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Event at Parlamnet Hill - Celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership and the 5th anniversary of the Association Agreements between the European Union

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to an event at Parliament. In the East Block Courtyard, I joined other Eastern Europeans as we attended an event by the Romanian embassy to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership and the 5th anniversary of the Association Agreements between the European Union and Georgie, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

The event was filled with politicians from all countries, including the ambassadors of each of the embassies, as well as musicians, catering, and of course, great Georgian and Romanian wine. It was inspiring, and moving, to see so many of my countrymen in one place. I've lived in Ottawa now for 9 years, and not once did I realize the reach of the Eastern Europeans, and of Romanians, in politics. Given I did my schooling in international affairs and modern languages with a healthy dose of political science, you can imagine how impressed and in awe I was the entire time.

The Eastern Partnership was established as a specific Eastern dimension of the European Neighborhood Policy. It provides an institutionalized forum for discussing visa agreements, free trade deals, and strategic partnership agreements with the EU’s eastern neighbours. Its geographical area covers currently non-EU members Armenia, Azerbajan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The Partnership also includes, of course, the 28 EU member states.

I caught up on the history of the Partnership before going, but surprisingly did not need to have all the trivia in my head. It was a time for enjoying great music from Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia. Food was decent, wine was amazing, but what was even more so was hearing Mr. Scott Simms, MP and Chair of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association speak about his recent trip to Romania, and how much he enjoyed our country. He gave proud thumbs up for how Romania handled its 6-month presidency of the European Union, given Brexit and other issues that were tabled. This was new, for me.

I moved to Canada when I was young, and most children my age who did so forgot all about their country. To be fair, at 27, I've lived 16 years of my life in Canada, and only 11 in Romania. Yet I still identify, first and foremost, as Romanian, and European. With that in mind, I don't always get good reactions when I reveal my origins. Romania is still regarded by much of the west as "less than", not really a third-world country, but not one of the first-world either. It's not completely westernized, no matter how much one wants to make it so. So to hear a Canadian MP praise my country, it was very heartwarming.

The other thing that surprised me was the cohesiveness of the event. Ukrainians mingled with Georgians who mingled with Moldovans who mingled with Romanians who mingled with Canadians. We switched back and forth from our native languages to English or French, and it was truly extraordinary witnessing it. I walked away with a sense of right, that my country has finally taken its place among the Big Ones.

Yet even as I ascended returned onto the regular Parliament grounds and passed by a protest taking place in front of the main building, I couldn't help thinking: how many immigrant children are offered these opportunities? To rub shoulders with military, politicians, ambassadors... To be in the midst of things, and see real, live politics taking place. It was a humbling experience, and a reminder of why I went to university. And though Finland has now replaced Romania for presidency of the EU, the evening was also a reminder that no matter how many years I spend in Canada, the Romanian in me, the European in my core, will always be proud of her lineage. And if nothing else, the evening ended in a solemn promise to myself, and my future children: that Romania will continue to grow, and we will be there to witness it, regardless of where we witness it from.

Alexa Whitewolf    7/17/2019


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