developed there pose a threat to the stability of a Council of Europe member state and to the entire region.

The case of the five people known as the “Ilaçcu Group” – unlawfully arrested in Tiraspol, by authorities that are not recognised anywhere in the world, is now being examined by the European Court of Human Rights, in the interest of restoring the rule of the principles of the Convention.

Romania has assumed this year the responsibilities of the Chairmanship-in-Office of the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe. From this position, Romania looks for and supports an enlarged scope for the mechanisms of co-operation between the Council of Europe and the OSCE. International organisations are natural partners in crisis situations when human rights are flagrantly violated. Common action is more effective and lends an enhanced visibility to the efforts of the international community.

We all welcome the democratic transformations in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I should mention that the contact maintained by the Romanian authorities with the democratic former opposition in Yugoslavia, complementing the dedicated work of Romanian non-governmental organisations, substantially contributed, along with the efforts of the entire international community, to the radical democratic changes in Belgrade. Romania has made its own contribution to the opening of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to the democratic world, a process in which the Council of Europe is called upon to play a major role. The future admission of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to the Council of Europe should guarantee the irreversibility of the long-awaited democratic changes in Belgrade. Furthermore, Romania is committed to playing an active role in the framework of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, in order to achieve full democratisation, stability and prosperity in this region, which will be called to be part of tomorrow’s reunited European community.

Romania acts as a well-established member of the Council of Europe. Drawing on her eight years of experience in the Organisation, Romania is now in a position not only to receive but also to provide assistance and expertise of its own, where it is required.

Both as Prime Minister and as President of the ruling party in Romania, I reaffirm our decision to comply entirely with the legal and political commitments that we have assumed at Strasbourg. I can assure you that Romania is a reliable partner.