How would you describe Romania sinceyou became ambassador in Bucharest?
I arrived in Romania in October 2010.At that time the country was burdened bythe global financial crisis. Internationalinvestors walked away. However, over thelast three years, Romania won back its selfconfidence and escaped from the worsteffects of the disaster. However, we alllearned that nowadays Romania cannotexpect simply to return to the situationprior to the crisis, when she saw very higheconomic growth rates. Nevertheless, anew PwC survey just recently found outthat Romanian top executives expect a revenuegrowth over the next three years.Also, a little improvement of the picturecame about with the full liberalization ofthe EU labour markets for all Romanians.Next to the economic performance, expatsin Romania not least care for things likethe fight against corruption and the integrationof minorities. There is a feeling thatsociety at large needs normalisation.
What do you like most about Romania?And what you dislike?
Romania is a wonderful country withinteresting cities and villages and with abeautiful nature. However, everythingwould be even more beautiful with a networkof motorways and a really efficient andcomfortable railway system. Big cities coulddo more on public transport and betweencities I would welcome more road safety. Iam glad that both Tarom and AustrianAirlines offer excellent services for inlandand international flights. I like the skiresorts in Romania as well as the Black Seabeach, especially where the sand is cleanest.Very many restaurants and hotels are on avery high standard. It is not too difficult towork with official public institutions.
How do you see the prospects of developmentof the relations between the twocountries, Austria and Romania ?
I am happy to say that both Romaniaand Austria lend some priority to the furtherdevelopment of bilateral relations.Each country is of growing importance forthe other. Invested capital and trade,migration and tourism, all of it is on agrowth path. There is a growing interdependence.I think that Romania willimprove her relations with many States byfulfilling the EU Mechanism ofCooperation and Verification. In thedomain of investments, the often repeatedmantra goes that Romania should care forpredictability and please refrain fromchanging the business conditions in anerratic manner.
Sometimes problems forAustrian companies arise fromlate payment of bills by theGovernment. We from theEmbassy continue to advertiseRomania as a good place for tradeand investments. Let me alsomention the Danube RegionStrategy of the EU. This is one ina whole range of examples whereRomania and Austria collaborateclosely and effectively. Both statesare reliable partners in manyinternational organisations. Withfull conviction I encourage personsto visit Romania personally.During this year 2014, theEmbassy staff await several groupsof visitors from my country totravel to Romania, and my wifeand I, we are always glad when weprivately spot Austrian touristssomewhere around. It is naturalthat Romania gets closer and closerintegrated within the EuropeanUnion, and bilateral relationscontinue to profit from this effect.There are for example growingnumbers of young Romanianswhich have studied or worked forsome time in Austria. I believethey see Austria not only as a landwhich they visit but quite naturallyas a part of their world.
Is Romania still on the map ofthe interests of the Austrianbusiness environment? Andwhat can you say aboutRomania’s tourist potential?
The Austrian business environmentcertainly ranksRomania among the very goodplaces for investments. The slowlyimproving infrastructureallows for better access to certainRomanian areas than before.Romanian cities, and here Brasovor Oradea spring to my mind,offer business parks and thingslike a cluster of aeronautic engineeringenterprises. Otherregions develop clusters for automotiveparts. The Governmenthas a clear strategy of Romania’sre-industrialization and it alsohas the firm intention to redevelopvocational training.20.000 pupils in business schoolsare by far not enough in a nationof 20 million.Romania’s tourist potential isinteresting. From January toNovember last year 1.23 millionforeigners on business trips orwith the plan of visiting somebodybooked rooms in Romania.390.000 foreigners came fortheir health or recreation (8% ofthem for the Black Sea beach).Overall, this makes up 1.62 millionincoming foreign “tourists”(of them 164.000 fromGermany, 139.000 from Italy,89.000 from France). On top ofit, 5.8 million Romanians tookrooms in touristic enterprises. Sowe can say, in Romanian hotelsand other touristic entities aboutone out of five rooms is used bya foreigner and across the boardabout one out of twenty guests isa genuine foreign tourist in thenarrow sense. That bringsRomania to the bottom of therelevant European tourist marketstatistics. For individual hotelswith brilliant booking recordsthroughout the year, such statisticsare of no importance whatsoever,but for the whole ofRomania we can say that it cando better, with a positive outlookfor additional jobs and income.The difficulty is that tourismis not an easy industry as itdepends on things like capital,vocational training, advertisingand transport infrastructure andit is a market under tough internationalcompetition. Thetourist market is very sensitive toprice-performance ratio expectationswhich means that customersvery much care for valuein exchange for their privatemoney. Also, Romania is not asfamous as a brand as other destinations,although Romaniaimplements a programme ofnational tourist banding. On theother hand, Romania does notneed to build new mountains,rivers and forests; it does notneed to invent sunshine, beautifulmonasteries, archaeologicalsites and cosy pubs. A wealth ofingredients for tourism alreadyexists in the country, but it needsto be brought in context, ormade better accessible andknown. There could be donemore in regional planning. It ismaybe also a pity that the bigcities do not much in the fieldsof international trade fairs andconferences.
How was MichaelSchwarzinger involved in theRomanian society and what isthe importance of investing ineducation?
Questions of society are veryimportant. It is not a small thingwhen solidarity and respect ismissing in a society. My wife andI have been active in charitableworks. We have found here inRomania organizations with anAustrian background likeConcordia and SOS Children’sVillages and we are happy to supportthem. In May, charity concertswill raise money inBucharest for Concordia and forthe Order of Malta respectively.We also support Concordia’s programmeof baking very goodbread and to teach this craft. Inthe winter time, theInternational Women’s Cluborganize a great internationalbazaar. The Vienna Ball inBucharest raises money forUnited Way and SOS. The ideato support all of that lies not onlyin the material gains but also inparticipating in efforts whichcount as good examples. We carefor promoting solidarity and voluntarywork. Nowhere the Statecan provide all which peopleneed, and voluntary contributionsfrom clubs, societies, religiouscommunities and NGOscan make a big difference for anation and its welfare. The nextthing is education. Experts tell usthat Romania has given up mostof its places for vocational trainingand that the lyceums cannotmake up for their loss. Moderneconomy knows hundreds of differentprofessions and only aflexible set-up like the dual systemof apprenticeship and businessschools can provide the necessarytuition. Too many youngRomanians lack education andprofessional competences andthat is why youth unemploymenthas reached inacceptable levels.The loss for welfare due to professionalincompetence is heavy.That is why Romania shouldinvest in education wisely as anational top priority.