In early May, Business Review attended the Dutch Days, which took place in Cluj-Napoca. This was the biggest event aimed at celebrating the relations between Romania and The Netherlands. Their program included both business talks and cultural encounters in roughly equal proportions. We talked with Liviu Deceanu, the executive director of the Dutch Cultural and Academic Centre, to find out more about the event and the lessons that Romania can learn from the Dutch in using innovation for economic development.

You’ve been the moderator of Dutch innovation debate which took place during the Dutch Days. How did you find the projects presented? Is Romania ready for such projects?

Yes, I have to say from the start that it was a pleasure to moderate such a discussion, in fact a suite of interventions of our special guests for the Dutch Days organized by the Dutch Cultural and Academic Center in Cluj. Mr. Wouter Reijers, Honorary Consul of the Netherlands, host of the event with us, Tudor Irimiea from Invest Club, Professor André Krouwel, founder of Kieskompas B.V. Amsterdam, Mr. Philip Aarsman, manager of Business Lease, Mr. Alexandru Teodorescu, manager of Renovatio, Herman Wierenga, CEE director of ORTEC CEE and Marius Cristian Lazar, regional manager of EximBank. Of course, each speaker addressed the main theme – innovation – from the perspective of his own work, which allowed for a diversified approach – innovation in science in general and in political science in particular, innovation in financial investment, innovation in the banking system, and innovation in electric cars and the prospects of electric mobility in Romania.

The projects presented are very up-to-date and extremely interesting, and this fact was also highlighted by the significant number of questions and comments from the audience. The core of the debates was electric cars, whose future seems promising, especially in the context of transposing the “zero emissions” principle into national law. Of course, such a project is still utopian for Romania due to the high prices of such vehicles, and especially due to the deficiencies in the infrastructure. However, some steps have been taken in this direction, such as the import of zero-emission vehicles and the occurrence of charging stations (the Kaufland-Renovatio collaboration is the main domestic example in this context and already covers a major part of our country). Therefore, we do not risk saying that Romania and especially Romanians are ready for electric mobility.

Can you comment upon the financial impact that Dutch community has in Romania? Are there more Dutch companies willing to invest here?

Although it may seem surprising, the most recent data shows that the Netherlands is the leader in foreign direct investment in Romania. We are talking about over 20 percent of the foreign direct investment balance (for 2016), ahead of countries like Germany, Austria, Italy, France. The areas range from banking, insurance, to main industries. It should also be added that the signs we have are in the sense of strengthening the Dutch investor position (to be understood as Dutch companies) in Romania, and we therefore expect to multiply these investments in the near future. Once again, it is confirmed that the Romanian economy is becoming more attractive, and the appetite of Dutch investors – entrepreneurs who excel in excellence – is bigger.

As an organizer of the event and also the executive director of the Dutch Cultural Centre here in Cluj, which are the main conclusions for this first edition of the event?

Honestly, I’m still under the euphoria of an intense and very successful event, and it is difficult for me to draw very coherent conclusions. The Dutch Days was an event that surprised us – in the most pleasant way possible – even us, the organizers. There have been four full days, which they believe have once again demonstrated that the relationship between Romania and the Netherlands is much closer than we could imagine. We had a photo exhibition, a real “Dutch town” in the Museum Square in Cluj-Napoca, an old Dutch book exhibition, dialogues on literary, economic and historical themes, a symphonic concert, book launches, rock concert, floral workshop with a Dutch floral artist, and more. Among the special guests I would like to remind his Excellency, Mrs. Stella Ronner-Grubacic, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Romania, Mr. Coen Stork, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Romania from 1988 to 1993, Mr. Jan Willem Bos, translator, who translated into the Dutch language even the historical short story “Alexandru Lăpuşneanul”, Professor André Krouwel, the founder of Kieskompas Amsterdam, the poet Mircea Dinescu, and many others.

We remain deeply grateful to all those who have made a substantial effort to make this event possible. The trust that the Embassy of the Netherlands in Romania and the Dutch Consulate Cluj-Romania has given us was essential for the start of this project. And for uninterrupted support, we particularly thank our Excellency Wouter Reijers, Honorary Consul of the Netherlands in Cluj. Undoubtedly, this experience forces us to organize good quality events in the future, and – why not? – to do it better.