Thursday, November 18, 2021

Speech of Her Majesty Margareta at the Royal Evening for the Diplomatic Corps 2021

both photos @daniel angelescu

Speech of Her Majesty Margareta Custodian of the Crown at the Annual Royal Evening for the Diplomatic Corps, Throne Hall, Royal Palace, Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Mr Dean of the Diplomatic Corps,

Your Excellencies, Distinguished guests,

As some of you may be aware, the tradition of this yearly meeting with the Diplomatic Corps in our capital city goes back to the days of Carol I in the 19th century and was revived by my late Father after the fall of the communist dictatorship.

In deciding to reinstate this yearly event, my Father not only aimed to remind all Romanians of our own traditions of decent dialogue and respect for diplomatic protocol; he also saw this yearly event as an opportunity to address broader questions about Romania’s role and global presence.

Prince Radu and I are determined to continue upholding this tradition, and I am particularly grateful to see you all this year, which marks the centennial of my Father’s birth, a century during which Romania went from the euphoria of the achievement of national unity after the First World War to the disaster of the Second World War, the decades of the misery of communist despotism that followed, and the period of hope and renewal after the end of the Cold War.

Every single one of the events commemorating King Michael’s Centennial has touched me profoundly. Wherever I go throughout our land, my sense of pride is not only in the contribution my Father made to our nation but also in the contributions which his generation of Romanians made. That generation is now slowly fading away, but it behooves us all never to forget the burden they shared and the contributions they made.

This year is, of course, unusual for other reasons as well, for although the pandemic has continued, we have also begun to see and feel our way out of this calamity. Much has been said about how our country performed and is performing during this humanitarian emergency. There are lessons we should draw at every level: there are questions about the efficiency of our administration, the state of our health services and the investment we put into them, as well as the ability of our state institutions to combat the wave of conspiracy theories and malicious rumours, which contribute to the relatively slow pace of our vaccination programme.

At the same time, we should also be careful about drawing too many conclusions, and too hastily: since this pandemic began almost two years ago, many nations claimed to have discovered the most perfect way of dealing with the health crisis only to be confronted later with new calamities, other took pride in their supposedly good health statistics, only to admit later on that, sadly, their mortality figures were not that different from those suffered by their neighbours. So, while we must maintain our sense of self-criticism and look every day at how we are doing in meeting this challenge, we should also withhold our judgment until this crisis is truly over and we can offer a more balanced assessment of what has happened.

There are, however, several lessons for Romania which I would like to signal.

The first is that although – ironically – the initial response to the pandemic was the closure of borders, the suspension of international travel, and a greater reliance on national supply chains, the crisis is a reminder of how interlinked and interdependent we really are.

Literally, tens of thousands of Romanian doctors, nurses, and other healthcare staff trained in our country have helped to save lives during this pandemic in other parts of Europe. But at the same time, it is also a fact that the financial assistance offered by our European Union partners and non-EU nations remains our key instrument in working our way out of the current crisis. Here is one perfect example of inter-dependence.

For me, the importance of European solidarity is one of the key lessons from the pandemic. It is not for me to express an opinion about some of the current political differences which preoccupy the European Union. But I would like to say that regardless of how significant these differences may seem to be, we should not lose sight of some basic facts.

All the nations that joined the European Union after the end of the Soviet domination continue to believe that we are stronger together as part of one Union. All are both beneficiaries and contributors to this Union. Of course, we do have our differences, and will continue doing so; families of democratic nations are noisy families. But Romania remains determined never to be an obstacle to this wider and deeper European Union. And most Romanians accept that the EU represents our best guarantee of prosperity and stability. Millions of my compatriots are scattered throughout the continent; the solid anchoring of Romania in Europe – a task that preoccupied my Father for most of His life – is now an accomplished fact.

The second lesson from the current crisis may also seem self-evident, only that it frequently goes unmentioned. Although the pandemic is rightly attracting all our attention now, the world does not stand still and, sadly, the security of our neighbourhood appears to be taking a turn for the worse. Over the past few weeks alone we have witnessed a deliberate attempt to challenge the status quo in Europe as created at the end of the Cold War.

The key reason our country remains determined to respect her obligations to continue spending at least 2 percent of our gross national product on our military is precise because we take our defence responsibilities seriously. And in this respect, there have also been some impressively positive developments.

The unity of the NATO alliance is one such development. Last year, I was proud to meet our troops stationed in Poland and to mark a century of close Polish-Romanian defence cooperation, one which remains the cornerstone of our regional security arrangements. I also wish to pay tribute to the British, Canadian, and United States contributions to our security, just three out of many more non-EU nations that remain critical to safeguarding our independence.

And the other positive development was offered by the people of our region. Despite all the hostile propaganda, the people of the Republic of Moldova have elected leaders determined to assert their course of European integration. Despite all the difficulties of a brutal conflict that continues to kill soldiers and civilians, Ukraine maintains its democratic path.

The key task facing us is to consolidate these positive developments in the region, to ensure that they are irreversible and that they lead to the prosperity and solidarity which people expect. This is not an act of charity, but a European necessity. I fear that, if we do not act rapidly, we will miss a historic opportunity and encourage aggressors into new adventures or catastrophic miscalculations.

For obvious reasons, Moldova will always have a special place in our hearts. But for what should also be obvious reasons, we need a new consensus throughout the trans-Atlantic alliance on how we should rebuff renewed efforts to destabilise our continent.

Yet probably the most important lesson from the current health crisis is on the importance of good governance and political maturity. We are only as strong as our national institutions, and only as efficient as our administration. The burden of our national defence depends not only on our soldiers and their weapon platforms, but also on our doctors and nurses, and their oxygen ventilators. And coordinating these efforts, ensuring that all entities play their roles, is the business of politicians.

I know, of course, that political fights are the essence of democracy. I also know that it is easy for someone like me to make appeals to national unity. But tonight, I would like to make a different appeal: one to NATIONAL RESPONSIBILITY. We cannot expect our close partners to take us seriously if we spend months without a government, and if ministers come and go monthly. We cannot expect voters to keep away from populist politicians if the existing politicians offer them nothing. Our private sector is vibrant, talented, and competent. But we cannot expect to return to the strong economic growth our nation needs if the only thing that our elected politicians and officials do is to bicker about the allocation of cabinet portfolios.

We need a broader national discussion on how to address the obvious constitutional obstacles which prevent our political system from functioning properly. We should not shy away from constitutional change: most of our key European partners not only talk about this all the time but also periodically implement constitutional amendments.

"But nor should we shy away from demand and an expectation that our politicians should not only be incorruptible but should also act with a sense of national responsibility. This is not just the pursuit of an ideal; it is an absolute requirement. For, as the pandemic reminded us, bad administration literally costs lives.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished guests,

My Father led a life in which he never compromised on the principles he held dear but also never considered any duty as being beneath his dignity if it helped his nation. I am determined to continue in his footsteps.

I would like to conclude by thanking you all for your presence, and for what you have all done and are doing to promote links between your country and ours. I know that on such occasions people prefer to emphasise the positive and set aside the negatives. I have defied that tradition tonight because I believe that only by acknowledging what pains us, we can adopt a positive outlook to the future.

I wish you all a better New Year! La mulți ani!

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