Interview with H.E. Jiri SITLER, the Ambassador of the Czech Republic in Bucharest.
How would you describe the bilateral relations between Romania and Czech Republic?
Basically, we have very intensive relations in the economic and cultural fields. Economically, there is a very positive trend, because both the presence of Czech companies here and also the volume of trade between our countries are rising. We have more than 500 Czech companies in Romania. CEZ Romania finished the project of the wind farm Fantanele – Cogealac in 2012. Last year, the trade volume was of EUR 2.2 billion.
We have cultural events almost every day. In October, a big event was inaugurated under the patronage of the Romanian Prime-Minister and organized together with the French Institute, Josef Koudelka – Invasion 68 Prague photo exhibition.
Another big cultural event takes place at the MNAR (National Museum of Art of Romania): the exhibition on Karel Liman, the Czech architect of the Romanian Royal Family.
How do you celebrate your National Day?
By a concert performed by top Romanian and Czech violinists Alexandru Tomescu and Pavel Sporcl at the Romanian Athenaeum on October 30. Besides, we have two cultural projects – a series of translations of Czech literature with Curtea Veche Publishing and comic books on the Czech-Romanian relations topic.
What is the role of the Czech minority in the Czech – Romanian relations?
We had a very successful cultural event in May, presenting the culture of the Czech minority from Banat, here in Bucharest. There are 6 villages in Romania which are purely Czech. They maintain the traditions and we even have a project there, to support tourism from the Czech Republic into that region.
Did you have any important political visit recently?
The President of the Czech Senate Milan Stech was in Romania in September. On the occasion he and his Romanian counterpart, Crin Antonescu, opened a conference to mark the 75th anniversary of the Munich Pact, which destroyed Czechoslovakia in 1938.
Do you think there is still potential for more Czech investors to come here for business?
There is potential, we know about Czech companies coming here. Still the biggest investment remains CEZ, but it encounters some problems due to pending legislation to be discussed in the Parliament. There are also some problems of another Czech companies related to debts of the Romanian state towards them and VAT returns. In 2011 we were the 13th biggest investor in Romania. There is a new contract on the way – Astra Vagoane from Arad will deliver first wagons to the Czech Republic this December.
Czech companies are investing in cultural events, social media and humanitarian actions. They don’t think only about immediate profit, but also seek long term prospects.
How does the Czech Republic see the latest developments in the discussion about Romania are joining Schengen area?
The Czech Republic has always supported Romania related to Schengen’s accession. Romania met all the technical criteria.
Have you managed to visit Romania? What do you think about Romania as a tourism destination? What do you like the most?
I like most the mountains in summer. Most of the Czech tourists who come here go to the mountains.
I think Romania has a huge tourism potential, but the problem is lack of infrastructure. But by developing infrastructure, you have to be careful not to destroy the tourist sights.