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January 18, 2022

Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, H.E. Ms. Stella Ronner-Grubačić: “The Dutch-Romanian combination is a very strong one, ready to compete on the global market”

You have started your mission as Ambassador in Romania last fall. How would you assess your “Romanian” experience so far?


Both professionally and personally I had a very good start. Bucharest is a city in which it has been easy to adjust, especially since my family and I spent quite a big part of my diplomatic career in this part of Europe. Professionally, there have already been many highlights but to name a few: meeting your President and Prime Minister, engaging with CEO’s of some of the biggest Dutch companies present, preparing for the Netherlands EU Presidency and shortly after my arrival I welcomed the Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs.  One very difficult moment however in those first months of my mandate, was the tragedy of the fire in nightclub Colectiv at the end of October. Dramatic for the victims, dramatic for the relatives and dramatic for the impact it had on all of Romanian society. I can just be grateful that my Embassy has managed, in cooperation with the Romanian authorities, to transfer 6 burn patients to the Netherlands, thereby making a contribution that was in some ways small, but significant for the people it concerned.


What are your main priorities as the Dutch Ambassador in Romania?


Overall, my objective is to strengthen our bilateral relations and to make sure that there is a stronger sense of ‘partnership’ between our two countries. Ever since I arrived, I have the impression that the basis for our bilateral relations could be broadened. We need to explore further possibilities for cooperation in other areas besides the ones we have been active in so far.  I like to use the image of a painter, who has on his pallet a certain number of colors, enough to make a very decent painting. But by adding some colors, and mixing them, a true masterpiece will come out. We need to show all the colors of the Netherlands and Romania, that is my priority. We are strong in the business sense of the word, and we also have a let me say, quite ‘outspoken’ political profile. But the Netherlands is also a country of innovation, of creative industry and animated video games, of modern city planning and architecture, as well as of DJs and dance festivals. I’d like to show this face of Holland a bit more.


Since your arrival to Bucharest you have been very active in meeting Gov’t and local officials in different counties of Romania, in organizing and hosting conferences, seminars, in promoting your country’s interests here in all fields. What is your “soul project” achieved and implemented so far ?


There are many! Ranging from big to small. But one that comes to my mind right now is a recent event, namely a ‘smart mobility’ consultation that we organized in the Pipera business district which is where the Embassy is located. We decided to gather all our neighbors, meaning companies and organizations, as well as the local authorities to discuss the challenges of going to and coming from our work in this part of town. So we discussed issues like how can we improve mobility, how can it be made smarter, more efficient, more future oriented and sustainable? Improved public transport, for instance. And do we foresee an increased role for the bicycle that has become so popular in many cities in Europe, including of course in the Netherlands? All in all: how can we go about mobility in a smarter way? The way we addressed this was very Dutch, namely we gathered together different people who are involved in this issue, from both public and private sector and NGO’s, to see if we can come up with shared ideas, and suggestions that can be realized. All the stake-holders were involved. So the event was on the one hand an issue that is very close to our everyday life, namely the neighborhood we work in, but related to a much bigger theme, namely making our society sustainable. At the same time, this was a very ‘Dutch’ thing to do, for which we even invented a word in Dutch, namely ‘polderen’. That refers to the flat landscape of our polders and it essentially means that by discussing something thoroughly and looking at it from all the different angles, and with different stakeholders, you take away the sharp edges or the obstacles to a solution.


This is the first time when you’ll be  celebrating the King’s Day in Romania  and you’ll be hosting the reception for this event. What is your main message on this occasion for the Dutch community living here


I strongly believe that we can achieve so much more if we really work together. Just this week, I visited several Dutch companies in Galati and surroundings that are active in shipbuilding and maritime technology. I was struck by what these Dutch companies realize with Romanian engineers; it turns out the Dutch-Romanian combination is a very strong one, ready to compete on the global market. It seems we are complementary. I wish very much that my Embassy can contribute to strengthening our awareness of this, thereby helping Dutch people who work and live here in Romania. I should add that I also want people to perceive this Embassy as easily accessible, engaged in all the relevant areas of interest and with a relevant network that we like to put to use also for others. My team and I are really putting a lot of effort in this, being everywhere, knowing what is going on, providing assistance and opening doors.


Romania’s Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos paid an official visit to The Hague a few weeks ago that has stressed the climate of trust at political-diplomatic level between the two countries. What is the follow up of this visit, what’s next on the bilateral agenda?


The follow-up and the next steps have already occurred. Very soon after the meeting of PM Ciolos with his Dutch counterpart Mr. Mark Rutte, we had a visit of the Director-General of Political Affairs of the Foreign Ministry. The purpose of that visit was to exchange ideas about geostrategic and security questions. So, the two Directors-General discussed the migration crisis, the importance of the agreement with Turkey, relations with Russia, but also the situation in countries along the Eastern flank of the EU, such as Moldova and Ukraine. The discussions also serve as input to the EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy, that that will hopefully be adopted during our EU presidency.


Your main attributions regarding the development of bilateral relations and the promotion of The Netherlands’ interests here are, in this first half of the year, doubled by the responsibilities deriving from holding by your country of the Presidency of the EU. How do you work with the Romanian authorities and with the Ambassadors of other EU countries accredited here,  in coordinating efforts to face the main challenges  on the European agenda?


It is true: the EU presidency is on the one hand an additional responsibility but it is also a great opportunity for me. It has stimulated me to define with my Embassy staff very clear priorities, and to engage in intense discussions with not only Romanian government officials, but also members of Parliament, representatives of important institutions of the state and of civil society as well as, indeed, my colleagues from other Embassies, especially those of the EU. To illustrate what I am saying: I am organizing every month a so called EU HoMs (Head of Mission) lunch where I invite a high-ranking Romanian government representative and we discuss developments that are important for our Romanian guest and for the EU agenda. This month, Minister of Finance, Mrs. Dragu accepted my invitation and before her we had lunch with your Prime Minister and also the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Comanescu. I am very grateful for the preparedness from the Romanian side to engage in a very open and thorough dialogue with us. Deepening our European integration is done essentially by means of exchanging information and taking a large number of smaller and bigger steps: this is also very much the work of an Embassy.


The Dutch semester of the EU has been a very challenging one, with very pressing issues and dossiers on the table: Brexit, migration, fight against terrorism. How would you assess the progress achieved so far in these crucial issues for the European agenda?


You know: there are a couple of key ideas that guide us in this Presidency: one is that the Dutch have a very firm believe that the solution for all the problems you just mentioned can only be European. Not one country can deal with the fight against terrorism or the migration crisis by itself. We must stand together, even though our Union is heavily tested by the actual developments. But if one looks at where we stand now in the migration crisis, our very intense joint efforts seem to have brought down the numbers of migrants illegally coming to Europe. The approach that we have been taking, and this is the second key characteristic, is that we consider ourselves an ‘honest broker’: we look at the different positions, we gather all the necessary information from the 27 other EU capitals and we propose a solution. What helps us there, in my view, is that we are also a very pragmatic people, which is another characteristic of how we go about our Presidency.


Although they already top the rankings of foreign investors in Romania (holding over 23 per cent of the total foreign capital invested in the country since 1990), Dutch companies and officials are interested in more and more business and investment opportunities. What is, in your opinion, the explanation of this increased interest of the Dutch investors in expanding their presence in Romania?


Just last week, I hosted in my residence a delegation from a large Dutch multinational, an icon of the Dutch business sector, who is considering to increase their existing operations in Romania and to actually make Romania the ‘hub’ for their activities in the South East European region. Romania is the country with one of the fastest growing economies in the EU and it has a very attractive cost structure.  If you combine this with promising developments in the agricultural sector, this country holds a wide variety of economic opportunities. In addition, as I mentioned to you already, Romania has a lot of talent, mathematicians, engineers but also IT specialists, who also speak their languages Dutch companies are constantly on the lookout for interesting business opportunities so it is only logical that they are eager to expand their business here.

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