Mr. Ambassador Cord Meier-Klodt, in the three months since you took up your post in Romania, you have had numerous official contacts with Romanian authorities at both central and local levels, as a result of your visits throughout the country. What are your first impressions of Romania, formed during these visits? What new opportunities for bilateral cooperation have these visits opened?
My first impressions of Romania are those of a fascinating, multi-faceted country full of natural and cultural attractions, with a very open minded and welcoming population and an excellent and trusted relationship with our official partners. I have witnessed on all political, cultural and economic levels a marked wish to further intensify and extend the already very tight relations between both our countries. This is a very encouraging first impression just at the moment when we are celebrating the 25 year jubilee of the signing of the friendship treaty between Romania and Germany in 1992. I am delighted to see that our bilateral relations are filled with real life, in full swing and geared towards the future!
We have a high frequency of bilateral consultations, a network of trust that we managed to establish over the last years. Let me particularly highlight our close consultations on European issues, aimed at enhancing our joint contribution towards a strong and unified European Union. This is particularly relevant in the wake of Romania’s first presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2019. For Germany, Romania is an important partner in the EU, in a time when we face new challenges and need to join forces even more than before.
I am also acknowledging with great satisfaction the role of the German minority and the impact the century old German heritage still has on everyday life in Romania, particularly through German language schools, higher education, dual vocational training that are in higher demand among Romanian people than ever before.
As foreseen in the Friendship Treaty, we also have a dense network of regional cooperation, the federal state of Hesse recently put forward a proposal to establish a joint commission covering a wide spectrum of activities, and the land North-Rhine-Westphalia has just offered to host a programme for Romanian experts in the field of European funds.
You took up post in Romania during an anniversary year, when the two countries are marking 25 years since the signing of the Friendship Treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and Romania. How do you assess this quarter of century of Romanian-German friendship? What are the main priorities of your mission here, so as to consolidate this privileged relationship that has always enjoyed constant development through excellent cooperation on a political, economic, social and cultural plane?
The last 25 years since the signing of the Friendship Treaty between Romania and Germany have been extraordinarily successful, and all of the Treaty’s strategic objectives have been more than fulfilled: Romania has been a NATO ally since 2004 and an important partner in the European Union since 2007 – today Romania is deeply entrenched in the European and Euro-Atlantic structures as a full-fledged partner, sharing and practising its core values and beliefs. This is an impressive achievement in a relatively short period of time.
My main priorities, starting from this already very high level of German-Romanian partnership, are twofold: to further consolidate and develop our bilateral relations , for a German Ambassador this goes without saying, but at the same to redouble our joint efforts on European values and developing ideas on how to bring forward Europe as a whole will be at the core of my work. Europe is, as I like to say, a first priority within both Germany´s and Romania´s interest, as well as our joint interest.
There are many activities in the economic field that could be mentioned here. A priority number one is to strengthen and create the conditions for the Romanian economy and our bilateral economic relations to continue booming as in previous years. But what, in this context, is more and more becoming a real challenge to further growth is the availability of skilled labour across the country. I already mentioned Germany’s dual system of vocational training which in my eyes would be the ideal answer to this challenge. Dual training has in my country proven to be a real win-win for all parties involved: for the companies that take on skilled personnel; for younger employees who gain experience and qualifications. And for the economy as a whole, by creating the much needed qualified workforce. Together with the German-Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, German companies that invested in Romania are cooperating with Romanian authorities to extend the amount of dual vocational training schools in Romania, and I fully support this initiative.
With regard to cultural cooperation, we benefit from and rely on the large number of trusted partner organisations: the Goethe Institute, the Institute for Foreign Relations, five German Cultural Institutes and the Donauschwäbische Kulturstiftung have been active in Romania for many decades. The German Academic Exchange Service is providing scholarships for hundreds of Romanian students every year. And the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is supporting scientific research and cooperation. And I already mentioned the fact that today, German-language schooling or higher education is well sought-after, primarily by many Romanian mother-tongue speakers.
Throughout this year, the German Embassy, Romanian-German Forum, Romanian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Goethe Institute, German Academic Exchange Service, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, Konrad-Adenauer Foundation, Hanns-Seidel Foundation, Friedrich-Naumann Foundation and the cultural centres will join forces to organise events meant to mark a quarter of century of Romanian-German friendship. What can you tell us about the agenda of these events?
I would like to kindly recommend to your readers to regularly look at the websites and social media accounts of the German Embassy and all those partners that you mentioned, in particular throughout this jubilee year. Under our jubilee year logo you will find for example: A report on a dynamic panel discussion on the present and future of the German minority in Romania, within the framework of the 20th session of the Romanian-German Governmental Commission, where the debate focused on the opportunities and visions of young Romanians from the German minority. The Romanian-German Forum will organize a larger conference on 4th May on the issue of “Romania and Germany – new chances for Europe?”where State Minister Michael Roth will represent the German Government. The Goethe Institute in Bucharest is currently showing the exhibition “ACTOPOLIS: THE ART OF ACTION”, and we are planning a big cultural event jointly with National Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC) in June.
During the first ten days of April, Bucharest hosted the works of the 20th session of the Romanian-German Governmental Commission on the issue of the ethnic Germans in Romania. What was the main message that the governments of the two countries conveyed once more with the signing of the Protocol that marked the end of this session?
I think the main message is that the German minority in Romania continues to provide a strong bridge between our societies, enabling and fostering cultural, economic and civil society engagement and exchange. The minority plays an active role in the further development of a diverse and pluralistic Romanian society and is, as I pointed out earlier, fully geared towards the future. This is a very encouraging finding!
Romania and Germany have exemplary political dialogue both on bilateral issues and in what concerns the main dossiers on the agenda of the European Union, in this complicated international context. A fact recently outlined also by the Romanian-German dialogue that recently took place in Bucharest during the official visit paid by the President of the Bundestag, Professor Norbert Lammert. What weight can parliamentary dialogue have in the consolidation of bilateral political dialogue?
Direct contacts between Romanian and German parliamentarians, be they at federal or at regional level, have always played a prominent and beneficial role in our bilateral relations. Intensive dialogue and personal relations between parliamentarians of both our countries have always been key for a better understanding of each other’s opinions, background and motivations and will remain a crucial link between Romania and Germany. I am very happy that these contacts have multiplied and intensified over the last years. In this context, I am looking forward to the establishment of a new Romanian-German friendship group in the Romanian Parliament hopefully in the near future.
Romania is a strategic destination for German investment in this part of Europe, as well as a traditional business partner, a fact systematically confirmed by statistical data in recent years. Nevertheless, German investors, who represent one of the most powerful voices of foreign investors in Romania, have high expectations in what concerns the business climate here, the stability and predictability of the economic environment. How do you see the evolution of bilateral economic relations and what is their outlook in your view?
Trade relations are growing steadily since 2009. Interestingly, our countries benefit from a balanced trade relationship: Out of all products exported by Romania last year, more than a fifth went to Germany. And on the imports side, also a fifth of the products imported by Romania in 2016 came from Germany. Hence, with over 26 billion € of overall trade , Germany is by far Romania´s biggest trading partner, and German companies in Romania are providing employment for about 300.000 people across the country. And as mentioned, they are ready to increase further, provided they find the necessary skilled labour.
In a nutshell, German investors have high expectations on further growth of our economic relations. For that they don´t expect miracles to happen. They need, first and foremost, stability, transparency, economy minded reforms, the strengthening of rule of law and predictability of the economic environment, including an improved transport infrastructure. All this coincides with the Romanian government´s own declared priorities, and a lot of progress has been made in these fields over the last years. For investors it is important that this positive trend continues.