Looking remarkably good considering today was his ninetieth birthday, His Majesty King Michael I of Romania gave a strong and confident speech to the Romanian parliament in Bucharest, in which he begged the people of Romania to keep faith in the democratic institutions that had replaced the Communist dictatorship in 1989. The King spoke of the importance of remembering history and its complexities, but also warned politicians to look to the future and to serve the people in all that they did: "Tomorrow's world cannot exist without morals, without faith and memory. Cynicism, narrow interests and cowardice mustn't occupy our lives. They remind us too much of the years before 1989."
This was the first time in sixty-five years that His Majesty the King addressed the Romanian parliament. Michael I was forced to abdicate by the Soviet-backed Communist regime in 1947, when he was twenty-six years-old. When the King initially refused to co-operate, the Soviet occupiers threatened to shoot one thousand Romanians until he did so. Since 1989 and the fall of Communism, King Michael and his French wife, Queen Anne, have made frequent visits to Romania and from 1997, the republican Romanian government lifted all restrictions on the royal family's right to enter and reside in Romania. The King is a very popular figure in Romania and there are ongoing discussions about the possibility of restoring the monarchy in the country. Yesterday's speech by the King was thus boycotted by several republican politicians and by the President of Romania, Traian Basescu, a member of the Democratic Liberal Party who caused great controversy a few years ago by accusing King Michael of complicity in the Holocaust. Since Michael was technically Head of State during the Nazi occupation of Romania during the Second World War, President Basescu, who was suspended from office in 2007 amidst allegations of electoral fraud, claims he bears responsibility for the many Romanian deaths in the Nazi concentration and death camps. Paradoxically, President Basescu, a former member of the pre-1989 Communist party himself, also called the King "a slave to the Russians," in reference to Michael's abdication under pressure from the Soviets, who occupied the country at the end of the Second World War. The King did not respond to the accusations, but the president was fiercely criticised in the press at the time.
A newspaper report on King Michael's birthday and speech can be read HERE.