Official Visit in the United States - Agenda and Fresh Considerations
As a Member of the Parliament representing Romanians abroad, I constantly visit communities of Romanians from various corners of the world. This time, I chose to dedicate almost two weeks to a significantly meaningful community, a community with historical significance for the modern and contemporary history of the country – the Romanian diaspora in the United States of America.
From entrepreneurs to experts in academia and think tanks, professionals in various fields, exceptional young people, civil society representatives and individuals of unique quality, this community has inspired me in ways I rarely envisioned. If I headed to the US with a multitude of ideas that I wanted to consolidate with them during the experience, I left with a valuable series full of new project ideas to capitalize on.
My first meeting was with a group of energetic and progressive Romanians, well-established and well-integrated in the area of New York, among whom I felt exceptionally well. It was hard for me to part from them after 4 hours of discussions about identity documents, Visa Waiver, and the connectivity between Romania and the USA. We were joined by representatives of the Consulate of Romania in New York, who brought a particularly interesting perspective to the discussions.
„Far, but still so close to Romania” gained an even stronger meaning after the meetings of the last few days. I can’t wait to tell you about the upcoming meetings I will have during the trip.
In New York City, I also had a meeting with the Ambassador of Romania to the UN, H.E. Mr. Cornel Feruță, and high representatives of the UNDP. In this context, we explored Romania’s role on the multilateral stage, as a significant actor in promoting a gender equality perspective for the development projects that this UN agency implements in Moldova, Ukraine, and the Western Balkans.
Later, heading to Washington, D.C., the epicenter of American politics, I was welcomed by the Ambassador of Romania to the USA, H.E. Mr. Andrei Muraru, as well as the diplomatic mission team, during a discussion about the agenda for the following days.
In this context, a first official meeting took place at the International Republican Institute. It was a joy to discover a deep interest in investments in Romania from this prestigious think tank, one of the central poles of political expertise in the United States. We discussed the projects they intend to initiate in Romania, and the range is broad.
From initiatives dedicated to the rural environment to initiatives addressing issues related to the rule of law and the fight against corruption, I found important projects that IRI aims to implement in the country. Beyond the assurance that I will be with them, we discussed possible ideas to stimulate the public leadership of women and young people. The openness and receptivity of my counterparts convinced me that these initiatives will take shape.
Last but not least, I was honored to be invited to join the network of women in leadership of IRI and to receive compliments for my activity in the Lead21 program. Thank you for the productive meeting, Valerie Dowling – Director, Women’s Democracy Network, Jennifer Schreider – Senior Program Manager, Women’s Democracy Network, Elizabeth Montgomery – Regional Deputy Director, IRI Europe, and Olivia Griffen – Program Manager, IRI Europe.
The agenda for Wednesday continued with a particularly productive and idea-filled meeting at the Department of State. There I met Aimee Breslow, Senior Advisor at the Negotiations Support Unit, Bureau of Conflict & Stabilization Operations. Aimee plays a central role in projecting the strategic action of the United States in the Western Balkans and Eastern Europe, and her experience in gender and youth policies is impressive.
Among other things, we launched an idea that we will implement together with Aimee’s team in the coming period: focal points for the „Youth, Peace, and Security” Agenda. I emphasized the vital importance of Romania’s involvement in establishing a solid perspective for redefining the regional security architecture, as well as the potential of the Romanian-American partnership to generate a vision of reconciliation and democratization in the Western Balkans region. At the same time, I highlighted the need to empower younger generations and women with leadership roles in the security complex of the Republic of Moldova.
I thank Aimee and her team for the wonderful conversation and the perspective of a strong collaboration in favor of the common goal of peace and stability in the region!
About Abby Finkenauer, the Special Envoy of the United States for Global Youth Affairs, there is much to say. She is my colleague in the Vital Voices Engage fellowship program, working directly with Antony Blinken and Joe Biden to revitalize global youth policy, and is one of the youngest women ever to serve in the U.S. Congress. She is also a friend.
With Abby, we discussed, first and foremost, the need to create a youth hub in the Eastern Flank of NATO and, of course, in the Western Balkans, Ukraine, and Moldova. From fellowships to innovation hubs and platforms for strategic reflection for young people in our region, there are numerous opportunities that we can capitalize on together.
At the same time, I talked to Abby about young Romanians, about their potential to become key actors in revitalizing the overall regional security. Our discussion was productive, substantial, but above all, full of hope. When you talk about young people, it can’t be any other way.
I thank Abby for her friendship and the opportunity to meet again! I asked her to promise me that she will come to Bucharest soon so that we can work on special projects for young people together!
Every time I go on a trip, the educational component is never absent. We were not just victims in history. On the International Day of Commemoration for the Victims of the Holocaust, I reiterated this truth. We should think more about the role that Romania played in the extermination campaign against the Jewish people during World War II. This was the message I conveyed to students in the „How Fascism Rises and Falls” course at Georgetown University, taught by Prof. Dr. Diana Dumitru.
I told the students about the pogroms in Bucharest and Iași, about the massacres committed by Romanian troops in Bessarabia and Transnistria, about the racial laws of the Goga-Cuza government, and about the anti-Semitic violence of the Legionnaires and the Cuza supporters. At the same time, I explained how Romania began, step by step, to acknowledge and reconcile with the anti-Semitic and genocidal legacy of the (inter)war period. And how, slowly but surely, things are starting to normalize: streets, schools, and boulevards with the names of war criminals or notorious anti-Semites are being changed, and we no longer see busts of Marshal Antonescu in the cities of Romania.
The students with whom I spoke understood how important it is to introduce a subject dedicated to the history of the Holocaust in high school, and they were disappointed when they learned about the efforts of far-right politicians (whom I unfortunately see almost every day in Parliament) to oppose the accurate teaching of history. I promised them that, from my position as a deputy, I will try to ensure that this subject is genuinely taught in high schools in Romania.
I thank once again Dr. Diana Dumitru for her work at Georgetown and for the invitation to discuss with the students!
Later, I had two important meetings at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). NDI and NED are two extremely important organizations for Romania, as well as for our region, not only through their analyses and support to governments in consolidating democratic processes but also for the projects they carry out in our country, many of which I had the pleasure to participate in.
At NED, I met with Assia Ivantcheva, Senior Director for Europe. We had a very good discussion about the political context in our region and the challenges that democracies in Eastern Europe face. We focused especially on the issue of fake news in the context of the hybrid war led by the Russian Federation in both Romania and neighboring countries. In this election year, it is even more important to discuss possible interferences in electoral processes, so I was pleased to hear that NED’s support to combat the phenomena I mentioned will continue.
At NDI, discussions focused on the issue of gender imbalances in our politics. Unfortunately, in Romania, we have far too few women in politics. Despite 50% of Romania’s population being women, only 18% of Romania’s elected officials are women, and the percentage is even lower in local administration. I encouraged them to invest more resources in this direction. At NDI, we also talked about segregation in Romanian schools and my projects that came as a response to the growing vulnerability of Roma communities.
I also visited the Vital Voices headquarters, where it was a great joy to discuss with the wonderful Vice President Manira Alva and her advisor, Carolyn Fante, with whom I shared perspectives on participating in the Vital Voices Engage program, as well as the honor of being involved in this prestigious fellowship.
Later, in Chicago, I was pleased to discover a new perspective from the exceptional Romanian community there. It is very difficult for me to describe in words this close-knit community and the extraordinary people I met there. For 4-5 hours, we discussed the activity report for the past year, my team, and many other topics. I was deeply impressed by their warm reception and the finesse of their observations.
Special thanks go to two amazing Romanians who managed to bring together the Romanians in Chicago through organized activities: Mihai Lehene, the founder of Romanian United Fund, and Oana Dobrean-Urzica, the executive director of the Romanian Community Center Chicago (ROCO), where the meeting with the community took place. Last but not least, I extend my thanks to Sorina and Lucian Țira, my colleagues who worked hard in the parliamentary election campaign so that I could present the report on parliamentary activities.
I was also glad to meet a couple of young people my age and, of course, a fellow from my hometown. Satu Mare is indeed a big city after all!
I left with a gift, the book „Your Government Failed You,” which will remind me of the meeting with these beautiful people whenever I see it on the shelf.