Pascal Fesneau, Honorary Consul of France in Cluj is talking, in the following interview about what it means to do business in Romania, as a Frenchman.
How do francophone companies develop in the economic environment in Cluj?
Pascal Fesneau: I am not acquainted with all francophone companies, but the French companies are clearly expanding. Some have a 5-10% increase compared to last year, others up to an 80% increase over the last year. This increase is felt both in Cluj and all over Romania. We have been feeling, indeed, a revival of the investment activity, particularly on the French market, since the beginning of the year.
Mr. Consul, you have been living in Romania for over 17 years. How would you characterise the environment here, both the business and social? It is worth it for French companies to invest here?
Pascal Fesneau: The issue should be tackled the other way around: why not come to Cluj? Many criteria followed by us, the investors, are satisfied in Cluj. I mean, our mind is not set only to cheap labour. That is the thinking of the past. Nowadays the investors are reviewing, for example, data safety, the risk of earthquake or terrorism. Another example would be the overall infrastructure. The airport is the best gateway to Cluj, but unfortunately, the railway and the road systems are not as developed in this area. However, Cluj possesses the necessary tools.
There are also the arguments related to human resources: people’s proficiency, intelligence, and creative capacity. Investors are now looking for areas with a certain quality of life, cultural, linguistic diversity, as they address numerous markets in the world and seek intelligence. Of course, the experience as well, but creativity is Cluj’s advantage. The simple proof is that Cluj is listed among the top 10 cities in the world, in terms of contemporary art.
As Consul, what do you tell the French people approaching you for various issues? What message do you convey?
Pascal Fesneau: To learn Romanian. The first time someone addresses me, for example a medical student, who has lived and studied in Cluj for five, six orseven years, it seems very important to me that he or she should learn Romanian. Not very fluently, but they should be able to speak and solve everyday problems. Cluj has an extraordinary quality of life. For a Frenchman, it is actually very easy to adapt, it is quite easy to invest and start a project. The only issues that are an impediment to our growth and development, including from the Romanian investor’s point of view, are the human resources, the weak educational environment, especially in technical fields, such as, for example, the field of associate engineers which no longer exits. There is also the limited legal matter concerning the alternation between school and practice (internship) in companies, particularly in production activities. The second poorly developed field, which I mentioned earlier, is the infrastructure, especially between the towns near Cluj, for example. But everything aims for improvement, even if it is at too slow a pace from our point of view.
How about the taxation in Romania, in comparison to the taxation in France?
Pascal Fesneau: It is clear that taxation is better, more appealing in Romania. But on the other hand, the road services and infrastructure, public health services, schools do not receive money; wages are not valued fairly in certain professions, such as teaching. For a businessman, it is a very interesting taxation system as compared to many parts of Europe and this allows attracting investors in Romania. It is important to have a justifiable tax system. Romanians are prepared to pay as long as it is reasonable and as long as one knows what the money is used for and that it is well assigned. Apart from the taxation it is important to talk about people, as, ultimately, a company is made up of people. I would like our economic systems to care less about shareholders and investment funds or pension funds that invest in Bahamas or Panama, and more about money to spend in the local economy and the real economy.
Can one still do business in French in a world where English is ubiquitous?
Pascal Fesneau: This is not the correct approach. French is the second language after English as an international language. Chinese speak Chinese only among themselves, but French is one business language with many countries and areas: Canada, Africa, France, Belgium, a lot of countries, some of which have very good economic growth. If one speaks the customer’s language, there’s a 60% chance of making a deal. In conclusion, French is, of course, the language of intellectual elite, which distinguishes between two people running for the same position, it is the language of diplomacy, culture, sports, but the second scientific language in terms of written production levels in the scientific area, and it is the second business language.
Read the French version of the article HERE.