FRANCE'S NATIONAL CELEBRATION/ H.E. MICHÈLE RAMIS, FRENCH AMBASSADOR IN BUCHAREST:"It is the first time when France is organizing a cross season with a EU member"

Recorded by EMILIA OLESCU (translated by Cosmin Ghidovean)
English Section /

"It is the first time when France is organizing a cross season with a EU member"

There is one word which describes the nature of Romanian-French economic relations and that is "quality", said His Excellency Michèle Ramis, the French Ambassador in Bucharest. "I fully appreciate the quality of the partnerships, projects and products originating from the French-Romanian collaborations and at the same time, I conclude that these partnerships are successful in creating French-Romanian projects and products with added value, capable of changing the game in the market"

Reporter: How would you describe the economic and diplomatic relations between Romania and France?

Michèle Ramis: I cannot talk about the current relations between France and Romania, without speaking about the France-Romania season, which has meant, first of all, a renewal of the image of the two countries, in every sector, including in the economic sector. This season has been inaugurated in Paris at the end of November, a few days prior to Romania celebrating the anniversary of 100 years since its unification, through an economic seminar, at the Ministry of Finance, inaugurated by the Romanian Finance Minister, Eugen Teodorovici. Also, prior to the official closing of the season, on June 19th, took place the Romanian French Economic Forum - the stories that change the game, which has been inaugurated by the Romanian Prime-Minister, Mrs. Viorica Dăncilă. That event underlined the quality of the economic relations established between the Romanian and French companies and the numerous joint projects in various sectors, from the automotive industry to professional training and artificial intelligence.

I've said it then and I am pleased to say it again: there is a word that characterizes in particular the nature of relations between France and Romania: the word is quality.

I fully appreciate the quality of the partnerships, projects and products originating rrom the French-Romanian partnerships and at the same time I think that these partnerships are successful in creating Romanian-French projects and products capable of changing the game in the market.

So, as I was saying, this Season is truly multicultural, multidisciplinary and has approached matters in the areas of sports, economics or science. The goal of this series of events has been to support our mutual economic interests. The diplomatic relations have also seen a new boost, under the sign of the France-Romania Season, because this has meant a tight cooperation between the political cultural and economic world, in service of the relationship between Romania and France. Also, president Macron has been present in the summit of Sibiu and France believes in what president Iohannis has called the Spirit of Sibiu. It is important to have a shared vision on the future of Europe and to find our balance in the values we share. Also, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Romanian presidency of the Council of the European Union, which has emphasized this spirit of cohesion.

Reporter: What is the current amount of the bilateral trade between France and Romania? In whose favor do the scales tip and what are the main areas of collaboration?

Michèle Ramis: At this time, France is the fifth largest foreign investor in Romania, with 4.4 billion Euros. We have 2,300 French companies operating in Romania, and our trade relations amount to 8.5 billion Euros and are continually growing. 7% of Romania's imports come from the French market and 5.1% of the Romanian exports go to France. French companies are present in every sector on the Romanian market, but I would say that the main areas are automotive, banking, insurance, retail, pharma, energy distribution and telecom.

There are other French companies as well that want to enter the Romanian market. I would say that currently, there is a rising interest in areas such as the defense industry, naval constructions and airport management.

Reporter: What are the difficulties which French companies are encountering in Romania?

Michèle Ramis: First of all, I would like to emphasize that Romania is a very attractive country for French investors, for many reasons. I am referring here to the quality of the workforce, the Romanians' skill of learning foreign languages, Romania's geographic position, the membership in the European Union and safety. Unlike other European countries, Romania is a very safe country. Francophony is also an advantage that Romania has. It is the only francophone country in the region and that is a very important advantage. Knowledge of French, aside from English, can only be beneficial in the labor market. Of course, there are aspects that could be improved. One weak point is represented by the lack of highways and that is an aspect that is not mentioned just by French companies. The changes that appear in the fiscal or social legislation would be another weak point that affects the companies, because that induces a lack of predictability.

Reporter: What is your opinion on the Romanian business sector and what is your opinion on the laws that apply to the business sector?

Michèle Ramis: As I was saying previously, in order to grow, companies need predictability and stability. As you well know, the measures which have introduced additional taxes in key areas without the consultation of the concerned sectors and without impact assessments, in which there are numerous foreign investments - for instance t he banking system, telecom or energy - have led to reactions from the business sector, as well as from the international institutions. The situation has subsequently been rectified, which proves that the government is open to communication. Still, for a long term development, stability is needed.

Reporter: In the eyes of French investors has the perception of the country been affected by what is happening on a political level?

Michèle Ramis: Obviously, the decisions made on a political level have consequences on the economy and on investors. The interest expressed by the Government in foreign investments is welcome and sends positive signals to the French business community.

Reporter: What are the main areas of collaboration between our countries?

Michèle Ramis: Over time, we have collaborated, together with our Romanian partners, in many areas - culture, economics, agriculture, industry, education and university cooperation, science, professional training or judicial and police cooperation. The collaborations we've had with Romania have most often been a real success.

I would remind here the actions organized by the two countries to promote equality between men and women, as well as those that have the goal of combating violence on women, and domestic violence. Recently, France has expressed its support for the protest initiated by Funky Citizens, "Girls that change the world", a project of civic education whose goal is to follow their dream, without taking into account the stereotypes in our society.

The collaborations between the two countries have also stood out through the economic and cultural collaboration. We will talk later about these collaborations.

Reporter: This year, aside from the celebration of the National Anniversary of France, also marks the conclusion of the Romania-France Season. What are the conclusions arising at the end of this Season?

Michèle Ramis: This is the first time when France is organizing a cross season with a member of the European Union. The Romania-France season has been inaugurated by President Macron and President Iohannis on November 27th 2018, in Paris and will end on July 14th, in the Carol Park of Bucharest. 160 cities in France and in Romania have hosted over 450 projects, representing approximately 800 events organized in the two countries.

In France, over the course of five months, there have been over 400 events. The economic forum held at Bercy, the exhibition "Byzantine traditional embroideries in Romania" at the Louvre Museum in Paris and Romania's season at the Pompidou Center are just a few of the events which have allowed the French public to discover, rediscover Romania and which have seen wide coverage in the press media.

Romania has been the host of over 300 events which have showcased France: TIFF, FITS, Bookfest, Romanian Design Week and the Micro-Folie platform. I would also remind the Caravan of studies which has allowed Romanian pupils and students to discover the opportunities which the French education system has to offer.

The Romania-France season has allowed the strengthening of the ties between the two countries, the reaffirmation of the friendship that has connected us for centuries, as well as the expansion of our cooperation. The cross season has also been an opportunity for the wide public, both Romanian and French, to look at France, and Romania respectively, in a new light, and to overcome cliches, like the slogan of the Season says. In short, the Season is a catalyst of our ties in key areas: education, culture, economics. The Season is a starting point, it has built new roads which would allow the Romanian and French authorities to continue the partnerships already started, to initiate new projects and partnerships or to "reinvigorate" the past partnerships.

Reporter: What do you think is the most important connection between our countries?

Michèle Ramis: Over time, France has been by the side of Romania in its most important stags of history - the emancipation of the Romanian nation with the help of Napoleon III, the independence of the Romanian state in 1878, the formation of modern Romania on December 1st 1918. Therefore, a close friendship, born from history, connects our countries and I would like to emphasize that this French-Romanian friendship has always been the engine of our common ambitions, which include, significantly, the European project.

On this occasion, I would like to congratulate the European spirit of the Romanian people, which hasn't leaned towards Euroskepticism, as well as the efforts made by the French and Romanian authorities alike, in order to advance the European project. I would also like to congratulate the Romanian authorities for a successful presidency of the Council of the European Union which has allowed significant progress in numerous cases of great interest for France, but especially for Europe, in a context of major challenges for the future of Europe. The Sibiu summit has rigorously prepared the agenda of the European Union for 2019-2024, thus constituting a significant step for the rebirth of Europe, one of the greatest ambitions of the president of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, built around three pillars - freedom, protection, progress. Europe is a shared property and it consolidates the traditional ties between the two countries.

Reporter: Do you think Romania still has potential to grow?

Michèle Ramis: Without a doubt, Romania still has a major potential for growth. Like I've said, French companies are interested in coming to Romania, due to its industrial tradition and the advantageous geographical location, as well as skilled workforce. Also, French companies present in Romania are interested in making new inventions. Thales, one the biggest technology groups in Europe, and the Renault group are just two examples of French companies which have decided to expand their business in Romania by inaugurating new centers. Other French companies are just getting started in Romania. On this occasion, I would like to congratulate the company Naval Group for winning the call for tenders for the construction of four functional corvettes for the Romanian Army, which will be made in cooperation with the Constanţa Shipyard.

Tourism in Romania seems to also have a huge potential for growth and that is thanks to Romanians, who are very welcoming and know how to emphasize all the beautiful things that Romania has to offer. The French love Romania, the picturesque landscapes, and some of them elect to establish themselves here. I think that the number of French tourists and investors interested in coming to Romania would increase considerably if the infrastructure problems were resolved.

Reporter: How applicable are the French ideals expressed with "Liberte, egalite, fraternite"? Can they still underpin modern states?

Michèle Ramis: A legacy of the Century of Lights, the "Liberte, egalite, fraternite" slogan is recorded in the Constitution of the French Republic of October 4th, 1958 and is part of the national patrimony of France. It is a true symbol of the Republic which we celebrate on the occasion of the national anniversary. Freedom and equality are two values which are the foundation of any democratic state. Freedom, in all its forms, is very often invoked today, and particularly in the public debates concerning the freedom of the press, or the freedom of travel, in the context of the European Union. I would emphasize the fact that the notion of freedom makes us think about the public freedoms, expression used today as a synonym for the fundamental human rights.

As for equality, it is a fundamental human right and it concerns equality before the law. Society is currently facing discrimination problems, especially in the workplace. As for fraternity, it evokes the notion of tolerance and goodwill towards others, which our societies need. Fraternity also contributes to the reinforcing of social cohesion.

These three values are the basis of democracy... and the essence of democracy is the rule of law.

Reporter: What is the mark that France leaves in the world?

Michèle Ramis: France is known all over the world, either due to the contributions of its artists or politicians and of the values they have spread, or for its gastronomy, the musicality of its French language or the places which are unique in the world. What is more important is the role France will play in the future on a European level, amid the challenges - climate change, migration, nationalist outbursts. In order to overcome all difficulties, social cohesion is necessary and unity at least on a European level.

Reporter: Thank you!

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