Speech By The President Of Romania Traian Basescu At The Ceremony Of Awarding EJC President Moshe Kantor With The Romanian Order “For Merit”, Bucharest, March 11, 2014

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Dear Mr President Moshe Kantor, dear Mr President Aurel Vainer!

For me it is a great honour to offer you these high awards of the Romanian State.

It is an honour for me, first of all, because now it is the high time for me to give you these awards. Not so long ago, Romania did not recognise the fact that acts related to the Holocaust took place in its territory. And not so long ago Romania did not recognise the fact that some of its Jewish citizens were victims of a barbaric ideology.

It is the merit of former President Ion Iliesku to accept and create the Wiesel Commission to investigate the crimes of the Holocaust. And it is the merit of the succeeding governments, which implemented the recommendations of the Wiesel Commission. On the 9th of October each year we commemorate the Holocaust in Romania. Children have started learning about the Holocaust in schools, a monument dedicated to the Holocaust stands right in the downtown Bucharest, and we are glad that children coming from all over Romania to Bucharest visit this monument as well.

But indeed we have a lot more to do in the future. We officially recognised the Holocaust ten years ago. But we will still need much time to make the Romanian people aware of this criminal incident that took place in its history. It is one thing to officially recognise this fact and it is another thing to make the entire population of Romania, all the people in Romania, aware of the crimes, of the things that happened in its territory between 1933 and 1945.

Of course there are many Romanians who say that, this did not happen on Romanian soil. And of course, it is quite easy to make such geographic speculations. But this is the reality, the fact that Jews from Romania were carried by the Romanian railways, guarded by the Romanian army and sent to Transnistria into forced labour and death. This is what happened. And we will have to work with this reality.

But I cannot hide the fact from you that I am actually worried about the present, because Europe, which has already experienced the drama of the Holocaust, now, against the backdrop of a prolonged economic crisis, is seeing far-left and far-right and sometimes near fascist movements taking roots again. Of course, the democratic forces in Europe must act very quickly. We have seen action taken in Greece against an extremist party, and I commend the government of Greece for putting this party out of law. We are witnessing the Jobbik party in Hungary, we see Ms Le Pen’s party in France, and some other parties also emerge in other places. I believe that the Europe of peace, Europe of civilisation must act quite tough, because capitalising on the freedom that we all secured through democracy, many people in these parties believe they can do anything in the name of freedom and democracy but they actually are doing this in the name of fascism and promoting fascism.

Messrs Presidents, I would like to congratulate you once again on these high awards of the Romanian State, and I want to assure you that Romania will remain the country that will fight for democracy.

And I would like to tell you one last thing – that I am satisfied to inform you that we had elections in December 2012, and even if these elections came after a prolonged economic crisis, we still have no extremist parties in our Parliament.

Thank you and wish you good luck!