2011 marked 100 years of diplomatic ties between Switzerland and Romania, and in 2018, Romania celebrated the 100th anniversary of the country's 'great union' with Transylvania after the end of the First World War. Romania joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007. Although the country is not part of Schengen or the Eurozone, Romania – also the birthplace of playwright Eugène Ionesco and sculptor Constantin Brâncuși – is ready to play a bigger role in the EU as it takes over the presidency of the EU Council in the first half of 2019.
Romania's priorities for its presidency were a central part of the talks Mr Cassis held today in Bucharest with Foreign Minister Teodor Meleșcanu and Prime Minister Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă. In his capacity as head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Mr Cassis informed his Romanian counterpart of the current state of Switzerland's negotiations with the EU on institutional matters.
The parties also discussed Swiss-Romanian cooperation in areas such as education and research, policing and economic affairs. The volume of trade between the two countries reached around CHF 1.4 billion in 2017, with Switzerland posting a trade surplus of some CHF 130 million. With direct investment of around EUR 2.5 billion, Switzerland ranks as Romania's eighth biggest investor.
Cooperation under Switzerland's contribution to the enlarged EU was also included in the political talks. Switzerland has been supporting Romania since 2009 with 62 projects worth a total of CHF 181 million. The projects are led by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and will run until 2019; around 85% of the projects have already been implemented. The projects are intended to help promote economic growth, improve working conditions, public safety and environmental protection, and strengthen civil society. The contribution to the new EU member states was approved by Parliament in 2007.
During the talks, Mr Cassis reiterated that the Federal Council would determine how to proceed with a potential additional Swiss contribution after the consultation process regarding the overall relationship between Switzerland and the EU.
Mr Cassis also visited one of Switzerland's enlargement contribution projects in Bucharest. The project involves Swiss consultants working with the Romanian rescue service SMURD (Mobile Emergency Service for Resuscitation and Extrication) to revise curricula and training modules for the emergency health services, in order to bring them into line with international standards. It also includes doctors who provide training for teachers and training practice in emergencies for prospective specialists. In addition, Swiss Air-Rescue Rega has played a special role in developing the Romanian air rescue service. Through this project, Switzerland has helped support Romania's goal to improve the quality of its nationwide emergency services cover by 2020.
Prior to his talks in Bucharest, Mr Cassis visited representatives of Romania's German-speaking minority in Sibui/Hermannstadt, where he met with town mayor Astrid Fodor and Paul-Jürgen Porr, head of the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania (DFDR). The DFDR represents the German-speaking minority in Romania's national parliament. German-speaking immigrants first arrived in Romania in the 12th and 13th centuries; today the group numbers around 36,000.
Mr Cassis also visited a company belonging to a Swiss farmer in Sibui/Hermannstadt to learn about some of the practical examples of Swiss-Romanian economic cooperation and how Swiss expertise can be put to use effectively in the Romanian context.
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