Ambassador Ion Jinga’s interview with European Times on Wed, Oct 30th, 2013:
European Times: You have won awards for your diplomatic service from the leaders of Romania, France and Belgium and you were named “Ambassador of the Year” in London in 2012. Can you tell us about your career?
Ion Jinga: I was a member of the team which negotiated EU accession for Romania and was also a member of the Romanian delegation to the Convention on the Future of Europe, where a treaty was drafted which later became the Lisbon Treaty. The highlight of my career, however, is my 11-year service as Romania’s Ambassador to Brussels and the UK. I have been witness to events that will go down in history, including the revival of the Romanian-British Strategic Partnership.
European Times: What are your current priorities as ambassador?
Ion Jinga: When I came to London in 2008 I established four priorities for the Romanian embassy: to bring new dynamism to the Strategic Partnership between Romania and the UK; to boost bilateral economic cooperation; to promote Romania’s image in the UK; and to protect the interests of the Romanian community living in the UK. After six years, I am proud to quote the British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who said that bilateral relations between Romania and the UK have never been better. Our strategic partnership includes intensive political dialogue and excellent cooperation in areas such as defense and security, economics and trade, justice and home affairs, social affairs and culture. Economic cooperation between the two countries has seen spectacular developments in recent years, marked in 2012 by a record level of bilateral trade in which Romania came out ahead by about €400 million. The promotion of Romania’s image in the UK is done through cultural, economic and social events organized by our Embassy, as well as by the public statements, interviews and articles I published in the British media – only in 2013 it was more than a hundred. I have traveled all over the UK to meet Romanian communities in order to know and understand their problems, to help and reassure them of the permanent support provided by the Romanian authorities.
European Times: What is your position on liberalising the labour market for Romanian citizens?
Ion Jinga: Alarmist media have provoked unreasonable fears about the lifting of restrictions on the labour market starting in January 2014. From that moment, Romanians living in the UK will have the same status as other EU citizens, including British citizens living in Romania. The vast majority of Romanian workers play a positive role in the economies of destination countries as they are working in fields which lack sufficient manpower. In the UK, Romanians are mainly employed in the healthcare, research, financial-services, construction and public-services sectors. Removal of restrictions will significantly reduce cases of labour exploitation.
European Times: What is your strategy for improving the image of Romania and Romanian nationals in the UK?
Ion Jinga: Promoting an accurate image of Romania in the UK is a priority for me. My strategy for promoting Romania’s image is to be credible in what we do and say. Credibility is the most important asset of a diplomat. It is important to be a good communicator and to have access to those circles where perceptions are formed and messages are sent to the public. One cannot get everyone’s agreement on everything, but one can make others respect one’s opinions. We can build partnerships and identify and maximise Romanian-British common interests.
European Times: What makes Romania attractive for UK investors?
Ion Jinga: Romania is one of the most high-potential markets in Central and Eastern Europe. On average, 15 companies with British capital are registered in our country each month, and Romania now has a total of around 4,800 UK companies. Sectors of particular interest for British investors are petrochemicals and oil extraction, green energy, ICT, light industry, agriculture and food processing. British and other foreign investment in Romania will certainly increase in the near future because Romania offers economic growth, European funds and many business opportunities.
European Times: What are the challenges that a European investor should expect when starting a business in Romania?
Ion Jinga: After the economic crisis that affected the entire continent, macro-economic stabilisation measures taken by Romania are starting to pay off. The “Ernst & Young European Investment Monitor 2013” ranks Romania tenth in the number of jobs created due to FDI and fourth in attractiveness for foreign investment among all Central and Eastern European states. This means that investors find in Romania the right conditions for business success.
European Times: What is your personal message to our readers?
Ion Jinga: In its history, traditions, culture and geography, Romania has always belonged to European civilization. Between the two world wars, Romania was a regional power, the national currency was convertible and was backed by gold, and the Romanian elite were educated in London, Paris and Berlin. Without the 42 years of communism, Romania would likely be as developed today as the UK, France or Germany. When it joined the EU, Romania did not return to Europe but rather was rediscovered by Europe. I strongly believe in an exceptional future for Romania and I am proud to serve the interests of my homeland as a diplomat.