2030) Romanian Ambassador Constantin Mihail Grigorie

Grigorie: Turkey Is More Than Just A Unique Country; It Is A Continent
Ambassador Constantin Mihail Grigorie is only one of many Romanians who entered Turkey to contribute to the relations between two countries, others are Dimitrie Cantemir -- a musician who contributed to classical Turkish music -- and soccer players like Gheorghe Hagi and Mircea Lucescu, who according to Ambassador Grigorie were the real ambassadors to Turkey.
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Romanian Ambassador Constantin Mihail Grigorie

There is another Romanian from the same region from where Mr. Ambassador originates -- Transylvania - who lived in Istanbul for a while, the infamous Dracula. Ambassador Grigorie mentions the legend surrounding him, in addition to discussing the positive economic relations established with the Turkish minority in Romania. His country is the first to have an honorary consulate in Konya, not only because of the economical potential, but also because of the famous Sufi saint Mevlana, who was based there.

The Romanian ambassador is now in his last year in Turkey, and with his departure impending, he voices his content about the point that bilateral relations have reached. “Keep the course, keep the course and victory is yours,” says Mr. Ambassador when asked what he would advise his successor.

He points out that during these past four years, his happiest day was the opening day of the house of intellectual, composer, linguist and musicologist Cantemir, who lived in Istanbul in the early 18th century. Within the framework of an EU project in cooperation with Fatih Municipality and the Romanian Cultural Center and Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Cantemir’s house in Istanbul was renovated and inaugurated with a ceremony attended by Romanian President Traian Basescu participated.

“Cantemir was a man of the region. He lived in Istanbul [and] Romania and died in Russia. It was a cultural project. We worked until the last moment, we finished preparations just six hours before the ceremony It was my dream to have this museum. It is an undeniable testimony to our good relations,” Mr. Ambassador explains.

Cantemir certainly made great contributions to classical Turkish music at the end of the 17th century. Contemporary Romanians have contributed to Turkish culture through the ubiquitous modern medium of soccer; player Hagi and coach Lucescu, both of them part of the Galatasaray soccer club.

“I’ve always considered them the real ambassadors to Turkey” Ambassador Grigorie says. He adds that he likes soccer, although he himself was a handball player.

“As a matter of fact I am very good friends with at least two Romanian players, one is Lucescu and the other is Hagi. I spoke with Lucescu last on his birthday on July 29. His dream is to be in Turkey again. Hagi is a unique and brilliant player with marvelous qualities, but at the same time like any soccer genius he should be allowed to make mistakes. He is the coach of a Romanian team now. I hope he will be successful. In Turkey as a coach he was not able to prove his talent.

“Soccer is an important bridge between the two countries. During the world championship in Korea and Japan, the Romanian people were fans of Turkey. You had an exceptional team, well disciplined. It is important to have skill, but more important to have a strong team. That is the talent of the coach. In soccer, like in many other aspects of life we are obliged to win or lose. You have to accept the defeats, too.”

Many famous Romanians apart from Cantemir, Hagi and Lucescu came to Turkey -- including Dracula. He was from Transylvania, just like Mr. Ambassador.

“Dracula is the legend, but there was a truth at the beginning. He was a Romanian prince by the name of Vlad Tepes. He spent many years in Istanbul as well. He was a contemporary of the Turkish Sultan Fatih [Mehmet II]. By the way he is my favorite [historical figure]. In 1462 there was a battle between them in Romania. He lost. He was very cruel. The punishment was kaziga geçirme (impalement on a large stake). From this the legend started. He was called Dracula because his family name was Draculesti. His brother spent a lot of time in Istanbul, too. They spoke Turkish,” the ambassador says.

When it comes to the literature and marketing of Dracula, he sees it as a business. “This is a business. It is a brand. It is just a legend. If we are intelligent we’d sell it. If you are ready to find buyers, we are ready to sell,” Mr. Ambassador says jokingly.

Maybe God loves me

Ambassador Grigorie is a career diplomat. After being named ambassador he served in Italy, Bulgaria and Turkey one after the other without returning home. “My first post was Italy. I was the youngest ambassador in Italy and the youngest ambassador for Romania. After Italy I directly went to Bulgaria,” he says, noting that his country and Bulgaria recently acceded to the EU following a process that was ongoing during his time in the latter. “From Bulgaria directly, I came here,” he says.

According to Mr. Ambassador, Turkey is a unique country, actually it is more then a country, it is a continent. “Maybe God loves me and gave this chance to me to be here. I am not simply making diplomacy with you. Your country is unique. It is more than a country, it is a continent.”

Ambassador Grigorie said this occurred to him two years ago while traveling across Turkey in four days. “Two years ago in March, I traveled to Adana. It was plus 22 degrees Celsius. I came back to Ankara, it was minus 2. Then I went to Kars, where it was minus 22. It is a continent,” he says.

As a history lover Mr. Ambassador also admires the treasures of Turkey. According to him, a lifetime would not be sufficient to see it all. But the real treasure of Turkey, he says, is its people.

“I am very, very impressed by your people. First, it is the youngest population in Europe. Second it is very dynamic and disciplined. You have an exceptional sense of humor, which is of course a sign of intelligence,” he points out and mentions one of his memories about the hospitality of the Turkish people:

“When I came to Turkey as an ambassador for the first time, I traveled from Bulgaria by car in December 2003. The governor welcomed me at the border, where they served tea. I will never forget the person who served me the tea, a very modest individual. I looked in his eyes where I saw the friendship and the hospitality of a simple person, but at the same time immense dignity. Two years later I was in Kars. It is a poor region but with a big investment potential. I saw people there presenting the region’s opportunities; modest and poor but with clear dignity and hospitality.”

Honorary consulate in Konya

One of things that impressed Ambassador Grigorie the most is the philosophy of Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, a 13th century Sufi saint and poet famous for his call for tolerance. This impression led Mr. Ambassador to open the first honorary consulate in Konya.

“I am impressed by the philosophy of Mevlana, by the sprit of tolerance and friendship; respect for the religion and the nationality of all persons. He has a generous message’” he said. “The Turkish Foreign Ministry also asked me why Konya as it was a first. It is true that there is a very big economic potential in Konya. A lot of Turkish businessmen from this region are involved with Romanian economy, but at the same time it has this spiritual aspect.”

Ambassador Grigorie, an Orthodox himself, is proud of helping prepared the visit the late pope paid to his country as it was the first visit of a Catholic pope to an Orthodox country in modern times. “Mutual respect for religions is very important, as well as to encourage ecumenical dialogue. Turkey is doing its best to encourage cultural and religious dialogue in order to realize better cooperation” he says.

The ambassador’s residence is like a permanent exhibition of Romanian art, examples of it hang on every wall. “Culture is very important in the job of a diplomat. It creates bridges between people and countries. It is an invaluable channel and tool. I was very pleased to organize a concert at Ephesus Ancient Theater with [renowned panpipes player Gheorghe] Zamfir together with a Romanian chorus. More than 5,000 people attended. The minister of culture was there. We also had an exhibition of modern architecture of Romania at the Hagia Sofia.2 he added: “This exhibition was visited by more then 300,000 people because of the extraordinary venue. It was a Romanian exhibition organized abroad with the highest participation”

According to the ambassador another link between the two countries is the Turkish minority in Romania, who he defines as an “exceptional bridge.”

“My first contact with the Turks was in Transylvania when I was a child. Turks lived on an island called Adakale, situated in the Danube River. The island has since disappeared because of the hydroelectric station built there in the 1960s. The Turks living there for more then 500 years had the right to come to Turkey. One of them is our honorary consul in Edirne; he comes from Adakale. The Turkish minority in Romania is perceived very positive by all of Romania. They are not only respected but also loved for their warm sense of humor. You can trust them,” he says.

The two languages have many common words, too. Words like çorba (soup), masa (table), baklava, çerçeve (frame), çesme (fountain) and tabak (plate). Mr. Ambassador mentions that is one of his favorite jokes, saying Turks stole many words from Romanian.

Mr. Ambassador is also very proud of having Turkey as the fourth economic partner of his country. “When I came here it was our sixth. But now after Italy, Germany and France, it is the fourth,” he says and smiles when he mentions that the first foreign investors after the revolution were Turks who came to bake bread. “We have lot of Turkish investors now. There are more then 10,000 joint ventures, which mean more then 10,000 Turkish businessmen are involved with Romania.”



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