Welcoming address by the Romanian President Klaus Werner Iohannis at the General Assembly of the European Centre for Workers' Questions (EZA) on 24 November 2018 in Bucharest, Romania

Thank you for the invitation and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on all the work you are doing to strengthen democracy in the European Union by helping to solve or alleviate the problems faced by European workers.

Today, the European Union is at a crossroads. The European agenda is marked by multiple challenges and uncertainties, some of which have roots in the past, and others that are the fruit of recent developments. In both cases, solutions can only be reached by consensus, by European institutions and civil society organisations working together to address the challenges posed by the current socio-political climate. A strong Europe means a prosperous, secure Europe – a Europe that is close to its citizens, that is economically competitive, and that is grounded in its shared values of solidarity and social justice, in its respect for democratic principles and for fundamental human rights and freedoms. If we all embrace these principles, I am convinced that the everyday crises that now seem complicated will be resolved.

As you well know, Romania is in the final stretch of its preparations for taking over the presidency of the Council of the European Union. This is a defining period for the future of the European project, which cannot be conceived of in the absence of common values and shared interests. Your presence in Bucharest today not only proves that this project is an important one and that it is being followed with great interest, but also provides us with the optimism needed in order to fulfil this mandate.

For the first time since joining the Union in 2007, Romania, in the framework of its Presidency of the Council of the EU, will have to manage several major challenges: Brexit, the negotiation of the Multiannual Financial Framework post-2020, and the issue of migration. Moreover, the next elections to the European Parliament will also be held in the first semester of next year. These are only a few of the most important issues that I hope we will be able to address with seriousness and efficiency, in order to contribute to the strengthening of the European project. A successful Romanian Presidency means, at the end of the day, concrete results for European citizens. However, beyond concrete projects and approaches, my hope is to restore European citizens' optimism.

This ambitious goal, however, requires a collective effort to find solutions for a strong European Union that can adapt and change to meet the aspirations of future generations. That is why, in its difficult mission for 2019, Romania attaches special importance to European social dialogue. Through our seriousness and professionalism, we must set an example for others – an example coming from a young, modern, developed EU Member State, which is aware of its rights and responsibilities with regard to the management of the European labour market.

One of Romania's priorities is to strengthen the cohesion of the EU by promoting solidarity, competitiveness and connectivity. In order to achieve this key objective, actions related to employment and to the strengthening of social rights will play an important role. The development of the digital sector is also fundamental to economic progress and efforts must be made to turn the European Union into a world leader in this area. I believe that your involvement in all these projects, and throughout the upcoming period, is crucial. That is why I rely on your expertise, which I hereby wish to emphasise and recognise today.

The event you are attending today takes place only a few days before the 100th anniversary of the unification of all Romania's provinces, a day of great celebration for us Romanians and for our country. In these 100 years, Romanians fought, and sometimes laid down their lives, for a modern and democratic Romania, while European integration was one of the most important projects of the last century. Therefore, as the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said recently, this is not just a Romanian celebration, but a European celebration.

Economic growth, democratic consolidation, and the free movement of people are just some of the benefits that EU membership has brought us. Romania is strongly committed to the European principles and values, and Romanians do not see their future lying outside the European Union. That is why our efforts will be directed towards consolidating the European project by strengthening democracy and the rule of law, fostering respect for citizens, and promoting fundamental freedoms.

Finally, I would like to congratulate you once again on organising this event and I assure you that you will find in me a partner who is committed and focused on the problems you are looking to solve.

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