Message from Mr. Emil BOC, Mayor of Cluj-Napoca, at the opening of the AOSR National Autumn Scientific Conference, The role of science in solving contemporary crises – 4 November 2022.
Thank you, Mr President of the Academy of Romanian Scientists, Your Eminence, Your Holiness, Madam Rector, Mr President Bojiță, Ladies and Gentlemen Academicians, Distinguished Professor Minister Ecaterina Andronescu, Professor Pușcaș, Professor acad. Valeriu Tabără and many dear colleagues and other precious people in this country of ours,
I welcome you all to Cluj Napoca, to this citadel of science and the Romanian spirit, because this city has in its DNA both education and science, and it is also a citadel of Spirituality – as I said – because if we look here, we see leading representatives of the fundamental religions in this city, Orthodox, Greek Catholic, but do not forget – as the President of the Romanian Academy, Professor Ioan Aurel Pop, said – in this city you may find a unique place in Europe, where West meets East and East meets West, where the Byzantine domes of the Orthodox Cathedral meet the Gothic towers of the Roman Catholic Cathedral, and in one square kilometre you find the seats of at least five religions at the rank of Archbishop, Orthodox, Greek-Catholic, Lutheran, Unitarian, Reformed, to which we add a synagogue and a Roman Catholic cult, we realize the extraordinary value of our city as a citadel of education and science, but also of Romanian spirituality. I say this because I am a supporter of science, but I also consider religion to be one side of the same coin. Science and Religion have worked and must work together for the well-being of each of us.
As you mention Iuliu Hațieganu, the founder of the Cluj School of Medicine and – here we are together with Mrs. Rector in the Citadel of Transylvanian and Romanian Medicine, because it is one of the most successful medical universities in this country… I said at a graduation ceremony that it is the Harvard of Romanian medicine, yes this is the UMF in Cluj-Napoca… Iuliu Hațieganu said “Medicine is science and conscience”.
By the dimension of consciousness, that’s exactly what I mean, those moral values that religion gives you and that, together with science, can bring the best results on this planet. I say this about science because I believe that what the West is today, what the West has been for the last 500 years, the main landmark of world civilization, where everyone wanted to come, where everyone still wants to come, where we are part of, this West which is this Roman Empire point two, I don’t know if Mr. Professor Puscas may or may not correct me, but in the end this is pretty much what this European Union is, this West has succeeded in a few important ways – firstly through the system of representative government and separation of powers, which has put human value first, mutual control of powers and the possibility of governing ourselves through others, but holding them accountable, having parliaments, having governments, having courts of law that have diminished the arbitrariness of kings and have been able to build a society based on the values of freedom, which is the quintessence of a democratic society. And it is the institutions that have made the difference. Consider that in the same geographic space, institutions have made a major difference. Think of the FRG and the GDR. One with capitalist-democratic institutions, one with communist institutions. The difference was seen… Now look at North and South Korea; what a difference institutions and governance make… An ultra-communist one and with a system that – unfortunately – endangers not only the safety of the planet but also the lives of those who live there, completely different from those below the 38th parallel in South Korea, based on a democratic system. From this perspective, the West has had this great opportunity, to have brought back Athenian democracy and cultivated it further.
The second value was property, because before you share, you have to produce, and respect for the fundamental rights of property made the difference and the competition between these small kingdoms that were in Europe, made them prosper and brought the West to where it is.
The third element I want to refer to is Science. And here they went hand in hand with Religion.
Religion tells us, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.” This was the major difference why the West succeeded more than the East… The East that remained with the accumulation of religious power and political power – but if we think even today of what is in Iran, if we think of what was China, because until 1500-1600 all the great inventions came from China and the East… The top ten cities in 1500 were from Asia, only London was in the top ten and it was ten times smaller than Beijing. 400 years later, in 1900, in the top ten only one city was still from the East, the rest were all from the West. This shows that including this dimension, in which religion has seen its spiritual dimension, science, the renaissance, the scientific revolution have made possible these extraordinary advances of the West. That’s why I say that these two facets must continue to go hand in hand to solve what you are doing. you said here today: Through science to solve the great challenges of contemporary society.
My mother and grandmother taught me by saying one thing: “Let us do as many good deeds as possible, for God takes care of the rest…” And so it is. Let’s make as many scientific discoveries as possible, God is with us every time and arranges them in the right way for the benefit of all.
Finally, I would like to say that Science has also made a difference to quality of life. If in 1800, life expectancy – if I am not mistaken – was around 31 years, 100 years later it was 44 years, in 1900, in 2000 the average life expectancy on the planet was 76 years, or at least in the EU, where I have the data. So 31 – 44 – 76… What life expectancy will be in 2100, we don’t know yet but it will certainly be over 76 years as it was in 2000. Obviously, science has played and continues to play a major role in this extraordinary progress in our quality of life; medicine par excellence, but medicine going hand in hand with the spiritual dimension which – I repeat – are not mutually exclusive, but must necessarily go together in order to succeed.
You mentioned, your PS, the great challenges of climate change… Obviously for the general public living today and now, they are not interested in what will be the fate of future generations, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but we and you. – as scientists – we have and have this obligation to think about how we manage this planet so that it is a place to live and inhabit for generations to come. We have an unprecedented energy crisis generated by the war in Ukraine, which shows us once again how important the values of democracy are. Because today is the final battle between democracy and authoritarianism in Ukraine. If (God forbid!) Russia succeeds, it would mean that the values of totalitarianism/authoritarianism would be the ones that should be followed in the world and define us for the future, and not the values that have confirmed the best quality of life in the world, the values of Western-Liberal Democracy. That’s why today there is this war between the democratic dimension and the authoritarian dimension, that’s why Russia must have a strategic defeat like never before, no other authoritarian ruler of this world should dare to come with tanks or missiles to try to destroy an existing nation on this planet.
Europeans learned 70 years ago, after two world wars, quoting Jean Monet who said “Better to fight around a table than on a battlefield!” that we did that two world wars ago and saw where we ended up. The way is cooperation, tolerance, peace and living together. There are still people who want to resurrect the demons of the past, like the Kremlin president… But he must understand that that dimension is completely overtaken by history and we want another future. We want another common future, one in which we seek prosperity for all of us. We can only do this through peace and cooperation. That is why this dimension and the dimension taken by the EU to have strategic energy independence from Russia, to no longer depend on Russian gas, on an authoritarian regime, is a fundamental dimension for the health and future of democracy on this continent, of which we are part…
And then comes the challenge for science: How can we find alternatives to the fossil fuels that inevitably run out, and how can we eliminate dependence on authoritarian rule – by Russian gas. This is where renewable energies come in… The sun gives us 5000 times more energy than we need for the whole planet. How do we capture this energy and make it cheaper, more affordable for every citizen, so that they can afford their bill. This is the job of science and this is what Innovation does, to be able to turn renewable energies into a source for each of us, a source of prosperity.
Obviously things, from this perspective, could go on… I would just like to remind you that in Cluj, we have long understood that science and knowledge are the most important asset this city has. We were a city of heavy industry during the communist period; communism fell, we had to reorient ourselves! And we have established that the knowledge-based economy is the only one that offers us the chance of a better life and a better living, centred on universities. Today, Cluj’s magic word is UNIVERSITY. By university I mean all 10 public and private universities in this city. They are the key to the modernization of this city, they make the difference… If you’re wondering why Cluj is slightly different from other cities in Europe, it’s because of the universities and putting the University at the heart of the city’s outlook and evolution. From here emanates all the positive power of the city and in science, and in innovation, and in technology, and in better paid salaries and in investors to come or stay in Cluj, everything is related to this resource of talent and innovation that the University offers us and not least about science. That’s why I say that this city is a citadel of science because it has science in the DNA of its construction.
I will conclude by saying – I was talking earlier about the Roman Empire, the EU as the Roman Empire 2.0 – we are proud as Romanians to be part – as we were part of the Roman Empire with honour, part of this most advanced civilization of antiquity, always this people and this country was part of this area of civilization. Obviously with the hardships we had at the halfway point. But let’s not forget that just as the French, a Romanesque people, so they were formed… having the Gauls, just as we had the Dacians, they had the Romans afterwards… The migrants had the Franks, we had the Slavs, but we managed to preserve our neo-Latin identity, which is – perhaps – a fundamental asset of our collective with the West and this civilized world, being the only oasis of Latinity in this East, on the border between West and East, but which has never abandoned this dimension, no matter how many migrating peoples or how many vicissitudes of historical life we have had over the centuries, combining diplomacy with armed struggle, we have managed to preserve our Christian religion and our neo-Latin identity, which – in my opinion – are important factors of our continuity in these lands, and let us not forget that we have also saved Christianity… at least Iancu de Hunedoara stopped for 70 years the rise of the Ottomans in central Europe until the Siege of Vienna in 1683, the last attempt of the Ottomans to enter Europe, we were pillars of the Christian world, we will continue to be these pillars of the Christian world and of belonging to the European Union.
Congratulations, Mr President…