The more than 900‑year history of the German minority in Romania and their role in democratic change was an important theme of Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s visit to Romania’s capital Bucharest and to Transylvania (9 March):
Here, a peaceful and fruitful balance between identity and nationality has been achieved in a form we would really also like to see in other parts of Europe – when we think of eastern Ukraine, for example.
Speaking in Bucharest, Steinmeier said that the quality of the relations between two states was determined not only by politicians but also by their people “moving towards one other”.
First stop: Bucharest
Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s first meeting in Bucharest on Monday was with President Johannis. He belongs to the German minority, which has long been well integrated into Romanian society, and was formerly Mayor of Sibiu.
The atmosphere of the talks was very positive. Johannis has been President since December 2014 and before that was the Chairman of the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania (DFDR), which played a key role in Romania’s reform process.
After the talks Steinmeier also met Prime Minister Ponta and Foreign Minister Aurescu. In a subsequent press conference with the two Foreign Ministers, Steinmeier emphasised that German‑Romanian relations in recent years had “made huge progress” and expressed “great respect” for what Romania had achieved over the past years. Referring to a recent representative survey, Steinmeier said that the approximately 350,000 Romanians in Germany were among the best‑integrated foreigners in the labour market.
The German Foreign Minister also encouraged the Romanian Government to continue along its path towards political reform with regard to deficits remaining in the realm of legal certainty and transparency. He declared that work would continue on the goal of accession to the Schengen Agreement.
The conflict in Ukraine was also a subject of the talks in Bucharest. With regard to the new Minsk agreement, which is around one month old, Steinmeier said that “a clear start” had now been made. “Violence has decreased significantly.” Steinmeier referred to the extension of the OSCE’s powers as “a crucial development”, but warned that the conflict would continue to dominate politics for some time.
Germany is number one trading partner
Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s visit provided an opportunity to discuss business relations as well as for political talks. Germany is Romania’s number one trading partner, and transactions with the Federal Republic make up one fifth of the country’s foreign trade. German enterprises are some of the largest investors and employers in Romania. Speaking in Bucharest, Steinmeier stressed, “German investors value Romania.”
One example is Deutsche‑Bahn‑Schenker AG. Together with Board Chairman Rüdiger Grube, Foreign Minister Steinmeier opened the Global Account Shared Service Center in Bucharest. The accounts for all European DB locations outside Germany will thus be centralised in Bucharest. Deutsche Bahn is active in 35 countries outside Germany. By 2018 the workforce of the new DB Global Account Shared Service Center in Bucharest is to be increased to 600. Steinmeier said that this “major service dimension” was building on the success story of German‑Romanian business relations and reinforcing “Germany’s role as Romania’s most important business partner”.
Visiting the German minority in Transylvania
In the afternoon Foreign Minister Steinmeier travelled to Sibiu, Transylvania, where his first task was to join President Johannis in opening the exhibition on “the German minority in Romania – past and present” in the Brukenthal Museum, where many people had gathered.
Afterwards Steinmeier was made an honorary citizen of the city during a ceremony in Sibiu city hall. The German Foreign Minister shared his memories of New Year 2006/2007, which he celebrated in Sibiu, when Romania joined the European Union and Sibiu became a European Capital of Culture.
In the evening the German Foreign Minister participated in celebrations marking 25 years of the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania. In his address he spoke of the outstanding importance of integrating minorities: “Minorities are a boon to the majority.” Click here to read the entire speech.
The evening concluded with a dinner with members of the German‑Romanian Parliamentary Friendship Group and German business representatives.
Next stop: Sofia
On Tuesday morning Steinmeier travelled on to the Bulgarian capital Sofia, where he first held talks with his opposite number Daniel Mitov before seeing Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. After meeting representatives of Bulgarian civil society, the German Foreign Minister will conclude his visit with talks with President Rosen Plevneliev. Steinmeier is due to return to Berlin on Tuesday evening.