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EXCLUSIVE: The Czech ambassador in Bucharest unveils ambitious plan….

… to visit all Romanian counties during his four-year mission. “There are 40 of them, so the plan is to go to 10 of these counties every year.”

 

Interview with H.E. Mr. Vladimír Války, the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Romania.

 

Your Excellency, what is the significance of October 28 for the Czech? How it is the national day celebrated?

The 28th of October is the national day which commemorates the birth of the first independent Czechoslovak Republic in 1918. After the split of Czechoslovakia it remained the national day of the Czech Republic, as the republic feels the remembrance of the state creation has to continue.

 

How do you assess the political and economic bilateral relations this year since you take office as ambassador? Were there any official bilateral visits worth mentioning during this time or are there any in the upcoming period?

The bilateral relations between Czechia and Romania are very intensive, both at the political level, but particularly on the economic and cultural levels. There are no open questions or problems in the political bilateral relations, and what is concerning the economic ties, trend is positive. For instance, we have more than 300 Czech companies investing in Romania.

Romania and the Czech Republic have constantly expressed interest for the continuation of the intensive dynamics of the bilateral political relations, expressed through high-level visits, further development of trade exchanges and exploitation of the existent investment potential in both countries.

The bilateral cooperation on international or regional area or on security issues has also very extensive level.

During this year, we had some visits from the Czech Republic to Romania and vice versa. For example last weekend the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies’ of the Czech Parliament Jan Hamacek visited Romania.

 

How the bilateral trade ties are standing at this point? What are the signals you have from Czech investors making business here? What advantages do they find on the local market and what are their complaints?

The bilateral economic relations are very intensive, without big problems. Of course, from time to time there are some small problems reported but they are usually solved quite quickly. Romania is a market place of 20 million inhabitants and can be considered a leading country in southeastern Europe, has access to the sea: Romania’s strategic location is also very important.

The fact that Romania is also a member of European Union and adapted its legislation to the EU laws makes it more attractive from the investment point of view. Moreover, Romania is eligible to receive approximately EUR 43 billion sectorial and cohesion funds, which also attracts investors, not only from UE, but also from the third countries.

As such, the Czech companies consider Romania very attractive for investments and this interest is not only just proclamation, but a real fact.

A lot of Czech companies have their offices based in Romania, which enables to access the market more easily and could provide a handier approach of the potential problems.

The largest Czech investment in Romania is in the energy field, represented by CEZ, but the interest is focused not only on energy but also on transport, environment, automotive and mining industries, constructions and on information and computer technology.

According to statistics the Czech Republic occupies 14th position among foreign investments in Romania.valky

 

The Czech Republic has a very prolific activity in terms of cultural events in Romania (promoted both by the Embassy and the Czech Center in Bucharest). What other cultural encounters do you have in store for the last months of this year?

Most of the cultural events are organized by the Czech Center in Bucharest. The embassy also hosted several such events this year, most of them dedicated to the 600th anniversary of Jan Hus death. We also patronized this year the first anniversary of the promulgation of the law for instituting the Czech Language Day in Romania on September 23. On September 28 we also celebrate Saint Vaclav name day, as a national holiday called Czech Statehood Day. It’s like Saint Patrick for the Irish, that’s Saint Vaclav for the Czech people.

Last week we opened a small exhibition at the Romania’s History Museum dedicated to the 100 anniversary of the Czech orientalist and linguist Bed?ich Hrozný, who deciphered the ancient Hittite language, identified it as an Indo-European language and laid the groundwork for the development of Hittology.

We prepare some events also for next year, not only cultural events, but also anniversary moments, such as the 120 anniversary of the opening of the first Skoda factory.

You know, during the past socialist regimes, our countries were very closed, with the populations knowing their countries very well, this interest however came to a standstill after the revolutions, but now an improvement of this relation can be seen, as the new generations from both countries are now rediscovering the two countries’ potential.

 

Europe has many challenges ahead once with the immigrants crisis. The Czech Republic was one of the countries, next to Romania, that initially opposed the mandatory migrant quotas. How it stands now on this topic? Is Europe ready to integrate the immigrants, particularly that many of them are economic immigrants and not simply war refugees?

We don’t agree to the so-called old EU countries saying that the Czech Republic or Slovakia or Romania don’t want to take refugees. We want to help refugees and receive them, but we only want a fair distribution of them. Moreover, a large number of so-called refugees are in fact economic immigrants and almost all of them want to go to Germany or Nordic countries. This is significant message for the EU countries that we must solve the refugees’ issue especially in their countries of origin. For example, the Czech Republic holds refugees not only from Syria and Afghanistan but also from Ukraine and the EU is not dealing with the problem of refugees from Ukraine. We are already prepared to receive families from Ukraine.

In the Czech Republic there are five centers ready to shelter refugees, half of them located in the south part of the country, close to the borders with Slovakia and Austria, and the others near the border with Germany.

This issue has a long-term solution, because it’s not an exclusive issue of the European countries, but of the whole world community.

 

Have you managed to travel across Romania since you took office, meeting local authorities? What was the feedback of your visits in various Romanian cities and what are the prospects of future partnerships between our countries and in what fields?

My plan is to visit all Romanian counties during my four-year mission; there are 40 of them, so the plan is to go to 10 of these counties every year. I cannot say if I will succeed, but I will do everything to achieve this target.

I visited Timis and Bihor counties, then Sibiu and Valcea, Prahova county few times, with the main purpose of these visits being not only to meet local authorities but mainly to get to know the local businessmen based there, or the business organizations, such as the local chambers of industry and commerce. We also want to meet people who are engaged in the field of culture and arts, as we aim to organize cultural events not only in the capital of Bucharest but also in other cities. These cultural events thus become open gates for the next business opportunities.

For example, we plan a business event with the chamber of commerce in Prahova and another one intended in Cluj Napoca. We also organize events for the young generation, for students.

 

I know there are still Czech communities in Romania. How many Czech representatives does the minority community comprise in our country and what are their preserved customs, if any?

The Czech minority in Romania is not a modern one, it’s the historical minority, settled here more than 200 years ago. According to the latest statistics, after the Romanian Revolution, a lot of the Czech residing in Romania moved back to Czechia. The current number of the existing community is about 3,000 members, mainly based in Banat.

 

What do you like most about Romania and would be the bad things about it (meaning what we have to still work on, to get things better? Some point to poor transport infrastructure, bureaucracy, corruption, etc)

Romania is a country with very nice nature, mountains, the sea, the Danube Delta, there are many travel opportunities for tourists, and, as I’ve already mentioned, the young generation is starting to rediscover Romania, with many young Czech people to come to Romania to discover many parts of the country, including the castles, the nice valleys and mountains and the nature sites; not only the sea shore, which was particularly attractive for the Czech visitors back in the communist times. Whenever I have some spare time, especially during the weekends, I try to visit as many sights as possible.

The last time I was in Romania before taking office as an ambassador was long ago, about 30 years ago. When I came back now, it was like returning to completely different country. Bucharest itself changed a lot, going through positive changes, but also other larger cities and villages changed their appearance.

As far as negative aspects are concerned, for instance the transport infrastructure is not in optimal condition, but it is not the typical negative thing in Romania, as the country territory is very large. It is very important not only to build highways, but also railway infrastructure, private operators should be allowed to invest, as that will trigger competition and high-quality services and good prices.

As for corruption, it isn’t only in Romania, it exists also in the Czech Republic and in the most developed countries. It’s also a matter of acceptance of a certain level of corruption. For example, a study conducted in Czechia revealed interesting information that Czech citizens are able to accept corruption at the level of local authorities. Yet, Romania did a lot in fighting corruption, there are always things that need to be improved, but overall there are efficient results in this fight.

 

However, there are still countries like The Netherlands, France, Finland to name a few that link the still existing corruption and problems of the rule of law in Romania to its Schengen bid….

The problem is that in former communist countries the revolution, that toppled this regime, was 25 years ago. In The Netherlands they had a revolution 400 years ago, and during the first 300 years maybe they did a part of what these countries could possibly do in 25 years. And this is my message to these countries: <Look what these former communist countries did in 25 years. You must see and know there is a large amount of problems solved during this time>.

About Alina Grigoras Butu