APPG find UK/Romania relations strong at every level
With more than 400,000 Romanians currently living in the UK – making it amongst the largest communities of non-British nationals resident here – APPG Romania paid a five day visit to Bucharest (28 May-1 June) to strengthen inter-Parliamentary relations, and find out how best we can support the Romanian diaspora and work together to address challenges. Our visit came also in the country’s centennial year, and a few months prior to it assuming the presidency of the European Council, an office Romania will hold as the Article 50 process expires.
A four member delegation – myself, John Grogan MP, Drew Hendry MP (who holds the role of Romanian Honorary Consul in the Highlands), and Carol Monaghan MP – enjoyed a packed programme including 18 meetings with Parliamentarians and government officials, discussions with the International Organisation for Migration, and a visit to see at first hand the remarkable work of Casa Speranței, a British-founded palliative care charity operating at six Romanian locations and expanding to Moldova and Serbia.
Welcomed to Palatul Parlamentului by Andrei Popp, the Chairman of our IPU sister group, we had to see the balcony where Nicolae Ceaușescu delivered his final speech in December 1989 – the moment the Romanian people turned decisively against him, and his communist brutality. Our two days of travels around the massive building took in conversations with members on the Foreign Affairs and European Affairs Committees, and the leaderships of both Parliamentary chambers.
Meetings with the Ministry for Romanians Abroad and Interior Ministry tackled subjects like police cooperation, integration and cohesion, and joint efforts to tackle the scourge of modern slavery. Meanwhile Vice Prime Minister Ana Birchall (who has a British husband), Foreign Minister Teodor Meleșcanu and Defence Minister Mihai Fifor set aside time in their busy schedules to see us. We were also granted rare access to the National Cyber-Intelligence Centre, not only a critical strategic asset but one that is testament to the incredible IT talent of Romania.
The increasing importance of Romania as a trading partner was recognised at a business roundtable hosted by the British Romanian Chamber of Commerce, and our strong cultural diplomacy showcased by the British Council. Further afield, we learned also of the work of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, a pan-European project, to preserve and protect historic religious sites such as Sinagoga Mare (the Great Synagogue) in Bucharest.
The APPG sends its warm thanks to our host, Andrei Popp, Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies UK Friendship Group, to HE Paul Brummell, the soon to be departing British Ambassador to Romania, and to HE Dan Mihalache, Romanian Ambassador to the UK, for their assistance, and the support of their Embassies, in preparing and delivering the visit programme.