Saying that as a diplomat he had been fortunate in having the privilege and pleasure to interact with different cultures and meet so many interesting people around the world, His Excellency Vasile SOFINETI, Ambassador of Romania to the State of Kuwait, at the start of a very interesting and exclusive interview with The Times Kuwait.
“In the 1970s I was in Iran studying at the University of Tehran. My time spent there not only allowed me to graduate and gain proficiency in Persian language, but also provided me with the singular opportunity to meet young Iranians and connect with one of the world’s oldest civilization and cultures.
After graduating and returning to Bucharest, I was faced with the choice of either joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or pursuing a career with the Persian Services of Radio Bucharest. The assertive political climate prevailing then in Romania prompted me to choose the latter. In 1990, in the wake of political transformations that took place in my country, I was invited to join the Foreign Ministry and, on account of my proficiency in Persian, appointed as Deputy Chief of Mission at our embassy in Tehran.
At the end of my tenure in Iran, I returned to Bucharest in 1994 and, with my journalistic background, was appointed as Director of Communications and Deputy Spokesperson at the Foreign Ministry.
Four years later, I was appointed as Ambassador to Kingdom of Jordan and after spending five years in Amman, I was assigned as Ambassador to the Republic of India and Non-resident Ambassador to Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. My time in India gave me the opportunity to once again interact with an ancient civilization and to imbibe the diverse cultures of the region.
The five years I spent in India also gave me the privilege of meeting and getting to know on a personal level several important dignitaries, including the then President of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Incidentally, I had the honor to translate one of Dr. Abdul Kalam’s books, ‘Ignited Minds’ into the Romanian language. The translated work was launched by the president after he had stepped down from his office and was well-accepted by the public and went on to receive critical acclaim.
On returning to Bucharest, I was assigned as Ambassador-at-Large and placed in charge of reviving economic relations with the Arab world. In this capacity, I traveled several times to Arab countries in the region, in particular the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). And, in March 2011, I helped coordinate the first ‘Economic Forum GCC – Romania’ in Bucharest.
The Forum, which was organized by the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Business Environment, and in association with the General Secretariat of the GCC, and in partnership with the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of the GCC, was one of the most signature events of 2011 in Romania.
The Forum which was held under the patronage of, and inaugurated by, the Romanian President, in full attendance of the country’s cabinet, also included Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Foreign Trade from UAE and Saudi Arabia, as well as the Minister of Commerce and Industry from Kuwait.
More than 120 businessmen from the GCC states and over 450 Romanian business people, as well as representatives from international media participated in the Forum. The first Economic Forum was designed to highlight cooperation opportunities in the fields of economy, investment, business and trade between Romania and other participating countries.
Romania and the GCC bloc are keen on continuing this Forum as it provides a platform to assess the progress of projects agreed upon by both sides and to identify new cooperation opportunities. In this regard, I continue to remain the Coordinator of the Forum and I am in close touch with General Secretariat of the GCC states, as well as with the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of GCC.
In 2011, while I was the Director General of Globalization at the Foreign Ministry, I was appointed as Ambassador to Kuwait. I arrived in October 2011 and three days later was invited to present my credentials. I am extremely honored at the appreciation that His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah places on relations with Romania. We also highly value all the support and cooperation we receive from His Highness the Deputy Amir and Crown Prince, His Highness the Prime Minister and from His Excellency the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as other ministers and government officials.
Describing the recent presidential elections that took place in Romania as “historic”, the diplomat added, “The two-rounds of presidential election, which took place across Romania on the 2 and 16 of November this year, were extremely significant in that it marked the end of 10 years of presidency by the incumbent, President Traian Basescu. The elections were also exceptional in the huge voter turnout, especially during the second-round when over 64 percent of the electorate turned up to cast their votes. The election results are expected to mark the start of a new era for the entire country and people.”
The winner in the second round was Klaus Werner Iohannis, mayor of Sibiu and leader of Christian Liberal Alliance, who was placed second in the first-round of elections. However, he managed to stage a surprise come-back in the run-off elections, winning 54.5 percent, or more than a million votes more than his contender, current Prime Minister and leader of the Social Democratic Party, Victor Ponta.
Elaborating on economic relations between Romania and Kuwait, Ambassador SOFINETI noted that bilateral relations were always stable and reliable, helped by the excellent diplomatic and political relations between the two friendly countries. “During the last three years that I have been here, the volume of trade has steadily increased and during the first ten months of this year we witnessed a doubling of trade exchanges, compared to the ten month period in 2013. We expect this volume to further increase in the coming months and years,” added the envoy.
Pointing out that the World Bank ranked Romania 73 worldwide in ‘Ease of Doing Business’ and the country stood 52 in the ranking of 189 economies on the strength of investor protection index, the ambassador added that there were many opportunities for investments in Romania. Romanian industry is especially strong given that it contributed around 30 percent of the country’s GDP in 2013. Some of the main industrial sectors in Romania include automotive manufacturing, oil and gas, metal works, Information Technology and Communications; chemicals, food production, textiles, furniture, paper and plastic. Other venues for investment lie in the country’s Health Tourism Sector and in Agriculture.
Saying that one of the most important factors that favor the development of bilateral trade relations was the growing interest of Kuwaiti companies for doing business in Romania, the envoy added, “It is quite gratifying to observe that in recent years there has been an upsurge in investment interest by Kuwaitis in the Romanian economy. People traveling from here to Bucharest and other parts of the country, on business, as well as for business and leisure, have increased markedly.”
Romania's strategic location, its stable political and economic climate, the existence of a developed banking system aligned with that of the GCC states, a good history in relations between Romania and Kuwait on the international level and a good relationship between the authorities of the two friendly countries, were other factors that favored an increase in economic and trade ties between the two countries, said the diplomat.
Turning to the cultural front, Ambassador SOFINETI said, “We have had excellent bilateral cultural engagements over the years. Last year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the start of diplomatic relations between our two countries, with several cultural functions held in both capitals. Of special note was an anthology of poems by contemporary Romanian and Arabian poets that we published to commemorate five decades of our diplomatic ties. The anthology comprised of Arabic poems translated into Romanian language and Romanian poetry translated into Arabic. The anthology received enthusiastic response from people in both countries. Moreover, the 800-odd Romanian population in Kuwait, many of them professionals engaged in the oil and gas industry, as well as in the medical field as doctors and nurses, are excellent cultural representatives of our country,” noted the envoy.
Ambassador SOFINETI went on to note that the new president, who is from the German ethnic minority community in Romania, is expected to usher in a fresh style of presidency when he takes office on 21 December. “Also, from today, 24 November, His Excellency Bogdan Aurescu, a former diplomat, has taken over as the new Foreign Minister of Romania. We hope the recent political changes in Romania, which will give a new direction to the country as it passes through challenging times, will lead to further strengthening of bilateral relations with Kuwait in all fields. We look forward to more Kuwaitis traveling to Romania and experiencing the leisure, business and investment potential of my country,” added the ambassador in conclusion.