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“Justice, agriculture and logistics need to be further developed in Romania”

Interview with H.E. Mr Matthijs van Bonzel, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Bucharest.

–       What is the significance of Holland’s national day and how is it celebrated in your country?

The national day in Holland is a real party for everybody. It’s the birthday of the queen so it’s celebrated like a birthday. The children go into the streets, they play games, enjoy the spring. There is a public market, people buying curiosities, children selling their old toys. It’s a big festivity, not very official, but very popular.

There are many cultural activities too: dances, concerts and parades. But it’s all very easy going; it’s supposed to be fun.

–       This year the national day of the Netherlands will be a special one because of the monarchical succession. Can you please detail on this topic?

Queen’s birthday has been chosen by Queen Beatrix as the day to abdicate from the throne and to pass the monarchy to her son, Willem Alexander. From that day on, the national day of the Netherlands will be on the birthday of the new king, which is the 27th of April. So we move three days earlier to celebrate the national day. In fact, to put things correctly, the 30th of April, celebrated this year for the last time as the national day of Holland, was the birthday of the former queen, not of Queen Beatrix. Her birthday is in January, when it is too cold for festivities. So when she became queen in 1980 she chose to keep the national day on the birthday of her mother’s, former Queen Juliana. For the national day, we will have screens transmitting the atmosphere in Amsterdam and all that will be happening there, such as the moment in the church when the new king will take the oath, or the moment on the balcony when the queen and the new king will come and make the announcement.

In the framework of the celebration the embassy organized two special events last week, highlighting three sectors we are proud of: cheese, veal and flowers. The Dutch cook Edgar Burhs presented Dutch delicacies to horeca companies and on the 25th of April we held for the forth time, already a tradition in Romania, the National Flower Arrangement  Contest. Many Romanian artists, flower composers, came  to the event. A jury analyzed the compositions, a workshop and demonstration were given by professionals with knowledge of flower composition.

–       Recently you said that justice is among Romania’s flaws. What other minuses have you noticed in our country while working here?

I think Romania still has many things that need to be developed. If you make a SWOT analysis of Romania, the justice system is pointed out by all of us, the members of the EU including Romania itself. This is the most important structural condition to be developed, also in order for Romania to become more competitive, more efficient. This is why it’s very important to reinforce the justice system. Other sectors where Romania can evolve –compared to  other  EU members- are agriculture and logistics. Agriculture – because what we see is a rich land which is in this moment under-producing. What we need to see is improvement in this area, and for that you don’t need subsidies as such, you need before everything else, to stimulate the quality of people and the technology. Romania could produce many crops for Europe, making use of this huge land which is in this moment under-producing. Agriculture was traditionally a great strength of Romania, which now is underperforming. At this moment, the EU is importing agricultural commodities from elsewhere, while Romania is under-producing. That is a pity. Our idea would be to see Romania exploiting this potential, you have educated people who can make use of the modern technology. Young people should be challenged to go study agriculture and become agronomists in order to help producing the products that are now imported from outside the EU.

We note encouraging signs. One I discussed with PM Ponta is that Romania has managed to double the export of ecological products like poultry.

The other sector I mentioned that needs to be developed is logistics. You have a good potential with Constanta harbor which has to be developed. The strength of logistics is the combination of means. Combine harbours with river transport, trucks, railroad and air transport. Become a hub by linking these.

–       I know that The Hague hasn’t made a decision yet regarding Romania’s accession to Schengen. When will your Parliament decide Holland’s position in this issue and what is the situation now?

Our Parliament considers it very important that all member states comply with their obligations vis-à-vis of the European Union. That means, in case of Romania, that it should comply with the list of engagements it undertook when it joined the EU, the CVM. This list started to be implemented by Romania. The reports of the European Commission are quite clear about the things that have been done and about the things that still have to be done. Clarifications are given so as to orient Romania and Bulgaria in order to get to the benchmark. An interesting example present the Civil and the Criminal Codes. Romania is in the process of enacting these codes and then implementing them. These codes are important for citizens, for private enterpris, and even more so is their application in the courts. These benchmarks do not change, these benchmarks are there from the beginning and they expect Romania to bring these new rules into existence. In order to function as a modern economy, as a modern efficient society within the EU you need those rules. It’s nothing special, nothing from out of space, it’s just our own common European set of rules, enabling us Europeans to live together. If we Europeans open our borders to each other, if there are no borders anymore between Romania and the other Western European countries, then we have to live more or less by the same rules. Otherwise free movement cannot function in a balanced way.

–       Romanians and Bulgarians still face work restrictions in the Netherlands but starting January 1st 2014 your country will lift the restrictions on the labor market. How do you see this and what do you predict it will happen after? How are the Dutch authorities preparing for receiving the Romanians?

The Romanians coming to work in the Netherlands after January 1st 2014 will have to obey the European rules and they have to have the qualifications and insurances in order for them to be able to live by their own means. The idea of the European Union is that we do not depend on the social system of other states. We expect from the Romanians that they will make use of that freedom to a certain extent. We do not expect massive migration but we do have to be aware of the new situation, authorities will have to prepare for that. If  people do not find jobs but try to depend on the social support of other countries, then we’ll have to take measures. So we are preparing for that. We have to make sure that the Romanians who will come to work in Holland will not be exploited or underpaid. We try to make sure that the system works and that the rules we have will be applied. For that our government works closely together with the Romanian government.

–       How would you characterize the bilateral relations between Romania and Holland?

I think the relations are developing very well, on a large range of issues. Economically, we have 4,000 Dutch companies registered in Romania. We are, in terms of foreign investment, the largest country investing in Romania. For example, we are working very well together in producing hitech ships in Galati, ships that compete worldwide: a private enterprise that would have not been possible if those ships would be produced only in Holland or only in Romania. The combination is the one that works, it is what makes the EU-market work. This type of collaboration is available also in other areas of activity. Another example, I visited a factory in Romania producing three-dimensional printers. Dutch hitech design, Romanian hitech engeneering. Coming to Romania, Dutch engineers together with Romanian engineers – both very well trained and with excellent language skills – are able produce and export to the EU – and the world.


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