Ministerial Meeting of States Parties to the 1951 Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees

Statement by H.E. Mrs. Anda Filip, the Permanent Representative of Romania

Geneva, 12 December 2001

Madam Chairperson, Mr. High Commissioner, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please allow me to begin by congratulating the UNHCR and the Government of Switzerland for hosting this important ministerial meeting, on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the status of Refugees. Throughout this past half century, the Convention has proven to be an invaluable tool of international humanitarian law, seeking to guarantee the observance of fundamental human rights and values relating to refugees and asylum seekers. Indeed, as High Commissioner Mary Robinson pointed out yesterday, the 1951 Convention has been a true universal charter on refugee law, providing for the earliest implementation of the basic principles enshrined in the UN Covenants on economic, social and cultural rights, as well as on civil and political rights.

For Romania, ten years have passed since it joined the 1951 Geneva Convention and throughout these years, Romania has made important strides forward in the field of ensuring adequate protection for refugees and asylum seekers, primarily through measures aimed at setting up a fair, coherent and efficient system of mechanisms and institutions, including a National Office for Refugees, as the specialized agency designed to implement policies nationwide in the field of asylum. Particular attention has also been paid to adopting adequate legislation regarding the social integration of refugees and of persons benefiting from some form of subsidiary protection in Romania. It has been, in our view, a substantial exercise in burden-sharing, budding partnerships and enhancing synergies among persons, communities and institutions that can make a difference,

In this context, I would like to mention the intensified cooperation of the Romanian authorities with the UNHCR Office in Romania, as well as with the non-governmental organizations specialized in working with refugees and asylum seekers. This has proven to be a real challenge for our country, coming out of the darkness and isolation imposed by an authoritarian regime and the madness of the Cold War, particularly under the circumstances in which Romania - placed at the cross-roads of East-West and North-West movement in Europe as well as in the immediate vicinity of crises and conflict - suddenly found itself become a country of transit and destination for refugees and asylum seekers.

As a case in point, a real test was the management of a new situation in which 6000 Kosovo refugees were taken in for protection in Romania, at the height of the conflict in the region. As a follow-up to this experience, in tune with Romania's new international commitments and in light of the conclusions of the European Council in Tampere (October 1999), the Romanian Government adopted - in the course of last year and this year - new legislation in the field, including address to situations of massive influx of refugees. This new legislation awards temporary humanitarian protection to those that have fled their countries of origin as a result of armed conflict and who cannot return for the moment in safety and dignity.

At the level of bilateral relations, as well as of the various regional and sub- regional arrangements of cooperation to which Romania is a party, we have found that investing In the culture of cooperation and understanding, as well as turning confidence into concrete action In addressing common problems, have played an increasingly important role in shaping our pattern of work. Recently, during the efforts Romania deployed as Chairman in Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), we have seen the concrete advantages and measurable differences in engaging partners when addressing difficult situations, especially in areas of crisis or conflict. In this context, we are proud of the excellent cooperation with the UNHCR in Central Asia and the Caucuses, and look forward to doing even better in the future.

Madam Chair,

Yesterday we heard a powerful testimony by the President of Latvia regarding the plight of refugees, at various moments in time, the world over. In a world in which stability, human rights, solidarity in times of need and respect for commitments undertaken should tend to become the norm, issues relating to refugees should indeed receive the attention they deserve, both by Governments and by local communities. To this aim, the Government of Romania is ready to bring its own contribution.

As was stated yesterday by the distinguished representative of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union and the associated countries, the Declaration that will be adopted at the conclusion of this commemorative ministerial meeting will express, by consensus, the support and the commitment of all towards the 1951 Refugee Convention and its Additional Protocol. As for the UNHCR, the universality of the values that it stands for, as well as the competence, expertise, impartiality, courage and dedication of its personnel, make it one of the most relevant and representative organizations on the world today.

The Delegation of Romania, in conclusion, wishes to address to High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers and his team at the UNHCR our full respect and appreciation, as well as our confidence in their capability of meeting the complex challenges ahead. Throughout this process, Romania stands ready to lend its support and contribution.

I thank you.

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