Edition 29 November 2019, by Nanda Jagusiak-Monteiro
Nanda Jagusiak-Monteiro interviews the Ambassador of Romania, H.E. Mrs. Brândusa Predescu Former positions of Mrs Predescu include Director of the Council of Europe and Human Rights Department; Secretary of State; Head of the National Agency for Child Protection and Adoption; Director for North America; Deputy Head of Mission in Berlin; Director of the OSCE Department; Consul-General for Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg; National Coordinator for the EU Strategy for the Danube Region; Spokesperson of the Director-General for Communication and Press Affairs; and Special Representative of the Romanian Chairmanship-in-Office of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, based in Istanbul.
You presented your credentials as Ambassador to the Netherlands on August 24, 2016. What is your impression of the Netherlands and the Dutch people?
I started to be interested in the Netherlands well before being appointed as Ambassador, more precisely during my course at the University of Bucharest. Living here has been and continues to be a truly fascinating and enriching experience, starting with the presentation of the letters of credence to His Majesty the King. I love the typical Dutch cities with their quiet streets and romantic canals and the green freshness of the countryside. What I like most about Dutch people is their sense for practical decision, for discipline, their genuineness and the emphasis on education and innovation.
How would you characterize the current bilateral relations between the Netherlands and Romania and from when dates this relationship?
The official recognition of Romania’s independence on January 24, 1880 opened the way to the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. On February 13, 1880, King Willem III of the Netherlands wrote to King Carol I of Romania: “I kindly ask His Royal Highness to be convinced that I am equally animated by the desire to develop and strengthen the relationships of friendship and understanding that happily exist between our countries”. Romania and the Netherlands have developed a dynamic and multifaceted relation. The two countries enjoy a pragmatic, strong relationship, underpinned by an efficient economic cooperation. I see a frank interest to further intensify the bilateral political dialogue and expand ties, particularly in the field of trade, investments and defence cooperation, among others. This common aim was confirmed by the recent visits of the Dutch Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs to Bucharest. Of course, there is room for further developing our cooperation. I truly believe that the coming Romanian Presidency of the EU Council will serve as a good platform to pursue goals at bilateral level.
Is it true that the Netherlands is the biggest foreign investor in Romania?
Indeed, the Netherlands is the biggest foreign investor in Romania, with more than 9.25 billion euros of Dutch capital invested in 5.220 companies. Among the main Dutch investors are Unilever, ING Group, Philips, Damen Shipyards, Friesland Campina, Heineken, Nutricia, KPMG, Nuon, Wavin, Fokker, Den Braven, Frans Maas, ISDC, DAF Trucks (through E. van Wijk), Wim Bosman Holding and KLG Europe. Business areas with high potential for bilateral cooperation are energy and environment, infrastructure development, industrial subcontracting, agriculture, tourism, information technology and telecommunications. In 2017, the trade exchanges surpassed the value of 4 billion euro. By the end of June 2018, the bilateral exchange of goods amounted to 2287.66 million euro, an increase of 6.54% compared with the same period in 2017.
How did you celebrate the ten years of Romanian EU membership and how does your country benefit from this membership?
We were happy to celebrate ten years of EU membership in the same place where my country celebrated its accession to the EU, at the Europalaan in The Hague. It was an honour and a privilege to have the Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs as our main guest. For Romania, the integration in the EU represented one of the most important achievements of Romanian diplomacy, turning into reality one of the Romanians’ strongest desires, and giving recognition of our membership of the great European family. It also meant the achievement of the greatest national objective over the previous 29 years, along with the accession to NATO. Today’s Romania is significantly different from Romania prior to the integration. The standard of living has overall dramatically changed for the better and our economy is consistently displaying one of the highest growth rates within the EU (7% growth in 2017). Likewise, our incorporation within Europe’s institutions is an important advantage for my country’s international profile. With a clear pro-European stance shared by politicians and citizens, Romania is today a predictable and coherent pro-European partner, a promoter of unity, solidarity and cohesion across the Union, capable of actively participating in enhancing and boosting the European project. EU membership benefitted my country and all Romanians in so many ways that a future without the EU would be, for us, inconceivable.
Romania will soon hold the presidency of the EU Council and is currently holding the presidency of the Strategy for the Danube Region. Can you elaborate on these presidencies?
Romania is indeed preparing to take up its first EU Presidency on January 1, 2019. The focus will be to ensure a sustainable and equitable growth for all Member States through more convergence, more cohesion and an increased focus on innovation, digital economy and connectivity. Consolidating the EU’s neighbourhood, a secure Europe, a stronger global role of the EU and promoting Europe’s common values will be at the forefront of our efforts. Another important responsibility for Romania, as of November 1, 2018 for the duration of one year, is the Presidency of the Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR). The main objective is to relaunch the Strategy and to increase its visibility. Romania will focus on improving connectivity and mobility while engaging all stakeholders in the Danube region and the European Commission.
What can you tell me about the historical link between The Hague and Bucharest through the Romanian diplomat Constantin Karadja (1889-1950)? The Romanian diplomat Constantin Karadja was born in The Hague. After his marriage with a Romanian Princess, he settled in Bucharest. Thanks to his extraordinary commitment, more than 51.000 Jews could be saved from deportation to Auschwitz. In 2005, Constantin Karadja was posthumously awarded the title “Righteous among the nations” for risking his life during the Holocaust to save persecuted Jews.
This year, Dutch and Romanian personalities have been awarded high decorations of the Romanian state. Can you elaborate on this?
In 2018, under the auspices of the celebration of the Romanian Centennial, my country paid its gratitude to several personalities who contributed to the consolidation of Romanian- Dutch relations. As a token of appreciation, the President of Romania awarded them with high decorations. To name just a few: former Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, former minister of Defense Wim van Eekelen, the Honorary Consul General of Romania Ben Jager and the founder of The New Romanian Chamber Orchestra and Choir, Raymond Janssen.
What can you tell the readers about the Romanian community in The Netherlands?
The Romanian community living in The Netherlands is not a large one (CBS – 30.000 people) but very well integrated. Romanians’ contribution, as excellent professionals, in the Dutch companies (ING, Shell, Philips, Unilever, Heineken), in universities, research and science centres, in hospitals, agriculture and constructions, in international and European organisations (OPCW, ICC, EPO, Europol, Eurojust, NATO C3 Agency, ESTEC) testify both for their high degree of integration and the appreciation they enjoy in the Dutch society.
Romania is known for its natural beauty. What highlights can you recommend to our readers?
Unique places are waiting for your readers who will visit my country! They will enjoy the experience of a lifetime by visiting the historical and natural monuments on the UNESCO heritage list, such as the Danube Delta, the churches in Bucovina, the fortified churches in Transylvania, Peleş Castle – the first European castle entirely lit by electrical current -, the Astra Village Museum in Sibiu, the second-largest outdoor museum in the world, and many more. To say nothing about the food! In other words, you are more than welcome to Romania!