Nine O’Clock, the only English-language daily in Romania, now in its 21st year of existence organized in the presence of distinguished diplomats, businessmen, bankers, politicians and cultural personalities the ‘Persons of the Year’ Awards Gala on Wednesday evening at the InterContinental Hotel.
In a warm atmosphere, dozens of guests attended an event that has already become traditional, being organized by Nine O’Clock early each year ever since the newspaper appeared in 1991.
The ‘Persons of the Year’ Awards Gala used to start with the Politician of the Year award, however, as Publisher & Chairman of Nine O’Clock Radu Bogdan also noted, this award has been unable to find a winner in recent years.
MARK H. GITENSTEIN, U.S. Ambassador to Bucharest: “I am optimistic about Romania”
In what concerns the Foreign Diplomat of the Year award, the jury’s unanimous and unequivocal choice was His Excellency MARK H. GITENSTEIN, the United States of America’s Ambassador to Bucharest. The jury’s choice was based on His Excellency’s efforts to relaunch the strategic partnership between Romania and the United States of America by adopting, during the visit that the Romanian President paid to Washington last year, the joint statement on the strategic partnership for the 21st century and by signing, on the same occasion, the agreement on the deployment of the US missile shield system in Romania.
“I am deeply honored and privileged to receive this award. First, because it is quite humbling to be considered in the company of several former recipients, three of whom I know personally” said U.S. Ambassador Mark H. Gitenstein receiving the award. Then His Excellency continued: “Last year’s winner, the Turkish Ambassador to Romania Ayse Sinirlioglu and France’s Ambassador to Romania, Henri Paul, are not only dear friends but are diplomats I have served with in Romania so I know from experience of their extraordinary talents. Ayse represents an emerging superpower with uncommon competence. Henri has had the most difficult diplomatic challenge in Bucharest – trying to find common ground between Nicolas Sarkozy and Traian Basescu. Need I say more?”
On this occasion, U.S. Ambassador Mark H. Gitenstein highlighted the importance that some diplomatic persons have had in his career like Nicholas Taubman, Michael Guest, James Rosapepe, Alfred Moses, including Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States and his wife Libby Gitenstein. “(…) They not only laid the foundation for this moment by building the strategic relationship between the U.S. and Romania, but they also have been mentors to me. But then again, so have others who serve here in Bucharest today: the Papal Nuncio, my friends who serve the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Austria, Turkey and Spain and too many others to name tonight who work with me every day. And, of course, I could not do this without the excellent staff of the U.S. embassy here headed previously by Jeri Guthrie Corn and now by Duane Butcher, including my long-suffering personal assistant Gigi Corral,” said U.S. Ambassador in Bucharest.
U.S. Ambassador Mark H. Gitenstein message was one of optimism for Romania. “Even though once again, we see thousands of citizens on the streets in the frigid cold of winter expressing their unhappiness with their current situation, I feel good about this country and its potential. First, I would point out that while there is plenty of reason to be discouraged, the mere fact that people can exercise their God-given right of dissent without fear of being shot from the rooftops is a sign of progress. If you have any doubts, ask the citizens of Syria. Second, because I sense there is a new breed of young people in this crowd that is sophisticated, well-educated, and believes in democracy and in their power to shape their future. These young people might be cynical about the existing political parties or the media, but they are savvy about the Internet and confident in their own ideas; I am certain they will have a profound and positive impact on your future. They are not the ones throwing rocks at the gendarmes. They are in the streets to bear witness peacefully to their desire to do something more fundamental and significant for Romania. I am optimistic because, unlike two decades ago, there are extremely capable, dedicated, principled civil servants in your government who are committed to making your democratic institutions work,” said His Excellency and he made reference here to three people from different sectors of the government: Mihnea Constantinescu – Ambassador with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Daniel Morar – Chief Attorney of the Romanian National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), Dr. Raed Arafat – Health Ministry undersecretary and the founder of Mobile Emergency Service for Resuscitation and Extrication (SMURD).
“I have always been impressed with Mihnea Constantinescu’s substantive grasp of any issue for which he has responsibility and his willingness to honestly level with me about the practical problems that Romania faces and how we can help. He knows how to make the Romanian government work toward practical solutions and is not afraid to push the levers of power he knows so well in pursuit of those policy goals,” said the U.S. Ambassador.
About Daniel Morar, Mark H. Gitenstein said “is a man of unparalleled courage and deep competence”, who is doing right his job – rooting out official corruption. “If you have any doubt about Morar’s ability, it clarifies when he begins to speak. Daniel can certainly “speak truth to power”. As it concerns Dr. Raed Arafat, he is appreciated by U.S. Ambassador Gitenstein for being “able to speak out without being manipulated by politics and the Government was able to bring him back. The magnanimity on his part is the essential ingredient for civil dialogue. (…) For one thing I’m sure of, and that is that Raed Arafat will stand for principle.” “As long as you have skilled, principled, independent and courageous civil servants like these three men; as long as that corps continues to grow and as long as the passion, ingenuity, and determination of young Romanians are left free to change Romania through the Internet, civil society, and other institutions, the prospects for this country are without limit,” the U.S. Ambassador concluded
Finally, His Excellency Mark H. Gitenstein appreciated the greatest asset of Romania: “Your people and the common values they share; in particular, the young Romanians who believe that they can reenergize the Romanian revolution. (…) Don’t forget you have every reason to believe in your own future and your ability to shape it.”
At the end of the speech that the US Ambassador to Bucharest gave, Radu Bogdan, Publisher & Chairman of Nine O’Clock, underlined: “As a journalist, I highly appreciate the observations that His Excellency made on the current situation in Romania, on what is happening on the streets and especially on the hopes that we all pin on the new generation of youth.”
Costea, EximBank President:
Nine O’clock contributed to the visibility of the bank.
The Bank of the Year award was handed to EXIMBANK, for being the most dynamic bank last year and for the support it gave to the Romanian economy. Present at the event, EximBank President Ionut Costea thanked the companies that approached EximBank with higher confidence, thanks to the visibility that Nine O’Clock and the rest of the mass-media gave, and thus allowed the bank to maintain its financial indicators in the positive area.
“The handing of this award represents a recognition of the fact that EximBank has done notable progress in rendering its activity and financial results more dynamic: a total exposure in 2011 that was almost three times higher than in 2008 and a volume of offered guarantees almost nine times higher compared to 2008,” Ionut Costea stated. EximBank’s President added that the bank’s main goal in 2012 remains boosting the companies’ confidence in the quality of banking services it offers in order to support the national economy, in particular the confidence of exporters, SMEs and companies engaged in projects that benefit from European financing.
Ghetea, CEC Bank: We hope to exceed the market share of 6.5 pc of overall assets, in 2012
Choosing the Banker of Year 2011 posed no problem whatsoever, Radu Bogdan, director Nine O’Clock , said. Radu Gratian Ghetea, President of the CEC Bank and President of the Romanian Banking Association (ARB) was chosen Banker of Year 2011 “for his banking achievements as president of the CEC Bank and president of the Romanian Banking Association.” The award winner said: “You may be surprised that I brought with me the symbol of the bank I represent. I brought with me this little flag, first and foremost because our strategy, our chief goal for the past four and a half years has been to make Casa de Economii si Consemnatiuni, the longest-lasting banking institution in Romania, over 147 years of operation, into an universal commercial bank. I thank the CEC Bank team, some of whom are here, and to all of the more than 6,000 bank employees, for their support towards achieving this goal of making this bank an universal commercial bank! We have tripled almost all the credit, deposit and balance-related figures. We have made it into the top five banks market share wise, from 12th in 2007, and we hope, this year, the bank will exceed 6.5 pc of the overall assets.
We have also succeeded in changing our image, not only by changing the colours and emblems, but also by changing people’s mentality, by improving the quality of our products and services.
Certainly, I could speak about the CEC for days on end. I would however stop here, however, not before also referring to the optimism of the US ambassador, since his optimism impressed me, and I would like to say a few more words. In 2010, we’ve reached the decision to promote the accession of EU funds by setting up the so-called European fund offices. Their official opening provided me with the opportunity to know the reality on the ground, to visit the units, but mostly to visit the bank customers, and the potential customers too. Myself and some colleagues of mine visited factories, mines, pig and cow farms and slaughterhouses. To me at least, the conclusion has been extraordinary! Romania has a future not only through the opportunities it presents, of which agriculture is one in which I strongly believe, but also due to the very many instances where young Romanians, some of them back from studies abroad, took up the reins of the start-ups started by their parents, or families, and, thanks to their much more comprehensive business knowledge try to make their companies prosper, whether they operate in the field of agriculture, industry, construction or other economic areas. I believe that Romania’s greatest advantage consists in the youth taking up the reins of family businesses from their parents and bringing them to the next stage.”
The CEC Bank president also referred to the current state of the Romanian Banking Association (ARB).
“The reasons given for my being chosen as the winner of this award included my activity at the ARB. It would be fair for me to put the CEC flag aside and tell you that 2011 was a turning point to the ARB, in the sense that we are trying to approach a new corporatist governance, in spite of ours being but a professional association. We have contacts with, and lie at the core of several domestic and international bodies. Whenever we meet with officials of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank or officials at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Community, or Romanian authorities, we are trying to convey the impartial viewpoint of this banking association useful to all the financial institutions as well.
This change seeks that the person to represent the association before authorities is not a commercial bank representative as it happened until recently. More exactly, the executive president that we have chosen recently will have the duty to lay out without fear the viewpoint of the banking community to the National Bank of Romania, Parliament, Government, or other authorities. We consider it a major change, and, this way, we will be able to better represent the banking community before authorities.
In the end, I would like to give special thanks to Radu, to thank Nine O’Clock for its entire day to day activity in presenting the truth by presenting facts as they are and I thank and congratulate them for the perseverance with which they do that, with which they managed to keep the flag hoisted and to maintain the principles they adopted ever since their founding. Congratulations!”
The Nine O’Clock Chairman & Publisher then handed the Businessman of the Year award to MEDLIFE President Mihail Marcu for making the most important investments in the private health system last year. “Unfortunately, he couldn’t be here, being snowed in on the road between Brasov and Bucharest. We’ll send the award to him in the following days,” Radu Bogdan pointed out.
ASIROM VIENNA INSURANCE GROUP, “last year’s innovation”
ASIROM VIENNA INSURANCE GROUP was chosen the Insurance Company of the Year for reporting the largest growth in gross subscribed bonuses in 2011, for improving customer services, for diversifying its product portfolio and for its strategy of developing all sale channels.
“I would like to extend sincere thanks to Nine O’Clock for the close ties we have had throughout time and for this award. While listening to the distinguished speakers, I was thinking that my good friend Radu Bogdan was talking about a 20-year period. Two decades ago Asirom was the only insurance company in Romania, it was the Romanians’ traditional insurer. At this moment we can say that Asirom has remained the Romanians’ insurer, but has evolved at the same time, being one of the 54 companies that are part of the VIG Group, the largest insurance industry investor in Central and Eastern Europe, an investor with a turnover of over EUR 9 bln. Asirom honorably represents this group in Romania, a group that is the largest investor in the Romanian insurance industry too. Indeed, in 2011 Asirom honored its mission as a member of VIG, registering a growth of over 22 per cent both in the general insurance domain as well as in the life insurances domain. In 2011 we subscribed insurances worth over RON 750 M and we hope we will maintain this positive trend in 2012 too, a year that unfortunately is not forecast to be very good. At the end of this speech I could state that as winners of the Insurance Company of the Year award we are optimistic about the Romanian economy’s evolution in 2012, although forecasts state otherwise.
In the end, I have to thank Radu Bogdan once again for the appreciation he has shown to us, to wish you good luck with all the publications of international profile that you are editing and to tell you that I feel very close to you given the international profile that you have. We thank you a lot!”, Mariana Diaconescu CEO ASIROM VIG
Next to be handed was a special award that Nine O’Clock first handed last year, namely the Law Firm of the Year award. This year the award was handed to Musat & Asociatii Company for the anticipative and innovating spirit it showed in a changing business environment in 2011.
“My name is Catalin Baiculescu and I am one of the law firm’s associate lawyers. Unfortunately, Mr. Musat could not receive the award in person. I’m a lawyer that reads the press and I want to tell you I would have liked to have him as a colleague here, especially since he graduated law school and is a very good speaker. We thank the organizers for the award. For those who do not know, we are one of the oldest law firms in Romania, being founded in 1990, just like Nine O’Clock was founded in 1991. We too recently celebrated 20 years of experience in Romania. We are one of the largest law firms. We have over 100 lawyers and we take pride in our projects and especially in our clients. I thank you all, colleagues and organizers alike!”
The jury’s Special Award was handed, through an unanimous decision, to Flavian Dragan, General Manager of FEDPRINT Printing House for the special spirit of cooperation and understanding he has shown in the more than 15 years in which Nine O’Clock, Romania’s first English-language daily, has been printed at the FEDPRINT Printing House. “Thank you very much for the constant attention that you give to us and to all of your collaborators and I hope you’ll have even bigger achievements in the future.”
The evening’s surprise was a concert given by well-known Romanian singer Nico.