Mayor of Timișoara: Romania and Bulgaria are not second-class European countries
Martina Gancheva, BTA, 17 February 2023
Romania and Bulgaria are not second-class European countries. Here’s what Timisoara’s mayor – Dominic Fritz – told BTA. As of today, the city is officially the European Capital of Culture.
Dominic Fritz was born in 1983 in Lörrach, Germany. He worked for more than 10 years in German public administration before stepping into local politics in Timișoara. In 2009, after specialising in political and administrative sciences in Germany, France and the UK, he started his professional career as an advisor at the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ). Between 2016 and 2019, he was Chief of Staff to former German President and former IMF Director Horst Köhler in Berlin. Since 2020, after the last local elections in Romania, he served as mayor of Timisoara. A member of the Union for the Salvation of Romania party, he is the only mayor in Romania without Romanian citizenship.
This is what the Mayor of Timisoara said in a special interview with BTA on the official opening day of the “Timișoara – European Capital of Culture” project. The interview was republished by The Bridge of Friendship with the consent of the author who is the Bucharest correspondent of the Bulgarian state news agency BTA.
Mr Fritz, what will be the highlight of the Timisoara European Capital of Culture programme? If you had to pick just one event out of the 130 that will take place over the next three days?
For me, the most important event will be the moment in Union Square tonight. I hope to welcome not only people from Timisoara, but also people from all over the country. Tonight, from 21.00, there will be a big celebration with artists from all over Europe. With concerts, with a unique show. We will feel the enthusiasm not only of the locals, but also the love and passion for Europe. That’s why I’ll be in the square. And I’ll be waiting for you.
Filip Simeonov – one of the most famous clarinetists in the country and the only clarinetist of the Romanian group “Taraf de Caliu” – will be on stage tonight. Could this be a sign? Romania and Bulgaria on the same stage in the European Capital of Culture?
This shows how strongly we are connected to each other and is a good sign. The Bulgarian heritage in Timisoara is very important. The most important mayor in Timisoara’s history was a Bulgarian – the Bulgarian from Banat, named Karol Telbis. He was mayor for almost 30 years. He was elected mayor of Timișoara at a very young age, at 30. He was the one who decided that the historic fortress around Timișoara should be demolished. It was a difficult, very brave and controversial decision for that time – the beginning of the 20th century. But it gave way to the development we see today in Timișoara. The markets here are only here because Karol Telbis had the courage. And I feel very close to him and to the Bulgarian community, which is very active here in Timisoara. So it was very important for us to have a Bulgarian performer at the official opening of Timisoara European Capital of Culture.
You said that Romania and Bulgaria are strongly linked culturally. Does this also apply in the political field? Will we join Schengen together? You recently sent a message to Sweden, Austria and the Netherlands to support our accession to Europe’s border-free area, but it seems you were not heard.
The uphill struggle continues because of domestic political interests in the countries you mentioned. They are sceptical. I am not just referring to Austria, but also to Sweden. That is why we must show that we are not second-class Europeans, that we have something to offer Europe.
The impression that some in Austria have about Bulgaria and Romania is wrong. That’s why I think we should raise our voice not only in moments of crisis, when a decision is taken, but all the time. We will not tire this year to demonstrate, to show that Romania has its place in Europe, that Bulgaria has its place in Europe. Both should be in Schengen.
If it’s up to me, tomorrow. But when it will actually happen, I can’t say. I don’t rule out Romania and Bulgaria joining Schengen as early as this year, but it’s a struggle. And it must not only depend on our governments, but also on us, the citizens. Let’s say out loud that we want to be part of this Europe with all the rules that we deserve, and not sitting at the border or in the waiting room.
By the end of the day you will meet the Bulgarian Ambassador to Romania, Radko Vlaykov. Will you also address the Schengen issue?
I will meet with ambassadors from all EU Member States. And, yes, I will raise this issue. I think I will get support from all of them.
Is it easy or difficult for a German to be mayor of a city in Romania? Timisoara broke a barrier and elected you mayor without Romanian citizenship.
Whoever becomes mayor, it will be hard. It’s very easy to be a German and to be mayor of Timisoara. Timisoara is the city that welcomed me, that loved me, and I loved it. Of course, I also face difficulties and challenges.
Which is the biggest?
Follow a line and have a long-term vision. Even when many people disagree with me and don’t look in the same direction.
Photo: The logo of the European Capital of Culture Timișoara 2023 (source: Wikipedia Commons)
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