2.4 C
January 27, 2023

“Romania and Austria share long-lasting historical ties, have solid underpinning for further expansion of bilateral ties”

H.E. Mr. Gerhard Reiweger, Austria’s Ambassador to Romania:

Your Excellency, you started your mission here about one month ago. What are the main priorities of your mandate to Bucharest as Austria’s Ambassador to Romania? What is your main message for the Romanian people?
As the Austrian Ambassador to Romania I am in the fortunate position to witness that relations between our two countries are multi-faceted as cooperation is very close in many fields. Both historical links and present economic interests provide a solid underpinning for a further expansion and intensification of bilateral cooperation.
An obvious priority for my work will be to assure continuous good cooperation with Romania on issues Austria has a particular interest in, like further progress in the EU integration process of the Western Balkans or the development of the Danube region.
Considering the strong interest and the strong position of Austrian companies in the Romanian market, another priority will be to work together with Romanian authorities and our Romanian business partners in order to maintain a business climate that encourages further investment and economic exchange. Of particular interest to me would be to identify and support opportunities for economic cooperation in areas that are also in the public interest like the conservation of the environment, energy efficiency or public services. To this end I will work for an increased exchange of ideas also on the level of regions and municipalities.

In addition, I would very much like to initiate and support cooperation projects that aim at enhancing administrative capacity. Cultural exchange and people to people contacts will also be high up on my list of priorities.
If I was to formulate a message to the Romanian people I would like it to be that the overarching goal of our cooperation is to support the European Union’s aim to increase the cohesion between member states like Austria and Romania by raising welfare levels and reducing the economic differences that still exist.
Very soon after you started your activity in Romania as Austria’s Ambassador here, you hosted the first National Day reception in Bucharest. What was the main message you addressed on this very particular and special occasion for your country?
Austria’s national day celebration in Bucharest – thanks to the tremendous support by our business community – is a big event and, this year again, was attended by more than 1,200 people. It was an opportunity for me as a new Ambassador to greet the Austrian community, high representatives of the Romanian administration, as well as my diplomatic colleagues. Minister of Education Remus Pricopie in his speech to the audience took up an issue that was also part of my message, namely the close cooperation of Austria and Romania in a project that aims at providing young people in Romania with excellent professional training along the lines of Austria’s system of apprenticeship. Education and training projects of this sort not only benefit those participating in them, they also favour economic cooperation and support the EU’s efforts to promote cultural and educational exchange.
Romanian-Austrian bilateral relations are excellent, based on European cooperation and substantial economic exchanges, worth-mentioning being Austrian investments in banking, insurance and oil sector. In addition, Austria is one of the most important economic partners of Romania. What’s next in this bilateral relationship, as there is always room for more?
Austrian companies continue to invest in Romania. By the end of 2013 the accumulated investment of Austrian companies amounted to more than 11 bn. Euro, which is almost a fifth of the total of foreign direct investment in this country. Austria’s share has been increasing steadily in recent years despite an overall drop in investments, which shows the continuous commitment of Austrian companies to the Romanian market.
One of the most important joint Romanian-Austrian projects in the field of European affairs is represented by EU’s strategy for the Danube region. What are the main steps ahead for Austria and Romania in order to strengthen the bilateral dialogue in this field and to develop common strategy and projects aimed at developing the Danube area?
In the framework of the Danube Strategy Austria and Romania together with other participating countries work hard to realize growth-enhancing and job-creating infrastructure projects. Projects of this sort take a lot of effort and political will to implement. As far as specific projects are concerned, Austria and Romania cooperate in particular on the establishment of an innovation and technology transfer centre in Romania, a project on the integrated management of the Black Sea coast, the development of the Danube region as a tourist trademark and a most interesting pilot project on innovative solutions for environment-friendly shipbuilding.
Austria is one of the top strategic economic partners of Romania from the point of view of invested capital, but also in the top of commercial exchanges. In addition, many Austrian companies contribute to the development of industry in Romania and to the creation of valuable jobs and they continued investing despite the difficult economic environment generated by the financial crisis in the last years. What makes Romania so attractive for Austrian investors?
Romania is very interesting for Austrian investors since it is the largest market in South Eastern Europe. The Romanian company registry shows currently almost 7,000 companies with Austrian capital, and roughly 100.000 jobs are created directly through these investments. There is still a large growth potential in many sectors of the Romanian economy. Romania has very ambitious modernization plans for its infrastructure and EU structural funds provide the necessary financial means to implement these projects. Competitive labour costs and an attractive tax regime are also strong arguments for Romania as an investment location. On the down side, there seems to be a feeling in the Austrian business community that there is a certain lack of predictability in political decisions and administration procedures could be more efficient. We would be happy to work with the relevant Romanian authorities to remove these doubts which might impede new investment plans and hamper our economic cooperation.
OMV/Petrom and Erste Bank/BCR are the most well known success stories of Austrian investments in Romania.  But apart them, there are many other Austrian companies with remarkable success on this market, many of them SMEs. What do you think is the explanation of these economic affinities between the two countries?
Romania and Austria share long-lasting historical ties and there is a cultural affinity that makes it easier to do business with each other. After all, we should not forget that it is people who do business, and a common cultural background is a major factor when it comes to building trust in a business relationship. Both the German speaking minority in Romania with an Austrian background and the large Romanian community in Austria help to intensify Romanian-Austrian cooperation and interaction at all levels.
What weight will have the strengthening of the cultural dimension of the bilateral relationship in the projects you have in view for your term in Romania?
Last year, the Cultural Office of the Embassy organized more than 60 events that were attended by 45,000 people overall. We will continue this intensive programme with a focus on contemporary art, music, dance and literature. Austria, traditionally puts a lot of emphasis on cultural cooperation, which means that we will often look for partners in organizing our activities or contribute to festivals in order to enhance interaction and cultural exchange.

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