Michael Schwarzinger, Austria’s Ambassador to Romania, discusses relations between the two countries.
European Times: How would you describe Austria-Romania relations?
Michael Schwarzinger: At the political level, the two countries cooperate in international organisations and have had many high-level exchanges. For example Austria and Romania are working together with other countries in the Danube Basin initiative, which includes around 400 EU-funded projects. At the economic level, Romania has attracted significant FDI from Austria, for example in agriculture, wine-making, forestry, oil and gas, banking and insurance, retail sales, and industry, particularly the automotive industry. Austria’s two most important foreign investments to date were in Romania. They were Austrian OMV’s acquisition of a 51% share of Petrom and Erste Bank’s 100% acquisition of Romanian Commercial Bank (BCR). These two investments totalled several billion euros. Austria and Romania are both middle-sized members of the EU with an extremely strong interconnection and interdependence. Our two economies are closely linked so we need to collaborate.
European Times: How are Austria’s relations with Romania affecting the country’s accession to Schengen and the OECD?
Michael Schwarzinger: I think Romania deserves to be part of the OECD, and I think we are near the end of a long process to make Schengen completely operative for Romania.
European Times: Why should international investors target Romania?
Michael Schwarzinger: Romania is a very good country for foreign investors. Romania offers investment opportunities in many sectors, including agriculture, wineries and renewable energies. There is a broad acceptance in Romania for Greenfield investments which create new jobs. Austrian companies have created more than 100,000 jobs in Romania to date, and these are generally good jobs with higher-than-average pay as well as security. As for the privatisation of state assets, this is an issue which must be decided in Romania but we have already seen the benefits privatisation can bring to the Romanian economy. FDI has boosted Romanian exports, and foreign investors in Romania are committed to corporate social responsibility.
European Times: What is your personal message to potential investors around the world?
Michael Schwarzinger: Romania is a fascinating country with enormous potential for growth. In addition to the other advantages I have mentioned, Romania has a strategic location linking Central Europe with the Black Sea region and it is the gateway to the Balkans for investors. Romania is a strong member of the EU and Austria is happy to enjoy good relations with this country.