Today we’ve gathered here to celebrate an important day for Romania – the Great Union Day – and it is not a coincidence that the Czech Republic celebrated a very similar holiday just five weeks ago. Modern history of our two nations shows many similarities and close relations and connections.
During the World War I Czech, Slovak and Romanian soldiers fought side by side. In October 1918 Romanian soldiers – who constituted a crucial part of the military troops in Prague – refused to obey their Austrian leadership and joined the Czechoslovakian National Committee. And thus they directly supported the establishment of Czechoslovakia. A month later, on December 1st, Romanians unified all Romanian provinces into one state and the Greater Romania was created.This means that in three years from now our both states will be celebrating 100 years of their modern history.
In the period between the two World Wars Czechoslovakia and Romania were together with Yugoslavia gathered in the allied pact called Little Entente. In the final phase of the World War II Romanian soldiers liberated 31 Czechoslovakian towns and almost 1700 villages; more than 66 thousand of them died or were injured. We will never forget those who have fallen and we appreciate your effort.
After the war we both found ourselves in the Soviet sphere of influence. In schools, Czech pupils still learn that Romania was the only member of the Warsaw Pact who actively refused to occupy Czechoslovakia in 1968.
In 2015, there is no Soviet Union and no Warsaw Pact anymore. There’s the European Union and NATO that we both have freely chosen to become members of. This clearly shows that it is not only our past but also our present and future that connect us. The Czech Republic and Romania share the same view on many important challenges which we together facing with our allies – let it be European security and the threat of terrorism, strengthening of NATO, migration crisis, freedom of movement, or EU enlargement.
I as the State Secretary for European Affairs am often in touch with my Romanian colleagues and I know that our cooperation goes beyond these big media-covered issues. We are supporting each other in various EU policies. During my visit in Bucharest this spring I attended several bilateral consultations during which we discussed key long-term topics such as Energy Union, digital single market, climate or cohesion policy. These talks resulted basically always in the agreement on a common position.
On the other hand, we also struggle with similar challenges. Our democracies are young and fragile and it is important for us to keep protecting them and fighting for them. Especially in these times when current complicated issues of migration or internal and also external security can be (and are) so easily misused by dangerous populists who try to frighten people in order to win them over. We cannot let this happen.
For our nations are the values of democracy and European cooperation not only practical instruments with which we can effectively organize our issues but also a sign that long years of reign of totalitarian regimes in our countries are over. Therefore, we are together prepared to strengthen European, regional and also bilateral cooperation based on solidarity and compliance with commitments, to protect our security, to continue showing solidarity with the people in need and fighting for human rights. I believe that also common work on fulfilling these uneasy tasks will strengthen already so rich and firm Czech – Romanian relations.