Klaus Iohannis

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Klaus Iohannis
Klaus Iohannis at EPP Summit, March 2015, Brussels (cropped).jpg
5th President of Romania
Assumed office
December 21, 2014
Prime Minister Victor Ponta
Gabriel Oprea (Acting)
Victor Ponta
Sorin Cîmpeanu (Acting)
Dacian Cioloș
Preceded by Traian Băsescu
Mayor of Sibiu
In office
June 30, 2000 – December 2, 2014
Preceded by Dan Condurat
Succeeded by Astrid Fodor[1]
Leader of the National Liberal Party
In office
June 28, 2014 – December 18, 2014
Preceded by Crin Antonescu
Succeeded by Alina Gorghiu
Vasile Blaga
Leader of the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania
In office
2002–2013
Preceded by Wolfgang Wittstock
Succeeded by Paul-Jürgen Porr
Personal details
Born Klaus Werner Johannis
(1959-06-13) June 13, 1959 (age 57)
Sibiu, Romanian People's Republic
Political party Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania (1990–2013)
National Liberal Party (2013–2014)
Independent (2014–present)[2]
Spouse(s) Carmen Lăzurcă (1989–present)
Residence Cotroceni Palace, Bucharest
Alma mater Babeș-Bolyai University
Religion Lutheranism
Website Official website

Klaus Werner Iohannis (Romanian: [ˈkla.us joˈhanis], German: [ˈklaʊ̯s joˈhanɪs]; also spelled Johannis; born June 13, 1959) is the current President of Romania. He became leader of the National Liberal Party in 2014, after having served as leader of the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania from 2002 to 2013. Iohannis was a physics teacher and a school inspector before entering full-time politics.

Iohannis was first elected mayor of the city of Sibiu in 2000, representing the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania. Although the German population of the once predominantly German-speaking city of Sibiu has declined to a tiny minority, Iohannis won a surprise victory and was re-elected by landslides in 2004, 2008 and 2012. Iohannis is credited with turning his city into one of Romania's most popular tourist destinations, and the city was declared the European Capital of Culture in 2007. In February 2013, Iohannis became a member of the National Liberal Party, accepting an invitation from Liberal leader Crin Antonescu, and was immediately elected the party's First Vice President, becoming the party's President the following year.

In October 2009, four of the five political groups in the Parliament, excluding the Democrat Liberal Party of then-President Traian Băsescu, proposed him as a candidate for the office of Prime Minister of Romania; however, Băsescu refused to nominate him despite the Parliament's adoption of a declaration supporting his candidacy.[3] He was again the candidate for Prime Minister of the National Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party in the elections in the same year.[4]

Iohannis is the first Romanian president to come from an ethnic minority.[5] He is a Transylvanian Saxon, part of Romania's German minority which settled in Transylvania in the 12th century. Thus, he is the fourth president of German origin from Eastern Europe in the post-communist period, after Rudolf Schuster (Slovakia) and Ferenc Mádl and Pál Schmitt (Hungary).[6] He is also the first president since the Romanian Revolution with no past ties to Communism.

Personal and professional life[edit]

Born in a house in the historic centre of Sibiu to a Transylvanian Saxon family, Klaus Iohannis is the eldest child of Susanne and Gustav Heinz Johannis. He has a younger sister, Krista Johannis (born 1963).[7] His father worked as a technician at an enterprise, while his mother was a nurse.[8] Both his parents as well as his sister emigrated from their native Sibiu (German: Hermannstadt) to Würzburg in Germany in 1992, acquiring citizenship there under the right of return granted by German nationality law,[9][10] as most other Transylvanian Saxons after the fall of the Iron Curtain. However, he chose to live and work in Romania.[11] As of 2014, his parents, sister and a niece live in Würzburg.[12] Iohannis has stated that his family settled in Transylvania in present-day Romania 850 years ago.[13] After graduating from the Faculty of Physics of the Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca in 1983, Iohannis worked as a high school physics teacher at various schools and colleges in Sibiu, including, from 1989 to 1997, the Samuel von Brukenthal Gymnasium in Sibiu, the oldest German-speaking school in Romania. From 1997 to 1999, he was Deputy General School Inspector of Sibiu County, and from 1999 until his election as mayor in 2000, he was the General School Inspector, head of public schools in the county.

Iohannis is fluent in German and Romanian at a native level and also speaks English. The original spelling of his name (which is German) is Johannis, but the name was registered by a Romanian official as Iohannis on his birth certificate[14] and he has used both spellings interchangeably.[15] In 1989, he married ethnic Romanian Carmen Lăzurcă, an English teacher at the Gheorghe Lazăr National College in Sibiu.[16][17] They have no children.

Iohannis is a member of the Evangelical Church of Augustan Confession in Romania, the German-speaking Lutheran church in Transylvania.[18]

Political career[edit]

He joined the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania (FDGR) in 1990, and served as a member of its board of education in Transylvania from 1997, and a member of the local party board in Sibiu from 1998. In 2001, he was elected President of the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania.

Mayor of Sibiu[edit]

Iohannis as Mayor of Sibiu, May 2005

In 2000, the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania in Sibiu decided to back him as a candidate for mayor. Despite the fact that Sibiu's German minority had shrunken to a mere 1.6%, Iohannis was elected with 69.18% of the votes and has won three re-elections in a row, getting some of the largest electoral scores in the country: 88.7% of the vote in 2004, and 87.4% in 2008. He is the first ethnic German mayor of a Romanian city since Albert Dörr, who served from 1940 to 1945. The small German minority is popular in Romania, where they are often viewed as hard-working, precise and uncompromising. Many Romanians also remember that the country experienced some of its best moments under German kings over a century ago.[10]

Throughout his tenure as mayor, he has worked to restore the town's infrastructure and to tighten the city administration. Iohannis is also widely credited with turning the city into one of Romania's most popular tourist destinations thanks to the extensive renovation of the old downtown.[19] During his first term, Iohannis worked with a city council that had a social democrat majority.[citation needed] Since 2004, during his second and third terms, his own party, FDGR, had the majority. Since 2008, FDGR has 14 out of 23 councilors, PDL has 4, PSD has 3, and PNL has 2.[20]

Iohannis established contacts with foreign officials and investors. Sibiu was declared the European Capital of Culture of 2007, along with Luxembourg (the bearer of the distinction in 1995).[clarification needed] Luxembourg chose to share this honourable status with Sibiu due to the fact that many of the Transylvanian Saxons emigrated in the 12th century to Transylvania from the area where Luxembourg is today.[21] Sibiu, or Hermannstadt in German, was built by the Transylvanian Saxons, was for many centuries the cultural centre of that group, and was a predominantly German-speaking city until the mid 20th century. Many Germans left the city after World War II, and especially in 1990, within months of the fall of the Iron Curtain.

On November 7, 2005 Iohannis was nominated as the "Personality of the Year for a European Romania" (Romanian: Personalitatea anului pentru o Românie europeană) by the Eurolink – House of Europe organization.[22]

Candidacy for the Prime Minister of Romania[edit]

On October 14, 2009 the leaders of the opposition parliamentary groups (the National Liberal Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, and the group of smaller ethnic minorities), proposed Iohannis as a candidate for Prime Minister of Romania, after the government of Prime Minister Emil Boc fell a day before as a result of a motion of no confidence in the Parliament. Coming from outside the national-level politics of Romania, Iohannis has the image of an independent politician,[23] although his party has consistently allied itself with, and Iohannis has campaigned in the latest European Parliament elections for the National Liberal Party. The National Liberal Party (PNL), the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), and the group of small ethnic minorities in the Parliament subsumed Iohannis as their common candidate for Prime Minister of an interim government.[24] On October 14 Klaus Iohannis confirmed acceptance of his candidacy. However, on October 15, the President Traian Băsescu nominated Lucian Croitoru, a top Romanian economist, as Prime Minister, and charged the latter with forming the country's next government.

After the second round of talks, a day before Croitoru's nomination, Băsescu noted: "Some parties have proposed Klaus Iohannis. I would like you to know that I have not rejected the possibility for him to become Prime Minister in the condition that my options would be directed towards other [national unity government] solutions. But I have rejected such a proposal because it comes from PSD or another party [PNL]", referring to his alleged constraint to consider a proposal of the largest party (PDL), constraint disputed by the other parties.[25][26] The opposition criticized the President for not designating Iohannis. Social Democrat leader Mircea Geoană accused Băsescu of trying to influence the upcoming presidential elections by having them organized by a sympathetic government.[27][28] Crin Antonescu, the leader of the National Liberals, vowed his party would derail other nominations but Iohannis'.[27] After the nomination of Croitoru, Antonescu, a candidate in the presidential election, stated that he would nominate Iohannis as Prime Minister if elected President.[29] Three days later, on October 18, Geoană suggested Antonescu was trying to use Iohannis as an "electoral agent" for Antonescu's bid for president. In response, Antonescu told the press that Iohannis "is not the type of person that would let himself being used".[30] Geoană and PSD leadership has held a second meeting with Iohannis in Bucharest in the evening of October 18. UDMR, which the previous day announced it would also attend, declared in the morning that all their leaders are not in the city. PNL was present at the meeting by lower level representatives, after Antonescu announced in the morning he is on campaign in Cluj-Napoca.[31] On October 21 the Parliament adopted with 252 votes for (of PSD, PNL, UDMR and minorities groups) and 2 against a declaration requesting the President to nominate Iohannis as Prime Minister.[32][33]

In the National Liberal Party[edit]

On February 20, 2013, Klaus Iohannis joined the PNL, announcing this during a press conference with Crin Antonescu. At a PNL extraordinary congress, he was elected First Vice President of the Party. In the meeting of June 28, 2014, he was elected President of the PNL with 95% of the votes.

Candidacy for the President of Romania[edit]

Klaus Iohannis and his counter candidate Victor Ponta at a TV debate on Realitatea TV, 11 November 2014

In 2009, Iohannis had stated that he might possibly run for the office of President of Romania, although not in 2009.[34] Former Prime Minister Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu had said on October 27, 2009 and again on April 23, 2010 that he would like to see Iohannis become President of Romania.[35]

PNL and PDL started in the summer of 2014 procedures to strengthen the political right. The two parties will eventually merge under the name PNL, but went for elections in an alliance: the Christian Liberal Alliance (Romanian: Alianța Creștin-Liberală). On August 11 the alliance chose Iohannis as its candidate for the presidential election in November[36] and so he was registered as an official presidential candidate. He received 30.37% of the votes in the first round.

At the second round on November 16 he was elected President of Romania with 54.43% of the votes.

President of Romania[edit]

Presidential styles of
Klaus Iohannis
Coat of arms of Romania.svg
Reference style Președintele (President)
Spoken style Președintele (President)
Alternative style Domnia Sa/Excelența Sa (His Excellency)

Iohannis took office on December 21, when Traian Băsescu's term ended. His presidential campaign focused on fighting corruption and on improving the justice system.[37] Iohannis is also a supporter of a strongly pro-Western foreign policy.[38] Regarding the unification of the Republic of Moldova with Romania, much discussed in the electoral campaign, Iohannis stated that "is something that only Bucharest can offer and only Chișinău can accept", and this "special relationship must be cultivated and enhanced especially by us [Romanian state]".[39][40] Upon taking office, Iohannis suspended his membership in the National Liberal Party; the Romanian constitution does not allow the president to be a member of a political party during his tenure.

A heavily disputed draft law proposed by Nicolae Paun, leader of the Party of the Roma, regarding the amnesty of some misdemeanors and the pardoning of certain penalties was rejected by the Chamber of Deputies at the initiative of Klaus Iohannis and the party he led,[41] after PNL asked the Judiciary Committee 17 times to reject the draft law.[42]

The collaboration with socialist Prime Minister Victor Ponta was praised by both sides at the start of the mandate, but deteriorated thereafter once with foreign visits of the Head of the Executive, without informing the President, but especially with the criminal prosecution of Victor Ponta for 22 alleged corruption charges, prompting Iohannis to demand his resignation from the head of the Government.[43] Relations with Parliament went similarly. Iohannis criticized the Parliament for defending MPs by rejecting the requests of the National Anticorruption Directorate for lifting their immunity, as in the case of PSD senator Dan Șova or Prime Minister Victor Ponta.[44] Regarding the judicial system, Klaus Iohannis pleads for a sustained fight against corruption. Likewise, Iohannis expressed dissatisfaction with attempted amendments to the Penal Code.[45] Since coming into office, President Klaus Iohannis has made a habit to hold consultations with parliamentary parties. The first round of consultations took place on January 12, the purpose of these discussions being a political agreement that would ensure, by 2017, a minimum threshold of 2% of GDP for the Ministry of Defence, agreement signed by all parties.[46] The second round of consultations focused on the legislative priorities of the parliamentary session: voting in diaspora, financing electoral campaigns and parties and lifting parliamentary immunity. Because the Parliament has not implemented the commitments made on January 28, Iohannis has organized another series of consultations on the state of electoral laws,[47] but also on rejection of Justice requests for approval of arrest or prosecution of MPs. The topics of other meetings between the president and parties aimed the Big Brother law package and the national defense strategy.[48]

International trips as President[edit]

Date Country City Reason
February 10, 2015  France Paris Talks with President François Hollande on French–Romanian relations, combating terrorism and Ukraine[49]
February 25, 2015  Moldova Chișinău Talks with pro-European parties on bilateral relations and the process of European integration of Moldova[50]
February 26, 2015  Germany Berlin Talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the situation in Ukraine, investments, European projects and strengthening the rule of law[51]
March 12, 2015  Poland Warsaw Talks with President Bronisław Komorowski on Ukraine, NATO and Moldova[52]
May 14–17, 2015  Italy Milan, Rome Meeting with Romanian community in Milan and Pope Francis[53]
May 21, 2015  Latvia Riga Eastern Partnership Summit[54]
June 15–16, 2015  Croatia Zagreb Meeting with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and President of the Sabor Josip Leko[55]
July 12–13, 2015  Spain Madrid Meeting with King Felipe VI, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Romanian community representatives[56][57]
September 23–30, 2015  United States New York City, Washington, D.C. Represented Romania at the United Nations General Assembly from 26 to 29 September. Met with the United States President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden [58]
March 6–11, 2016  Israel Jerusalem Meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein[59]
March 23, 2016  Turkey Ankara Talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on security issues and refugee crisis[60]
June 7, 2016  Luxembourg Luxembourg City Reception at Neumünster Abbey in honor of the Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg[61]
July 8–9, 2016  Poland Warsaw NATO Summit[62]

Political positions[edit]

Unification of Romania and Moldova[edit]

Regarding the unification of Romania and Moldova, Klaus Iohannis declared during the 2014 presidential campaign that the unification is something that only Bucharest can provide and only Chișinău can accept. "If Moldovan citizens want the unification with Romania, then nobody can stop them", stated Klaus Iohannis.[63] After election, his position mitigated, stressing that, at the moment, Romania should support Moldova to consolidate its pro-European path.[64] President Klaus Iohannis said that a possible unification of Romania and Moldova could be discussed at the moment things are going well and stable in the two countries.[65][66]

Anticorruption[edit]

President Klaus Johannis is a supporter of the fight against corruption in Romania. Since coming to power in November 2014, has sent several messages of support to prosecutors investigating sensitive cases against politicians accused of corruption. Making one of its important position was in February 25, 2016 at the annual meeting of the National Anticorruption Directorate: “From year to year the work of the National Anticorruption Directorate has become more effective as the number of cases investigated and complexity, as well as final decisions on confiscation and recovery of property from crime. You are a model of functional institution and created a performance standard. Through the work and achievements, you've earned the appreciation of the Romanian citizens who want to live in a just society, in a country without corruption, the institutions, elect to represent them and those who perform public functions are actually serving the people. The results obtained by you in fighting corruption, appreciated and beyond Romania's borders are a guarantee that the process of strengthening democracy and the rule of law in Romania are on track. I am convinced that we will be increasingly more powerful in applying the constitutional principle that nobody is above the law and to align our established practice in countries with democracies that put the citizen at the center of any policy”, stated Klaus Iohannis.[67]

LGBT rights[edit]

In terms of LGBT rights and recognition of same-sex unions in Romania, Iohannis is reticent:[68]

The Romanian society is not ready for a categorical response. I don't give an answer, but as president I'm willing to open the issue. We must accept that any minority has rights and a majority is strong when protects a minority.

— Iohannis said in a debate with bloggers

However, he is pleading for the acceptance of differences and diversity: "nobody should be persecuted because he belongs to another group and should not be repudiated just because are different".[68]

Criticism[edit]

In February 2016, the National Agency for Fiscal Administration (ANAF) sent a notice of evacuation of the headquarters of two TV stations owned by Dan Voiculescu, sentenced in August 2014 to 10 years imprisonment in a corruption case with 60 million euros worth of prejudice.[69] In this context, Klaus Iohannis stated that ANAF approach in Antena TV Group case is "hasty", "inappropriate" and that "freedom of expression in media can not be suppressed for trivial administrative reasons".[70] His position was met with a wave of criticism from supporters and public figures.[71][72] On the same note, Iohannis stated that union with Moldova is "a less serious approach" in the context of the Transnistrian problem, of differences between Romania and Moldova regarding economic stability and fighting corruption, and can be discussed when things are stable in both countries.[73] The statement sparked indignation among unionists[65] who accused him of demagogy, considering that during the electoral campaign of 2014 he expressed a favorable position on the issue.[74]

Honours[edit]

Books[edit]

  • 2014 – Step by step (Romanian: Pas cu pas, German: Schritt für Schritt, ISBN 978-6065887565), autobiographical volume and bestseller in the history of Gaudeamus International Book and Education Fair[81]
  • 2015 – First step (Romanian: Primul pas, German: Erster Schritt, ISBN 978-6065888319), a continuation of the volume "Step by step" of 2014. Talks about his plans as president.[82]

References[edit]

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