How would you describe the present relations between Italy and Romania?
There are no other Countries in the EU enjoying nowadays a closer relationship than the one that exists between Italy and Romania.
Our common Latin roots, dating back to Emperor Trajan, have kept alive these relations, maintaining them vigorous and healthy. This is also reflected at the highest political level: in the first five months of his mandate, President Klaus Iohannis has already paid two visits to Italy.
As Ambassador of Italy to Romania, every day I experience tangible proofs of the strength of our links in all the fields of our activity: politics, economics, culture, social issues.
How is the state of the current exchange of institutional visits between Italian and Romanian Authorities?
As I had the chance to mention already, the exchange of official visits between Italian and Romanian Institutions is intense and very frequent. As I pointed out, President Iohannis has already visited Italy twice: on 27-28 April, he met in Rome with the newly appointed Italian President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, and with the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi; on 14 May, he visited the Milan Universal Exhibition, where Romania is participating with its own pavilion. These two visits confirm the trend already established in 2014, when both Prime Minister Renzi and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini (now High Representative for foreign affairs and security policy of the EU) came to Bucharest. More generally, many dignitaries exchange frequent visits between Bucharest and Rome: last year, among others high level delegations, we welcomed in Bucharest the Chief of the Italian Police force, Alessandro Pansa.
Do you believe that the EU membership has deepened and strengthened the relations between Italy and Romania? What role can Italy play in this regard?
Italy has been one of the most active and strong supporters of the Romanian adhesion to the EU in 2007.
During the past 8 years of membership, Romania has strongly committed itself to improving its level of preparedness and deepening its degree of integration to the EU policies. In doing so, it has enjoyed the support of all the other Member States, and Italy has always been at the forefront of this ongoing process. The benefits that the Romanian citizens get from this adhesion are numerous and span from politics to economics to social issues: just to give an example, since 2012 all Romanian workers can travel and establish themselves in any EU Country for job-related opportunities; moreover, the last report on the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification (MCV) has recognized the constant progress made by Romania in the field of the fight against corruption and improving the judiciary system. These improvements pass onto the growing trust towards justice and have a consistent role in spreading the civic support to values such as transparency and fight against corruption.
On the other side, it is true that one of the most important objectives of the Romanian integration into the EU, which is the accession to the Schengen area, has not yet been achieved. All requirements have been met already in 2011 (as recognized by the June European Council back then). Italy therefore strongly supports the Romanian accession to Schengen; we do hope that an agreement on this issue can be reached by all member States as soon as possible.
Italy is hosting one of the most important International events of 2015: the Universal Exhibition in Milan. Why is it important for Romania to be one of the participating Countries?
After about a month since the official opening of EXPO Milan 2015, I can say with satisfaction that this is certainly one of the most successful international events of 2015. I am particularly happy that also Romania is taking part to it with a beautiful pavilion, located in the very centre of the exhibition.
The theme inspiring EXPO is a very important one: “Feeding the Planet, Energy for life”. It is about finding solutions for the future nutrition needs of the planet, based on tradition on one side, and technical innovation on the other side.
In the specific case of the Romanian participation, I am sure that it will also be a chance to enhance the already strong relations between Italy and Romania in the agro-industrial sector, which we consider a strategic one for both Countries, and one in which Italy is already very active in Romania. I hope that many Romanian citizens will be able to visit EXPO in the next 5 months.
Commercial exchanges are crucial to the relations between Italy and Romania. Can you provide us with the latest figures?
Macroeconomic figures show signs that Romania is exiting the severe economic crisis of 2008: the growth rate in the last two years has been among the highest in the EU. It is a promising outlook, in which Italy plays a relevant role, ranking in the first position as number of foreign enterprises and second investor as volume of business.
According to the figures given by the Romanian Institute of Statistics, the commercial exchange between Italy and Romania in 2014 reached the record value of 12.58 billion euro, (+ 6.9% compared to 2013). The commercial balance is essentially even. In fact, Romania exported to Italy goods valued around 6.243,6 million euro (+9,1% compared to 2013), while import from Italy reached the value of 6.337,6 million euro (+ 4,3% compared to the previous year).
These figures mirror well the presence of the Italian enterprises in Romania. At the end of last year, according to the figures given by the Register of Commerce, the number of enterprises with Italian participation was 6.82% higher than 2013, with around 1.799 new businesses. Which means that the global figure of the Italian enterprises moved from 37.029 in 2013 to 39.566 enterprises in 2014, out of which around 18.400 active ones.
According to our estimates, the Italian enterprises in Romania give work to more than 135.000 workers, contributing to the wealth of a comparable number of households.
Finally, a surprising figure, which gives well the idea of the strength of our business and social relations is the number of flights from Romania to Italy: more than 800 each month. It is a figure that doubles if you take into consideration also the monthly flights from Italy to Romania, with flights taking off from around 20 Italian cities.
Having a look outside the EU, what are the most important issues that Italy and Romania are facing nowadays?
Solidarity between Romania and Italy in the most important issues of international politics is granted by the shared membership to the EU and NATO. Italy and Romania share a geographic characteristics: they secure very large portions of the external border of the EU, so they are particularly sensitive when it comes to the issue of granting border control and securing and stabilizing the relations with the neighbors. In this context, both Countries strongly support the progresses by the Western Balkan Countries and Turkey in their path towards accession to the EU.
Can you give some information on the activities organised by the Italian Embassy around the occasion of the National Day?
The Italian Embassy is organising a rich programme of cultural events around the National Day.
On June 1st at Sala Floreasca, at 7 p.m., a charity match will be played starring the Italian and Romanian “Old Boys”, counting some of the most famous soccer champions of all times.
On June 3rd, all music lovers will have the chance to attend a prestigious concert by Alexandru Tomescu (who plays the only Stradivari violin in Romania) and the Italian musician Andrea Coen (at the harpsichord). Tickets can be bought at the ticket office of Ateneul Roman.
Between May and June, in Bucharest there will be many promotional events dedicated to food, wine, design, fashion. These events are organised by the Italian Trade Agency (ICE), under the patronage of the Italian Embassy. More information can be found at: www.festivalitalian.ro.
Is there a specific sector which makes you particularly proud of what Italians do in Romania?
Yes, I am very proud if I look at what the Italian NGOs have been doing in the social field since the ‘90s, helping Romania in areas such as the assistance to children in need, to people with disabilities, to elderly people etc.
Nowadays, in parallel with this activity, the Italian NGOs have the ambitious objective of promoting new standards of assistance in Romania, helping the Country to reach the EU level. With this in mind, many Romanian NGOS of Italian origins have decided to federate into a platform (called C.I.A.O.: Comitato Italiano delle Associazioni e Organizzazioni italiane in Romania). The Italian Embassy supports their actions and it has a role in trying to move to a new level of assistance, in which plays a crucial role the Corporate Social Responsibility. Of course, it could not be possible without the enthusiastic response of many Italian enterprises working in Romania.