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Opinion

A momentous day in a troubled time

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Raduta Dana Matache - The Philippine Star

Today is Romania’s National Day, a sacred celebration for Romanians wherever we are. Our country is 104 years old. The modern Romania was born out of the strong willingness of Romanians living in the provinces previously under foreign occupation to join their mother-country, at the end of the First World War.

This year we also celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations with the Philippines, as Romania was the first country in the former communist bloc to hold out an open hand to the Philippines, at the time, of course, a democracy and an ally of the free world. The Philippines and Romania established diplomatic relations in 1972, which prompted the DFA to change all existing Filipino passports, as on the old ones it was written clearly “not valid for travel in the USSR or other communist countries.” Afterwards, the Filipinos could travel, make contacts and cooperate with Romanians. And we did so, quite successfully, for decades.

Like the Filipinos, Romanians love fiestas. We usually celebrate in style, with great parties and popular joy. This year our celebrations of the National Day will be of a different nature, as they take place under the shadow of the Russian aggression against our neighbor Ukraine. The atrocities still being committed in Ukraine, the huge number of refugees in Romania and all over Europe, the pain that this senseless war is producing as far away as the Philippines cannot be ignored.

Romania, for one, is playing its part in helping alleviate the pain of innocent Ukrainians, uprooted and terrorized by war. 2.9 million Ukrainians have transited Romania so far in search of a peaceful life for them and their families elsewhere. Over 90,000 have found a new home in Romania. Many work, their children go to newly established schools in Ukrainian language or just to a regular Romanian school, as in my country education is free for everybody at least up until K-12. Over 8.4 million tons of cereals and other agricultural produce from Ukraine were shipped to the world from the Romanian port of Constan?a.

Right before our National Day, on 29-30 November 2022, the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) held its ministerial meeting in Bucharest. It was the first time the Alliance met in Romania, after the NATO Summit in Bucharest in 2008. NATO is a defensive organization, our security shield. Romania’s membership in NATO allows the country and each one of its nationals and residents to continue their life and work, despite the sound of war at our borders. Collectively we prepare for the worst while continuously working for peace.

To have the Foreign Affairs ministers from all NATO countries in Bucharest, coming as far away as the US or Canada, is an honor and a concrete proof of the solidarity of our Allies with countries like Romania, who are now the first line of defense of NATO. Two days ago in Bucharest, other special guests were seated at the table of the NAC Council: the Foreign Ministers of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden, as well as the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell. The Foreign Minister of the country worst affected by the war in Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, was also invited to join his NATO counterparts.

The North Atlantic Council meeting was preceded by the Aspen-German Marshall Fund Bucharest Forum, as well as by the Münich Leaders’ Meeting (MLM) of the world-famous Münich Security Conference. The meetings were held in the Parliament’s Palace, the second largest administrative building in the world after the Pentagon. This is the same building where, a couple of months ago, the International Telecommunication Union held its four-yearly general meeting, and where a Filipino delegation led by the DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy succeeded to obtain support for the first ever seat for the Philippines in the ITU Council.

NATO is consolidating at every level, in the context of the unprecedented risks that Russia poses for European and world security. NATO is us, each member-state reinforcing its capabilities and resilience and each one supporting the others.

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For me personally, it is one full year since I set foot in the Philippines for the first time ever. It is also nearly one year since I was fully accredited as Ambassador of Romania to the Philippines, a great honor. I arrived here with a firm mandate to help revive and reinvigorate a relationship which had been so vivid and fruitful in the 1970s and 1980s.

There are two bookends to this year: first, in December last year the consequential – for me – accreditation at Malacañang, when everybody was warm and welcoming and the ceremony was breathtakingly beautiful. The other bookend, very recent, is the DFA decision to propose to the Parliament the reopening of the Philippine embassy in Bucharest. When fully approved and budgeted, the embassy in Bucharest will be the necessary second leg of a relationship which can and needs to walk far and fast, in order to recuperate the lost time.

In between these bookends, there are innumerable chapters full of moving, thrilling, funny or beautiful stories. I can hardly wait to tell you these stories on another occasion.

For now, let us just say: Long live Romania! Long live the Philippines! Mabuhay!

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R?du?a Dana Matache is Ambassador of Romania to the Philippines.

ROMANIA

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