The Guest Blog

For the development of Romania’s capacity to participate in the European debate and to influence policy at EU level it is necessary to associate itself with similar countries in terms of interest on certain sectors.

In this regard the Latin connection should be exploited, in particular the relation with Italy, one of the founders of the European Union. I’ve observed, after a visit to Rome in the spring of 2011 that many companies, even multinational businesses, complained about the Italian environment – that it is difficult to understand and especially hard to predict. Involvement in European affairs, left to the experts, has been abandoned on the Peninsula. The hundreds of employees affected by the European phenomenon are attempting to understand the importance of the Community mechanism and its implications for Italy, but Italy did not feel the intensity of the European debate.

A year later, however, Monti took the seat of Prime Minister, luckily for many Italians as “Italy started to play a role again at Community level”. The new Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has restored safety to the lives of citizens.

After the recent elections, Enrico Letta, the new head of the Italian Government, wants to introduce drastic reduction measures and to give support to the citizens in creating a “Europe that would help, providing welfare and development opportunities.”

But let’s return to the relations between Italy and Romania. Firstly, Italy is the “foster home” for over a million Romanian immigrants, almost a quarter of all the country’s minorities.

In the words of former Secretary of State for European Affairs, Luminita Odobescu it is good that the bilateral relations between the two countries “are better” with concern for “increased presence of Italian investors in the Romanian economy, with a focus on energy, infrastructure and agriculture”.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania, Romanian-Italian relations are conducted through the Enhanced Strategic Partnership signed in 2008. “The presence of a huge Romanian community in Italy and a big Italian business community in Romania provides a socio-economic dimension of this relationship which is extremely important. Also bilateral political relations are characterized by frequent and varied contacts.”

“Italy is ranked in the top two commercial partners of Romania, accounting for 12.18% of the total foreign trade of our country.”

From a cultural standpoint, there is the “Accademia di Romania in Rome and Venice, and the Romanian Institute for Culture and Humanistic Research. In addition to the six existing Italian studies in Romania – Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Constanta, Craiova, Iasi, Timisoara and the 6 Romanian study centres in Italy – Padua, Milan, Pisa, Rome, Turin, Cosenza -, Italian is also taught at Oradea, Suceava and other centers and Romanian at Reggio Calabria, Catania, Florence, Milan, Naples, Pisa, Turin and Udine. In Romania there are 4 high schools with bilingual Romanian – Italian (“Dante Alighieri” and “Ion Neculce” in Bucharest, “George Bari?iu” in Cluj Napoca and School Group “Transylvania” in Deva). “In Italy there are 73 Romanian associations which include many churches belonging to religious denominations.”

“For many years there are teaching projects for Romanian language, culture and civilization in Italian schools. In the school year 2012-2013, this project was extended. 215 teachers were allocated to groups of students in 153 schools in nine regions of Italy (Piedmont, Veneto, Lazio, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Umbria, Lombardy, Puglia, Tuscany, and Sicily)”.

According to data released by the embassies of the two countries, trade between the two countries reached a record in 2011. The volume of import in the areas of gastronomy, textile, agricultural products and machinery and steel products demonstrated the importance of cooperation and diplomatic “efforts of network production in both countries in a period where there is continued European economic crisis”, highlighted the Italian embassy.

European business experts expect a repositioning of Italy in the European Union, and the Italian EU Presidency in the second half of 2014 is a good time to put influential Italy on the European map. Italy, the third largest economic power in the Eurozone and one of the states supporting integration plays a role in determining the future of the EU, as the ambassador recently highlighted on the Peninsula.

Dan LUCA / Brussels

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