H.E. Werner Hans Lauk, Ambassador of Germany in Romania
Your Excellency, you’ve already completed one year of your term here in Romania as Germany’s Ambassador. What is the balance sheet of this period? What are so far the main achievements of your mandate you are very proud of? What are the main projects ahead?
During the first year of my term in Romania I focused very much on travelling around the country to meet the different players and institutions that shape bilateral relations between Romania and Germany: the German companies, the cultural centres, German-speaking schools and several universities that offer German-language programmes or have close academic links with universities in Germany. And of course, I participated in several cultural activities organized by members of the German minority all over Romania.
In 2014 we’ve seen a significant intensification of relations between Romania and Germany on the level of municipalities and their respective associations in our two countries. I am confident of taking this development even further forward over the years to come.
One project I am especially proud of, as it is a novelty in our bilateral partnership, is “Redu amprenta de carbon”. With the support of this project, only launched in September, we are underlining one of the most pressing challenges we face together – climate protection – by involving our citizens and our European and international partners. I am particularly grateful that the Romanian Government, represented by the Ministry of the Environment, became a partner of our project by supporting the launch of our campaign on 12 September.
Another most important development on my personal and institutional agenda is the support for the dual professional education program for young professionals with eight home model projects in Brasov, Sibiu, Sebes and Timisoara (i.e. Scoala Profesionala Germana in Brasov).
How would you describe the current stage of German-Romanian political bilateral relations in such a challenging regional and international context?
Let me start by quoting what the German Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in March: “The bilateral relations between Romania and Germany are not only good, they are excellent.” Romania and Germany are close partners and allies in Nato, the European Union and a lot of other important international institutions and we pursue the same goals, first and foremost maintaining peace, security, respect for international law and treaties, as well as the rule of law in Europe.
We stand firm together against all attempts to change the face of the political and territorial European landscape and to destroy all the beneficial achievements of twenty-five years of peaceful and constructive cooperation among free and independent States in Europe.
Besides this, I note with satisfaction a rising interest on both sides in meetings and personal exchanges at national, regional and municipal level between Romania and Germany which often results in concrete projects of mutually beneficial cooperation. At all the meetings I have had the chance to participate in, I greatly appreciated the tremendous spirit of friendship, constructiveness and openness in which all issues were discussed, even if the two sides sometimes had slightly divergent views on specific topics.
Germany has been a top investor in Romania for years and also one of the main partners as far as commercial and economic exchanges are concerned. What are in your opinion the decisive areas Romanian Government should focus on in order to make German investors and business community to increase their presence here and to trust more the business climate?
If a company is about to invest capital, it will always take a certain risk. Therefore, it is absolutely understandable that every investor wants to know precisely the conditions in which he will have to conduct his business in the coming years. So, from my point of view, ensuring stable investment conditions, i.e. a stable legal framework and greater predictability of policies, is the essential factor for attracting investors. This is true not only for German companies but most probably for all potential investors. Furthermore, an important challenge remains in view to logistics and transport infrastructure.
The bilateral economic cooperation is a remarkable one, but it is far from the full potential of the two countries. What measures could speed up these exchanges, namely to make Romanian businesses and brands more visible in Germany? Romanian economic presence on German market is still too shy
It is true that German brands are currently much more visible on the Romanian market than the other way around. Nevertheless, I have seen, for example, an impressively innovative spirit in the Romanian IT&C sector. Also, agriculture, the food industry and the energy sector have huge potential in Romania. So there are multiple areas where Romanian brands might be able to either enter foreign markets in the near future or stabilize their branding and marketing activities successfully.
Magenta is the new color adopted by a very significant segment of the Romanians who need and love to communicate as Deutsche Telekom has taken over the old Romtelecom and Cosmote brands announcing impressive strategy to impose the “T” brand as a very strong and trusted one on the market. How could the presence of the German telecommunication giant on the Romanian market influence other giants of the German economy to come to invest here?
The rebranding project of TELEKOM was indeed a very impressive endeavour, conducted with great professionalism. I am sure that this spectacular marketing coup has drawn attention to the Romanian market. On the other hand, we must not forget that key players in the German economy have been active in Romania for many years. Well-known industrial companies like SIEMENS, CONTINENTAL, DRÄXLMAIER or DAIMLER have been successfully running major production sites in Romania. Other long-trusted brands from Germany like METRO, EON or dm have been visible in Romania’s everyday life.
Romania has a huge tourist potential, however, German tourists are still reticent to buy holidays here, while they spend a lot of money in neighbouring countries like Bulgaria. How could Romania become again an attractive destination for Germans? Where do you think emphasis should be put first by Romania to convince more Germans to spend their money for holidays here: on better promotion of touristic potential, on building an appropriate infrastructure or on focusing on competitive prices of touristic packages compared with those practiced by other countries?
Tourists from the German-speaking countries are already the biggest group among foreign visitors to Romania. They enjoy the pristine nature in the Carpathian Mountains and the Danube Delta, they visit the medieval cities of Transylvania, the fortified churches of the Transylvanian Saxons, the beautiful monasteries in Bucovina and many other sites in Romania. Still, I share your impression that there is still more potential here. I suppose a combination of the measures you mentioned is necessary: of course, promoting Romania as a tourist destination abroad is an important step, but it is also necessary to quickly improve Romania’s infrastructure to enable visitors to move around between the country’s tourist highlights easily.
The German minority in Romania has always been a strong emotional bond linking the two countries and has always had a crucial role in promoting and preserving the values of German language and traditions here, but also in strengthening the bilateral cultural ties. How these cultural exchanges could bloom much more, as the interest of Romanians willing to learn German language or facts about German culture and traditions is increasing more and more?
I would like to confirm what you’ve just been saying: the German minority in Romania has played and still plays a pivotal role in our bilateral relations. This is true not only for the German language, but also for values and traditions. When I came to Romania last year, I was pleased to learn that the German minority enjoys such an excellent reputation within the Romanian majority society. I am convinced that we owe the German minority in Romania a lot when it comes to the popularity of the German language in Romania nowadays: the figures show clearly that more and more people in Romania are deciding to learn the German language. They might have different reasons for doing so: some might just love German culture, some might be looking for better career opportunities in German companies active in Romania, and some might wish to study and live and work in Germany. But as long as these different people enjoy the results of their efforts to learn German we can be sure that the interest in Germany and the German language will continue to increase.
In the same trend of constant increase is also the interest of young Romanian students to go to study in German high schools or universities which means a very good investment in their future, but also in the future of bilateral ties. How do you see this future?
I am convinced that every student can benefit from a period of study abroad. As the German Ambassador to Romania, I am of course delighted if young Romanians choose high schools or universities in Germany and therefore take a serious interest in my country and its culture. And, given the good reputation of German universities, I think this is also an excellent choice for the professional future of these young Romanians. The Europe of the future has to be built up by European citizens who know one another not only from schoolbooks, but from personal experience and who have established personal ties, networks and friendships with their peer groups in other European countries. I guess there is no better way to do all this than to go abroad as a young student and discover another country and culture in an important period of one’s life. I know from many encounters with Romanians of all ages and professions who have studied in Germany that they have retained a special and warm interest in Germany. Very often they act throughout their lives as real ambassadors for Germany in their various fields, much better than I could do myself! My own country can benefit a lot from the enriching experience of hosting interested young Romanian Europeans. They arrive in Germany with their own ideas and bring realistic first-hand information about their home country to my compatriots, and Romania can also benefit from these young, open and dynamic people who return to Romania with fresh new ideas and a wider understanding of European culture and diversity. Therefore I envisage a bright bilateral future, characterised even more by strong individual ties in all areas of society, be it politics, administration, science, commerce or culture.