Your Excellency, your term in Romania as Switzerland’s Ambassador has arrived to an end. How would you assess your time spent in Romania? What are your thoughts regarding your Romanian experience?
I took office in Bucharest in September 2011. It was another time, when notorious offenders had access to the highest levels of the State and the economy. I had the opportunity to meet remarkable people, but who didn’t always respect the basic ethic rules of politics or business. That world has disappeared: thanks to an efficient and merciless fight against corruption, Romania has become an example for many states for what has to be done and which results shall be achieved. Romania rightly devoted substantial human and financial resources to the fight against corruption. But we must remember Maslow’s assertion that “It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” The challenges of Romania are not limited to corruption, but also expend to the overdue reform of public administration, to administrative simplification, to the repatriation of all these talented Romanians who had to emigrate. I am convinced that the Romanian authorities will manage to also dedicate resources to achieve these goals and to adopt a culture of prevention and cooperation, and not only of repression.
What are your main achievements here? What could you tell us about the main accomplished projects you are very proud of?
I have no personal achievement to be proud of. I had the chance to have a brilliant Embassy team able to cope with all the challenges we had to face during these 5 years. One of the achievements of Switzerland with its Romanian partners was the implementation of the Swiss Romanian contribution programme. Thanks also to our reliable Romanian partners we were able to commit on time (December 2014) 100% of the 181 million Swiss francs of the Swiss contribution to Romania. After this first success, the most important is coming with the implementation of the projects. This is always quite a difficult operation, in particular with the new regulation on tenders. But I am convinced that we will manage to deal with it.
Romania has had in Switzerland one of the most reliable partners regarding the financing of lots of projects aimed at reducing economic and social disparities within the enlarged European Union through the Swiss-Romanian Contribution Programme. Could you provide us some examples of projects successfully financed by Switzerland?
Difficult question! You ask me to choose 2 or 3 projects out of the about 200 projects financed by Switzerland… First thing to underline is the fact that the Swiss electors voted in favour of these funds by a large majority almost ten years ago. In doing so, they signalized their approval for financial support aimed at reducing economic and social disparities in the enlarged EU. Apart from big investments in clean energy, in transports and health sector, I have a special personal affection with three of our projects: the financing of small and medium companies through the CEC Bank, able and willing to split these funds in very small loans all over Romania; the second one has been developed on a suggestion made by a Romanian policeman involved in our project of vicinity police: with the support of the Romanian Academy and the University of Cluj we created a program to teach the Roma language to the Romanian policemen in their school in Slatina; finally, the fight against human trafficking was a permanent preoccupation of Switzerland during my tenure.
What could you tell us about the current level of the Romanian-Swiss bilateral relations? In your opinion, what field of the bilateral relationship has registered the most prominent evolution during your mandate here: the political, economic or the cultural one?
Bilateral relations are excellent, in all the categories you mentioned. But I was on the whole very impressed by the cooperation at the level of the civil society of Romania and Switzerland, between citizen of Romania and of Switzerland. During these five years, I discovered constantly organisations active in all type of fields (culture, education, orphanages, fight against fire, organ restoration, support to elderly people, etc.). I met people who devoted their time, their own money, sometimes there life, in order to help and support friends in Romania. They all have my unconditional respect and admiration.
How do the Swiss investors see the opportunities offered by Romania?
Swiss investors active here are convinced by the huge development opportunities of Romania. They know all the advantages of this location and have also integrated its challenges, in particular the fact that the administration is complicated and that workforce is very scarce in many parts of Romania which suffer from emigration. The problem is rather attracting new investors who do not have Romania on their radar. In recent months, the Chamber of Commerce Switzerland – Romania organised two forums for investors, one in Zurich and one in Bucharest, in order to break the sometimes bad image affecting Romania. In this context, I strongly support any actions of the Romanian authorities in order to fight the bad (and unfair!) image of Romania abroad.
Ameropa’s investment in Targu Mures is not only one of the largest Swiss investment in Romania, but also one of the most advanced in terms of technologies as regards the protection of the environment and energy saving. What’s next in terms of Swiss investments and know how in non-polluting technologies?
Like other Swiss investors in Romania, big or SMEs, Ameropa works over the long term, which implies strict compliance with environmental and fair social partnership. In this context, my visits to Swiss companies active in Romania in cement, metal smelter or fertilizers have confirmed the willingness of these investors to aim for quality and precision, using not only high tech, which are by definition environmentally friendly, but also by an appropriate treatment of staff, through measures of training and career prospects.
In conclusion, what will you remember of your mandate in Romania?
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Romanian people for having given me five of the best years of my professional time.