How could you evaluate the bilateral relations up to present and which would be the perspective for the next years?
In 1921, i.e. 90 years ago, Czechoslovakia and Romania signed two agreements: on defence and on trade. Both countries remained very close ever since, and today, we are allies within NATO and EU, and our economic ties are very solid. I think that our former president Václav Havel summarized our relationship nicely when he sent the following message to Romanians on the occasion of the events to mark his 75th birthday here in Bucharest earlier this month: „In the 20th century, contacts between our two countries were rich. Romania played an important part in the Little Entente between the two World Wars, in the period of liberation of Czechoslovakia from Nazism, not to speak of the solidarity expressed by the Romanian people to the then opposition in Czechoslovakia. This, too, was an expression of the victory of the ideal over the illusion that we all will be best off if we all mind our own business. We still remember Romania’s flat refusal to take part in the disgraceful invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Treaty armies in August 1968. And I also wish to recall the great personalities of Romania’s culture that influenced me, and not only me, and that enriched world culture: Tzara, Ionesco, Brancusi or Eliade, whose name bears the library in my home theatre Na zábradlí.” Our Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg paid an official visit to Romania just two days ago (note: Oct 24-26), and he met with Minister Teodor Baconschi, Deputy Prime Minister Béla Markó and Prime Minister Emil Boc. Next year, our president Václav Klaus will pay a state visit to Romania on the invitation of President Traian Basescu.
Would you tell us, please, if the economic crisis had a major impact upon the Czech-Romanian relations?
Yes, the volume of trade dropped quite significantly in 2009, and especially the car industry, which is very important for both our countries, was affected. But it seems that the mutual trade recovered quite well and the numbers are rising again. The trade volume amounted to 1 billion euro only in the first 8 months of 2011; I believe that it might be close to 2 billion euro by the end of the year. ?koda Octavia is the most sold imported car in Romania now, and your Dacia is a success not only in the Czech Republic. But it’s not only cars; there are so many other commodities traded like machinery, steel, medical equipment and medicaments. We are happy to drink Romanian wines, and it seems that Romanians like to enjoy Czech beer!
What would be the investments plan for the future?
It depends very much on the investment climate in Romania. There are more than 500 Czech companies present here, and most of them don’t complain. But some major investors meet with difficulties from authorities; sometimes court rulings are not respected or implemented, even by the Romanian state. But all the problems are being discussed. I am confident that everything will be solved, and that even more of our companies will come, invest here and provide jobs.
How do you see the Czech future into EU?
Well, the Czech Republic has not banking tradition like Switzerland and no oil like Norway, and 80 % of our exports go to other EU member states. We might discuss the right timing for adopting the euro, but the only future the Czech Republic has is within the united Europe. We are trying to be assertive, but also predictable and loyal partners to other member states.
What your plans for the months to come?
This year, we celebrate our National Day not only in Bucharest, but we shall have an event also in Timisoara on Sunday. In cooperation with the City Hall, we shall inaugurate the Czech Alley, with trees donated by a Czech company, lay wreath to the monument of the 1989 victims, and the ethnic Czech minority in Banat will organize a cultural performance and a ball. For the months to come, we have many plans. On November 17, the Czech Centre will organize an exhibition and a panel discussion on the communist past in the Romanian Cultural Institute. We also plan for several events in the framework of the Czech presidency of the Visegrád 4 countries, for instance exhibition of postal stamps in the National Philatelist Museum in Bucharest, an exhibition on the history of Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian and Bulgarian Radio Free Europe radio programs, and a workshop on the Roma inclusion. And because human rights promotion is one of the foreign policy priorities of the Czech Republic, I have to mention our support for the 5th edition of the One World Romania human rights documentary film festival planned for March 2012; this year’s 4th edition was attended by 9000 viewers.