By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
Victor Ponta, the Romanian PM, today starts a two day official visit to Germany at the invitation of German chancellor Angela Merkel, with an agenda featuring bilateral relations, European and regional themes as well as Romanian domestic politics.
Ponta will start his visit today by meeting Jurgen Fitschen, co-president of the Deutsche Bank’s managing board, and then he will attend a conference dedicated to the German-Romanian economic cooperation.
He will be received tonight with state honors by Angela Merkel, the head of the federal government. The meeting will be followed by a press conference.
Tomorrow, Ponta will head to Stuuugart where he will meet Andreas Renschler, member of the managing board of Daimler. The German company has just announced a 300 million Euros investment in a new gear box plant in Romania.
The Romanian PM will then have a meeting with Winfried Kretschmann the acting speaker of the Bundesrat, the upper house of the German Parliament.
In an interview to Deutsche Welle, Ponta highlighted Romania is now stable from a political point of view and pleaded for a strategic partnership with Germany. “The visit aims to bring the bilateral relations to a level existent in the previous tears and which, in 2012, following the political crisis in Romania, came to a halt. We want to have a strategic partnership with Germany again. I want to encourage the continuation of the German investments in Romania and I say that Romania, now a politically stable country, is again an essential partner for Germany in the region” he said.
Ponta’s visit comes at a sensitive time, especially after Germany led the group of Western countries opposing Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area this March, voicing concern about a possible surge in what Berlin calls “social tourism”, namely poor immigrants in search of social benefits in richer countries. Despite visible electoral connotations of this decision (Germany holds elections this September amid a general dissatisfaction with the rise in immigration), Germany’s opposition to Romania’s Schengen accession can be also traced back to last year’s political crisis in Bucharest when Ponta led the new installed ruling coalition’s drive to oust President Traian Basescu, their political arch-rival.
Germany, along other EU member states and the USA, sharply criticized the hasty political operation mounted by Ponta and his ruling partner, liberal Crin Antonescu, which saw overnight amendments meant to streamline Basescu’s removal, but which went against democratic principles.