Cultural ties have been in place between our two countries for centuries. The spread of the French language in Romania dates back to the 18ᵗʰ century, when the Romanian principalities of Wallachia and Moldova were still under Ottoman rule and the sons of the great Romanian families left to study in Paris. Over the centuries, France has received many intellectuals, researchers and artists of Romanian origin, including Cioran, Brâncuși, Eliade, Ionesco, Anna de Noailles and Enescu.
Political relations between France and Romania date back to the role played by Napoleon III in the creation of the Romanian State on the European stage in the 19ᵗʰ century, then France’s assistance (in competition with Germany, however) for the establishment of this new State. The First World War brought about a lasting brotherhood of arms, and ties were maintained during the Communist period, with General de Gaulle visiting Romania in May 1968. Moreover, Romania is a precious close ally in multilateral forums.
President Iohannis, who took part in the march in Paris on 11 January 2015 after the terrorist attacks, and made one of his first official visits to Paris on 10 February 2015, On this occasion, he met with the French President, along with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Development and of the Economy, as well as the Presidents of both the National Assembly and the Senate. Following this visit, which demonstrated the desire of the two countries to give new impetus to their bilateral relations, the Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bogdan Aurescu, visited Paris on 23 February 2015 to work with his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, on deepening those ties, especially in the economic field, and to discuss major European and international issues.
The new Prime Minister, Dacian Ciolos, made an official visit to Paris on 20-21 January 2016, accompanied by the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, as well as the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Culture and Internal Affairs. They were received by the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister, as well as by Gérard Larcher, President of the Senate, and Claude Bartolone, President of the National Assembly. Mr Ciolos again visited Paris on 9-10 June 2016, for the France-Romania match that kicked off Euro 2016, meeting with the French President and Prime Minister.
The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Harlem Désir, visited Bucharest on 2 September 2014 and received his counterpart, George Ciamba, in Paris on 28 May 2015. He again visited Bucharest on 16 June 2016 for meetings with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lazăr Comănescu, and the Secretary of State for European Affairs, Marius Cristian Bădescu.
The France-Romania friendship group of the French National Assembly is chaired by the Deputy Lionnel Luca and that of the Senate by Senator Bernard Fournier.
Growing bilateral trade
France remains Romania’s fourth-largest trading partner.
After a slide in 2012, bilateral trade grew particularly fast in 2013, bringing trade between France and Romania to €6.33 billion (+9.6% compared to 2012). This trend continued in 2014 (trade volume of €6.63 billion) and in 2015 (€6.8 billion), and is explained by the recovery of Romanian exports to France, combined with regular growth in imports from France, making Romania one of the few Central European countries to have a trade surplus vis-à-vis France (€343 million in 2013). This surplus is, however, diminishing (€262 million in 2014 and €9 million in 2015).
The structure and scale of our bilateral trade are largely determined by the nature of French investments in Romania, mostly focused on industry. This investment generates imports from France of components and equipment for sites in Romania, with some of the products then being exported back to France. This applies in particular to the automobile industry, which represents 15% of Romanian exports to France (€438 million) because of the release of new models and a renewed range of the various Renault-Dacia vehicles (this company represents, moreover, 3% of Romanian GDP).
Investments: strategic presence in the Romanian economy
As regards investments, there is a considerable, varied and dynamic French economic presence in Romania. The pioneering role of French investors and their long-term commitment in Romania ensure them a special place in the local landscape, promoted by a well-organized, active business community which accounts for about 15% of Romanian GDP.
The stock of French foreign direct investment in Romania is stable, standing at €3.84 billion in 2014, 36% of which in the manufacturing industry (car-maker Dacia purchased by Renault in 1999; Airbus Helicopters, present since 2003, currently developing a new assembly plant in Brașov; Engie). Over the last decade, French investment has also continued with a strategic perspective (investment by Axa to gain a foothold on the Romanian market; entry of Sofiprotéol and Tereos in the agrifood sector, project to extent Carrefour’s activities; signature by Areva of a contract with SNC-Lavallin in 2012 to supply ventilation systems for the modernization of reactors 1 and 2 of the Cernavodă nuclear plant).
Following the phase of the major groups, French SMEs now make up the most part of the French presence in Romania. Most of these SMEs have set up there at the request of their clients (such as automobile subcontractors). SMEs are also very active in the sectors of engineering, ICT and video games. Moreover, increasing numbers of businesses with French capital are very small local businesses owned by French nationals, including in the services sector (hospitality, catering and tourism).
Romania, a francophone country and an active member of La Francophonie
Romania has been a full member of the International Organisation of La Francophonie since the Mauritius Summit in 1993, and hosted the 21ˢᵗ Summit on 28-29 September 2006.
French is now studied by more than half of school pupils and spoken by a quarter of Romanians, but it is threatened by the rapid rise of English. To respond to Romania’s need to rapidly train an administrative elite, France is continuing its action to support technical and linguistic training of officials, in accordance with the multi-year programme to “revive the learning of French in the Romanian administration” that has been implemented since 2004.
Our cultural and linguistic cooperation is intense in this context. In Romania, it draws on an extensive network of institutions, including the Institut français (French Institute) of Romania, with three satellites outside Bucharest (Cluj-Napoca, Iași, Timișoara); four Alliances françaises (Brașov, Constanța, Pitești, Ploiești); the French Lycée (high school) “Anna de Noailles” of Bucharest, where Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault inaugurated new buildings on 11 July 2013; and, lastly, 10 French assistant professors in universities.
This network is supplemented by bilingual sections in secondary education (59), French-speaking sections (10) and French teaching modules in further education (17) and in higher education (70), all supported by a major study grants programme.
Lastly, there is also a new French language platform for humanities and social sciences: the Centre régional francophone de recherches avancées en sciences sociales (CEREFREA, Francophone regional centre for advanced social sciences research). This project was initiated by the French Embassy and the University of Bucharest, and received the Louis D prize (Institut de France), worth €750,000, in 2012. This sum has enabled it to host numerous researchers, scientists and artists in residence, and to raise the profile of the French language in Romania. Villa Noël, which houses the CEREFREA, was inaugurated in 2014.
France receives almost 5,000 Romanian students annually (third-largest destination for young Romanians after the United Kingdom and Italy), while Romania receives more than 1,000 French students per year, particularly for medicine programmes. 1,600,000 Romanian pupils are learning French (second most taught language after English), and there are 55 bilingual lycées, 29 of which prepare pupils for a Francophone baccalaureate.
As regards research, France takes part in the ELI-NP project, the Romanian “Extreme Light Infrastructure-Nuclear Physics” aspect of the European research programme in the field of lasers (ELI). France contributes in three areas: research, through the active CNRS participation in the project (primarily technology transfer); leading-edge technology, with the signing of a €60 million contract by THALES for the delivery of a laser system; and academia, with the creation of training programmes tailored to the project involving THALES University, Romanian universities, and, eventually, major French higher education establishments.
Cooperation in the sector of governance coordinated between the State, local governments and NGOs
Our cooperation in the governance sector supports Romania’s efforts to reform and modernize its administration and court system and seeks to improve territorial and social cohesion in the country, which has the greatest interregional and social inequalities in Europe.
In this context, our continuing bilateral cooperation focuses on priority themes for this European country that is struggling to structure and territorialize the public policies essential for its long-term development.
The projects implemented aim to develop cooperation in the areas of administrative reform, decentralization, management of European funds, steering of social policies (including to support children’s rights and the integration of Roma people), urban planning, agriculture and health.
Moreover, complementarity with the partnerships put in place by local governments across Romania needs to be consolidated. Decentralized cooperation between France and Romania is intense: there are currently more than 250 partnerships in place, of which some 50 concern structural projects on themes that are central to the challenges of local development, such as education and youth, economic development and employment, organization of social and health services, social integration of marginalized populations (including Roma people), urban planning, heritage and rural development.
After Villefranche-de-Rouergue (France) in 2003, Cluj-Napoca (Romania) in 2005, and Nantes (France) in 2007, the fourth forum on Franco-Romanian decentralized cooperation was held in Constanţa, Romania, on 13 and 14 June 2013.
Cooperation between France and Romania on Roma integration
Bilateral cooperation has been established in order to combat criminal networks exploiting Roma and to foster integration and reintegration of these populations in Romania. Since late 2011, some 15 Romanian police officers have been stationed in France to support the French police in combating the criminal networks operating between the countries. Other exchanges are planned in order to enhance this cooperation. France wants this issue to be debated at EU level, in order to create a framework enabling the countries of origin of these Roma populations to take responsibility for their integration.
Updated: 07 June 2016