German president seeks his roots in Romania
4 July 2007, Sibiu, Romania (dpa) - For German President Horst Koehler the last part of his visit to Romania was almost like meeting old friends. "You're one of us," said Bishop Christoph-Michael Klein when he welcomed the head of state to Sibiu, a town founded in the 12th century by German settlers. A visibly moved Koehler explained that the family of his mother came from the southern Carpathian town, known as Hermannstadt in German. "I have come here because of my attachment to Hermannstadt," he told mem
4 July 2007
Sibiu, Romania (dpa) - For German President Horst Koehler the last part of his visit to Romania was almost like meeting old friends.
"You're one of us," said Bishop Christoph-Michael Klein when he welcomed the head of state to Sibiu, a town founded in the 12th century by German settlers.
A visibly moved Koehler explained that the family of his mother came from the southern Carpathian town, known as Hermannstadt in German. "I have come here because of my attachment to Hermannstadt," he told members of its German minority.
He chatted with students and teachers in the auditorium of the Samuel von Brukenthal high school, where the 12th grade was sitting its school-leaving examination - in German.
The German minority in the town and other parts of Romania has shrunk dramatically in the past few decades. It accelerated after the fall of communism when many tried their luck in the West.
This has affected Sibiu's renowned German school, which is suffering from a shortage of students and a lack of qualified teachers, its director, Gerold Hermann, says.
Teachers who are good in their subjects and fluent in German are not prepared to work for 300 to 400 euros (450-600 dollars) a month, he says. A job in industry pays much more.
Students feel the same. A better life with better pay is what they want, and they are pinning their hopes on the European Union, which Romania joined with neighbour Bulgaria on January 1.
Koehler has used his visit to the two countries to welcome them to the 27-nation club, some of whose members still have reservations about the newcomers.
According to EU requirements each new member has to prove it has a functioning market economy, is governed in a democratic manner and possesses proper legal structures.
In a report by Brussels last week, both countries were singled out for criticism over a lack of progress in fighting widespread corruption and organized crime, but escaped legal sanctions.
During his trip, the German president politely spoke of the progress the two countries had made, but did not mince words when it came to pointing out shortcomings.
In Bulgaria, he urged President Georgi Parvanov to do more to combat organized crime and high-level corruption as well as creating a judicial system that both citizens and investors can rely on.
The same message was also directed at Koehler's Romanian counterpart, Traian Basescu.
Both presidents told their guest they would do everything they could to rectify matters.
According to corruption watchdog Transparency International's corruption index for 2005, Bulgaria was in joint 55th place with Colombia on a list of 158 countries.
Romania shared 85th place with the Dominican Republic and Mongolia, making it the most corrupt country in central and eastern Europe, according to the statistics.
Corruption is endemic in the two countries. Bribes are often paid to pass a driving test or to get a doctor's appointment, experts say.
In a report on corruption in Romania, author Dennis Maschmann says every second person pays extra and every third official admits to being corrupt. One of the reasons is low wages - less than one euro an hour in Bulgaria and only slightly more in Romania.
With pay as low as this a state employee is barely able to make ends meet and is therefore susceptible to accepting bribes, Maschmann said.
Subject: German news