2017 is an anniversary year for the Romanian-German relation, as we celebrate 50 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations and 25 years since the signing of the treaty between Romania and the Federal Republic of Germany on friendly cooperation and partnership in Europe (Bucharest, 21 April 1992). Also in 2017 we celebrate ten years since Romania joined the European Union, which took place during the German Presidency of the Council of the EU.
Incumbent Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier celebrated together with the Romanians in Bucharest and Sibiu on 1 January 2007, in his capacity as Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, the moment of Romania’s final come back in the family of European democratic values. In this context bearing a special significance, the 20th session of the Romanian-German Governmental Joint Commission on the issue of ethnic Germans in Romania takes place in Bucharest (10-11 April). On this occasion, the Romanian Government will also launch a postcard with fix mark stamp, which will continue the series of postmarks launched at various anniversary times of the bilateral relation.
This 20th anniversary provides us with the opportunity to highlight, as co-chairs of the Commission, the special relevance of this instrument – having as fundament the provisions of the Romanian-German Treaty of 1992 – in the overall evolution of the bilateral relation, the privileged nature and solidity of which it certifies, through the constant and constructive dialogue. At the same time, the meeting provides the opportunity to make a review of the 25 years since the establishment of the Commission, and, mostly, to set the bases for a future cooperation, focused on the German ethnics of Romania.
Designed as an inclusive format, the Commission gathers at the discussion table representatives of the Romanian and German authorities on a central level, as well as representatives of the German lands and the local authorities of the Romanian counties where German ethnics live. At the same time, in the Commission works are also attended by representatives of the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania (FDGR), as well as representatives of the Transylvanian Saxons, Banat Swabians and Satu Mare Swabians of Germany.
In fact, FDGR plays a central part in the dialogue of the Romanian authorities with the German ethnics of Romania. Today, at over a quarter of a century of constant activity in their support, FDGR actively endorses the promotion of the cultural and political interests of the Transylvanian Saxons, the Satu Mare and Banat Swabians living in Romania.
The bilateral working format is very appreciated, both on an institutional level, by the governments and parliaments of both countries, as on the level of the associations of German ethnics, the impact of the Commission benefiting both the minority and the majority. Moreover, the Governmental Commission’s activity over the 25 years reflected and reconfirmed, each time, the special quality of the Romanian-German relations in their ensemble, on a political, economic and social-cultural level, being a reference point in a bilateral continuum, cross-party assumed on the level of the political forces and the Romanian and Federal German Governments.
Today, it has become undisputable that policies concerning minorities are essential in ensuring a climate of peace and regional stability both in Europe and on a global level. The developments in the recent history in South-Eastern Europe reconfirm the lesson that the modern history of the continent gave on several occasions: the protection of the rights of persons belonging to national minorities represents an essential premise of consolidating tolerance on the level of society and ensuring a climate of peaceful coexistence, which in essence is a guarantor of stability and peace. Romania, on the territory of which a number of 20 national minorities live, understands very well the situation of the persons belonging to them and their need to preserve their identity, a reason for which it developed and implemented a wide system of protection and promotion of their identity, linguistic, cultural and religious rights. The policies of the Romanian state on minorities are particularly appreciated by the German side, and the bilateral cooperation on matters related to the protection of the rights of persons belonging to the German minority of Romania represents an approach model in a European spirit.
Romania and Germany strongly believe in the potential of the German ethnics of Romania of being a connection bridge between the two countries. The Romanian state supports the German ethnics to keep and affirm their identity, and to continue to have an important role in the Romanian society. For Romanians, the German minority has always represented a landmark and a trustworthy partner, and the mutual respect of the two communities implicitly reflects in the friendship characterising the Romanian and German peoples.
The Romanian and German Governments underline the importance of the German community for the Romanian society and the fact that any kind of denigrator actions against it are absolutely condemnable. Both Governments highlight the positive role of the German minority in the development of the Romanian society and in the ensemble of the Romanian-German bilateral relations.
The close Romanian-German collaboration in this area is the proof of Romania’s assumed commitment with intensifying the common efforts for solving the problems and promoting the interests of the German minority of Romania, including following some gestures of the Romanian authorities, such as those on granting compensations for the deported persons.
The Romanian legislation on establishing compensation payments for the persons deported or persecuted by the Communist regime after WWII, a unique gesture on the level of the European Union states, provides such rights to Germans born in Romania, regardless of their citizenship or place of residence held at the moment of filling in the application. This has begun to produce effects ever since 2013, being an important example, transposed on a legislative level, which proves that Romania assumes its past.
At the same time, Romania is among the few states that adopted a wide policy of returning the nationalized properties by the Communist regime to the rightful owners. Although this situation couldn’t be completely solved by any former communist state, Romania has made consistent efforts in this respect, efforts that will continue.
Another constant concern of the Romanian authorities remains ensuring the quality of the education in the German language as native language, a process fully endorsed by Germany. German-teaching schools are among the most prestigious in the country, even in the context in which German-born pupils aren’t in the majority: The Goethe College of Bucharest, the Honterus High School of Brasov, the Brukenthal High School of Sibiu, the Lenau High School of Timisoara. Romania and Germany plan to continue the common demarches to enlarge the German-teaching education in Romania, with German teachers teaching in these schools. At the same time, an important component of the Romanian-German cooperation, constantly backed by both sides in the Commission, was represented by the common efforts for the professional training in the dual education system. The Romanian Government’s adopting at the end of 2016 the legislation on the dual education, as part of the vocational and technical education, allowing the professional training of young Romanians with the support of the German economic environment present in Romania, fully reflects the excellence of this cooperation.
At the same time, the dialogue in the Commission brought forth the shape-up of a common approach, in the sense of preserving the unique heritage of the traditional settlements of the Saxons and Swabians of Romania. Together we have a responsibility for this common European heritage, on the preservation and restoration of the emblematic monuments of these communities, such as the fortified churches of Transylvania. Romania and Germany want to contribute to preserving this German, Romanian, European heritage.
This legacy of the past, however, also foreshadows the future. In the Commission we have also discussed about projects aimed at re-capitalising on these monuments for the youth, by hosting some summer schools, camps for young Europeans.
If the presence of the German ethnics on Romania’s territory was meant to create and has the role of maintaining a solid connection bridge between Romania and Germany, this is also valid at present for the Romanian community of Germany. The initial connection thus becomes a European path on two directions, which consolidates in both ways the Romanian-German relation. Today we are speaking of a community of Romanians of almost half a million people in Germany, the second as size of the ones coming from European countries, well-integrated people who contribute to the progress of the country they live in. Their efforts, together with those of the authorities of both countries, make the relations between Romania and Germany have a special dynamics, well-anchored in the European dimension. In their turn, the Transylvanian Saxonsthe Banat and Stau Mare Swabians born in Romania and living in Germany get involved on several levels for the development of the German-Romanian relations and are an important bridge in our bilateral relations.
As a solid partner of Germany in the central/south-eastern space of the continent, Romania remains devoted to the European project and grants a special importance to the bilateral cooperation of a strategic nature with Germany, for the promotion of the common interests inside the EU and providing a solidary and responsible response, in the context of the current challenges we are confronted with.
In a Europe concerned with the development of increasingly more vocal populist and nationalist movements, the Romanian-German relation comes up as a solid one, illustrating the commitment of both countries in favour of a solidary, coherent and strong European Union, and thus representing a reference point for strengthening the ties inside the EU, on a macro-regional level, based on dialogue, trust and mutual respect and supporting European values. In full agreement with this overall approach and incorporated in it, the Governmental Commission devoted to the issue of German ethnics of Romania affirmed itself in the past as a stability and progress instrument in the Romanian-German relation and, at present, it can contribute, by the power of example, to the consolidation of the entire European project, meant to provide a future of prosperity and harmony to all nations wishing to be together, in an integrated society where minorities fully find their place and role together with the majority.
Secretary of State with the Romanian Foreign Affairs Ministry
Delegate of the German Federal Government for Immigration and National Minorities
The signatories of this op-ed are co-presidents of the Romanian-German Governmental Joint Commission on the issue of ethnic Germans in Romania, the anniversary session – the 20th – of which took place in Bucharest in the period 10-11 April 2017.