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President Klaus Iohannis said on Tuesday that the European Union of the future is, in Romania's vision, a project that is inseparable from the idea of unity and solidarity, and for a "more integrated" union there is need for consolidating the Eurozone and the Schengen area.

He participated at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace in the official launching of a national debate on the future of Europe, delivering remarks underlining the importance of the citizens of the EU member states expressing their opinions on the way they want this design to evolve.

"We are all under the impact of a crisis that has forced us to reconsider our priorities, to adjust to challenges other than we were used to. This new reality is certainly leaving its mark on the whole debate over the future of Europe. However, the process must remain true to the founding idea of Europe, and the engagement of citizens in dialogue must lead, based on their proposals, to the identification of measures and instruments by which European Union leaders can act to the benefit of our citizens. In Romania's vision, a European Union of the future is indissolubly linked to the idea of European unity and solidarity to the benefit of all, a design in which we must concern ourselves with the well-being of all member states and European citizens alike," said Iohannis.

According to him, in the absence of joint action, coordination and a real joint commitment to work out solutions, the experience of the crisis generated by COVID-19 would have been totally different.

The chief of state pointed out the need for a consolidation of the European design, not a reinvention of it, indicating that there are essential elements of the European course of action, such as the fundamental principles on which the EU is founded and which are enshrined in the treaties.

In his opinion, the strategic resilience of the European Union must be an internal process of transformation and construction.

Iohannis added that the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic on the healthcare sector was unprecedented, and the difficulties directly faced by Romanian health professionals were combined with the problems of a system that had not had adequate investment in several decades.

"There have been similar situations in other member states, which clearly indicates both the need to make massive investment and to reform in the benefit of public health. We need to build a real Health Union to make sure that our healthcare systems are prepared to respond to risks," Iohannis explained.

He added that for a "more integrated" European Union, the consolidation of the Eurozone is also needed, and also of the Schengen area, which will be achieved through the accession of the member states that have undertaken their training and are acting to become members.

The President mentioned that a citizen-centered approach is needed when designing policies and actions, in which case he indicated that he strongly supports investment in education.

"Accelerating the dual digital and green transitions requires coordinated efforts to build social resilience. Only education can help reduce the risk of self-exclusion of our citizens from a union of the future," said Iohannis.

He added that, externally, the European Union should intensify its commitment to its neighbours by supporting reforms and greater investment.

"We need to establish more strategic bonds with our partners, which will confirm that the union's offer and commitment are strong," Iohannis added.

He also said that respecting the values of the European space is the only thing that can protect against slippage, including those "inspired by populist or Eurosceptic approaches."

"At the same time, we must be aware that we can do more; that we can do better in the European design. A stronger, more convergent and more solid European Union is the democratic, economic and social setting in which Romania and the Romanian citizens feel fully integrated with a Europe better prepared to face the transformations and challenges of the future," concluded Iohannis. AGERPRES (RO - author: Florentina Peia, editor: Claudia Stanescu; EN -author: Corneliu-Aurelian Colceriu, editor: Adina Panaitescu)

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