President Klaus Iohannis
Klaus Iohannis is the fourth President of Romania since December 1989. Twenty-five years after the Revolution, the Romanian citizens chose “a different kind” of President – a former teacher and mayor well known for the way he managed to transform the community he was born and has lived in. He gained the citizens’ trust with his project - Romania of Things Well Done, his elections as President being described by the international media as one of the most important political events in Europe in 2014.
A member of an old Transylvanian Saxon family, Klaus Iohannis was born on 13 June 1959, in Sibiu. Since 1989, he has been married to Carmen Iohannis, an English teacher at a prestigious high school in Sibiu.
Klaus Iohannis attended the German school and the „Samuel von Brukenthal” high school in Sibiu. In 1978, he started his studies at the Faculty of Physics of the Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca. In 1983, he worked as a physics teacher at various schools in the Sibiu surroundings. Five years later, he was teaching physics at the high school he had graduated. After the Revolution, he chose to stay in Romania, in Sibiu, although his parents and sister decided to emigrate. He started his political career in 1990, when he joined the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania (FDGR). Later he became the head of the organisation, which he led for more than a decade. In the late 90s, after he had been teaching for 15 years, Klaus Iohannis became General School Inspector in Sibiu, an important step in shaping his public profile.
In 2000, he was FDGR’s candidate for the Mayor of Sibiu, elections which he won with over 70% of the votes. Klaus Iohannis continued to be the first option of the citizens of Sibiu, winning four mandates as mayor.
During his second mandate as mayor, in 2007, Sibiu was chosen „European Capital of Culture”, alongside Luxembourg. This project gave Klaus Iohannis the chance to prove his expertise and his abilities as a leader. For him, Sibiu is a small-scale universe that mirrors what he wants Romania to be, a vivid example and clear proof of what it is possible to achieve. At the end of his mandate as Mayor of Sibiu, Klaus Iohannis left a city that was admired across Europe, clean, prosperous and attractive, with almost no unemployment.
Klaus Iohannis entered national politics in 2009, when he was nominated candidate for Prime Minister by a large parliamentary coalition. Although this chance did not materialize, he started gaining reputation, becoming an alternative for those who wanted to have “another kind of” Romania. In February 2013, he decided to join the National Liberal Party (PNL) and shortly after he was elected first Deputy-President. A year later, he was elected President of PNL and was nominated to run for the Presidency of Romania. In the following months, he was one of the artisans of the merging of the two main liberal parties into one of the largest center-right parties in the aftermath of 1989. On 16 November 2014, Klaus Iohannis was elected President of Romania with 54.43% of the votes. He took his oath before the Parliament on 21 December 2014.
First mandate as President of Romania
As President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis aims to make his country one where every citizen feels at home, a place they love and feel proud of. He envisions a strong Romania, able to take care of its citizens by legal and diplomatic means, regardless of where they live, a country defending its values, its interests, its symbols, as well as its national assets and natural resources. A country that knows how to protect its heritage, its fields of excellence, that places priority on education and healthcare. A country that, alongside its partners, contributes to maintaining collective security and to promoting democracy and freedom!
National security is a top priority for President Klaus Iohannis. In this light, the President of Romania has adopted a modern and innovative vision based on the concept of extended security, oriented towards the European and Euro-Atlantic values. This new vision was encapsulated in Romania’s National Defence Strategy for 2015-2019 - A Strong Romania within Europe and the world, which addresses the citizens, the society as a whole and the public institutions and which ensures the implementation of the actions necessary for achiving Romania’s national strategic objectives and interests.
As President of the Supreme Council of National Defence, Klaus Iohannis ensures that institutional efforts are focused on unitarily organising and coordinating the activities regarding national security. Additionally, the President takes consistent action to consolidate Romania’s profile and its role within NATO and the European Union by meeting the pledges our country has taken, as well as to capitalise on the opportunities offered by these two organisations, in order to consolidate Romania’s security.
The implementation of the the decisions adopted at NATO Summits proves the President of Romania’s resolvedness to ensure the integrated management of the institutional efforts that are required to put into practice the agreed tasks and objectives.
During President Klaus Iohannis’s term, Romania has turned into an example within the North-Atlantic Alliance regarding fair burden sharing, by allocating 2% of the GDP for Defence over 10 years. This was one of the first political actions of the President of Romania who, on 16 January 2015, obtained the political consensus needed to ensure adequate funding for Defence. The decision has been effectively in use since 2017.
Foreign Policy and European Affairs
Through the foreign policy activities that Klaus Iohannis has taken on, our country has succeeded in shaping a more robust international profile and in assuming a more visible and more innovative role as Member State of the European Union (EU) and of NATO, as well as a strategic partner of the USA.
The President of Romania has always been and continues to be a firm supporter of the Strategic Partnership of Romania with the USA, its enhancement, enlargement and dynamization being one of the top priorities of his mandate. This was also acknowledged during the President of Romania’s visits to Washington (5-9 June 2017, and 20 August 2019), as well as during his receptions at the White House by President of the USA, Donald Trump. The meeting with President Donald Trump held in 2017 highlighted the United States' commitment to the security of the region, including that of Romania, as a recognition of our country's ability to be a security provider and to act towards implementing our shared values in the region. During the bilateral meeting held on 20 August 2019, the two Presidents had new and very consistent consultations, the Joint Declaration adopted on this occasion decisively marking the deepening of the Strategic Partnership in key areas, such as the security and defense dimension, but also the economic and investment dimension.
Moreover, the President of Romania has constantly promoted, on the occasion of all relevant foreign policy contacts, the crucial importance of consolidating the transatlantic relation, as it is the basis of the democratic values of the Western civilisation, of Europe’s prosperity and security. Furthermore, President Iohannis, throughout his term of office, has taken firm action to enhance Romania’s role and position within NATO and to consolidate the Alliance as a whole, both with regard to boosting its efficiency and relevance and consolidating the allied presence on the Eastern Flank, as well as to increasing its cohesion.
President Klaus Iohannis has taken concrete measures to support multilateralism and to outline a more visible and proactive profile of Romania at regional level, including by launching and promoting the Bucharest 9/B9 Format aimed at consolidating NATO’s Eastern Flank, as well as by Romania’s active and substantial involvement in the Three Seas Initiative format, illustrated by successfully organising and hosting its third Summit and the first 3SI Business Forum (Bucharest, September 17-18, 2018). These endeavours have led to the political and conceptual maturity of the Initiative, a platform that supports economic growth, the European Union’s cohesion and the transatlantic relation.
Through all his foreign policy actions, President Klaus Iohannis proved that Romania is deeply attached to the European project, willing to actively contribute, alongside its European Union partners, to increasing EU’s solidarity and cohesion.
Klaus Iohannis, a recognized and respected voice in the European Council, is a firm pro-European and a strong supporter of the European project, as well as an active contributor to the process of reflection on the future of the European Union. The path he proposes is: A united, cohesive and strong Europe!
One of the leaders who signed the Rome Declaration, deeply committed to promoting the European Union’s values and principles, the President’s actions have been in favour of consolidating the European project, based on objectives that were commonly agreed by the Member States and the European institutions, to the benefit of all the citizens of the Union. Furthermore, he has taken action to deepen Romania’s integration into the European structures, promoting the rallying of our country to the group of the Member States that act to deepen the European project.
President Klaus Iohannis is deeply committed to Romania’s strategic objective to join the Eurozone as soon as possible, once all criteria have been met. He is a relevant supporter of the consolidation of the Union’s Single Market and of its four fundamental freedoms (free movement of persons, goods, services and capital), as he considers that an efficient, competitive and inclusive internal market brings added value and significant advantages to the prosperity of the European citizens, which they can perceive in their daily lives.
Klaus Iohannis also promoted measures to consolidate the digital single market, so that the Union remains an international leader in various economic fields, particularly with regard to the technologic and digital revolution. At the same time, the President is a firm supporter of free trade.
Regarding circular economy, President Klaus Iohannis has highlighted the necessity for the global transition to to a low-carbon economy to be part of the legacy we pass on to the future generations, upholding the Union’s leading role in the global efforts to counteract climate changes. Therefore, the President is an active supporter of the Paris Agreement, a historical achievement in the pursuit to tackle the impact of climate changes at a global level.
On the other hand, Klaus Iohannis is an active supporter of developing the European Union’s defence dimension by setting up and consolidating the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), as well as by ensuring full complementarity with NATO.
Moreover, the President of Romania has voiced his full support for a sustainable migration policy of the European Union, by strengthening control at the external borders and by cooperating with the migrants’ countries of origin and of transit to solve the root causes of the phenomenon.
Klaus Iohannis is a strong promoter of the Union’s assertion as a global actor, with a decisive contribution to supporting the rules based multilateral system, including by promoting the enlargement policy, EU action in its neighbourhood, as well as by implementing the EU’s global commitments.
On the 9th of May 2019, in Sibiu, Romania hosted its first European Council Summit. The Sibiu Summit, which took place in the context of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, represents a benchmark in the process of reflection on the future of Europe. On this occasion, the 27 participating heads of state and government adopted the Sibiu Declaration and committed to take action to ensure a safe, strong, prosperous and united Europe. This is the spirit of Sibiu, a spriti of trust and optimism about the future of the Union.
Consolidation of the rule of law, well-grounded laws and strengthened institutions
As President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis has shouldered a huge responsibility: to consolidate the country’s course towards sustainable laws, principles and values, to support an authentic, steadfast rule of law, with strong institutions, so that every citizen could benefit from the safeness the rule of law brings about, and from the respect for fundamental rights and freedoms.
To consolidate the rule of law, focusing on ensuring the independence of the judiciary system, to strengthen the democratic mechanisms and increasing citizens’ trust in the democratic institutions have represented priorities of the President of Romania’s mandate. His commitment to the rule of law and to reforming the political institutions has been built on four components: independent judiciary system and the fight against corruption, the reform of the electoral legislation, the quality and coherence of the laws and regaining trust in the institutions.
With his efforts in ensuring an independent judiciary system and in supporting the fight against corruption, President Iohannis has been a pillar of stability in Romania, as serving as a reliable partner for the judiciary system, for the institutions in charge of defending the citizens’ rights and freedoms.
In order to put an end to the assault upon the rule of law and to the repeated attempts to subordinate the judiciary system, the President of Romania convened a national referendum on 26 May 2019 and called the Romanians to vote and express their sovereign will. Over 6 million Romanians answered YES to the questions that in fact conveyed a clear message in favour of defending the independence of Justice, of strengthening the rule of law and carrying on the anticorruption fight. As a follow-up to these positive answers, the President initiated a national political Agreement for the consolidation of Romania’s European course, which was signed shortly after and was assumed by a number of parliamentary political parties that have a pro-European vocation. The signers of this Agreement committed that all their actions will aim at fully observing the European principles and values, the citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms, democracy and the rule of law, the public interest of the citizens, who are the only legitimate source of power in a democracy.
The President being present at the annual review meetings of the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM), of the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice, the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) or the High Court of Cassation and Justice, reaffirmed his support for an independent Justice acting in compliance with its constitutional mission and in the spirit of the European values.
The Venice Commission being notified, the European institutions being informed, the public messages that were sent and the weight with which the President opposed the attempts to subordinate the judiciary system helped Romania keep its course as a European state and assume the fight against corruption at the highest level. Moreover, implementing the international commitments of Romania with regard to the rule of law, in their letter and spirit, was regarded as a premise for Romania to achieve prosperity.
In accordance with the assumed Programme, the President filtered the nominations for public top jobs by criteria of professionalism and integrity and as transparently as possible.
Integrity while holding public office is a principle that the President has consistently promoted and the attempts to relax the integrity frame (from aspects regarding incompatibility, conflicts of interests, the duties of the National Agency for Integrity, changing the laws for the local public administration) have been properly sanctioned by notifications of unconstitutionality issued by the President, often admitted by the Constitutional Court.
In the constitutional system of separation and balance of powers, the President of Romania has the power to promulgate laws. The mission of the President was to ensure the new laws are necessary, timely and in the benefit of the citizens and that they are adopted after a thorough documentation and through a transparent process, so that all those who are interested can express their opinion.
While facing a legislative inflation, President Klaus Iohannis has constantly drawn attention that the stability of the judiciary norms represents a key-premise for the citizens to be able to adapt their behavior. From the very beginning of his term up, the President of Romania has consistently taken care that the promulgated laws are accurately analyzed and that they are in line with the constitutional norms and principles and with the commitments assumed by the Romanian state at European and international level. Numerous requests for re-examination and objections of unconstitutionality were issued, thus avoiding unconstitutional laws that contradict the principles of the rule of law and the national interest or Romania’s goals of development being put into force.
Relation with the citizens, the civil society and the political class
As President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis succeeded in creating a functional and constant platform of dialogue with the civil society and has stayed permanently connected to its requests and concerns. Although this open approach was met with scepticism at first, Klaus Iohannis, with patience and professionalism, has militated to regain citizens’ trust both in the public institutions and, above all, in their ability to make a positive change in society.
Being aware that the future has to be built day by day by all of us, President Klaus Iohannis has encouraged young people’s initiatives by frequently taking part in their events or sending messages on issues of direct interest for the youth.
Klaus Iohannis has promoted projects and initiatives designated to the protection of the environment, as he is aware that the President‘s duty is to help the society acknowledge that nature is a gift for everybody, for past, present and future generations.
Throughout his term of office, the President of Romania has militated for keeping the national remembrance alive, for paying tribute to the victims of the totalitarian regimes and has permanently advocated for the need to honestly assume our recent past, in compliance with the European principles and values.
Through his activity in terms of domestic policy, during his mandate Klaus Iohannis has fulfilled his promise to be “different type” of President and to do politics in another way. Loyal to his mission to strengthen the Romanian democratic mechanisms, the President urged citizens to reach high turnouts to all ballots, emphasizing each time that voting was the most substantial means to contribute to reforming the political class.
From the beginning, the President has shown that he pays special attention to his commitment to change the relation with the citizens and to stay in touch with the civil society. In November 2015, he organised, for the first time, consultations with representatives of the civil society as well, in order to nominate a new cabinet.
The President has attentively listened to all the messages sent by the civil society, in every moment of his term, particularly those concerning defending the rule of law, and he joined the citizens who were protesting in January 2017, thus publicly conveying his support for all the moments when the civil society mobilised to defend democracy, and he firmly condemned violence upon the participants in the manifestation on 10 August 2018.
Klaus Iohannis has kept his promise to be an unbiased, honest broker and an integrator by frequently inviting to consultations with the Romanian ruling parties and factions, as well as with the members of the Government on topics related to defence, justice, budget and foreign affairs.
The President has upheld good governance, modernisation, transparency and open government, integrity and professionalism, as well as depoliticizing of both the central and the local public administration in Romania. At central level, he strongly reacted, making use of all instruments that the Constitution grants, to the nominations defying the principles of integrity and professionalism for members of the Government of Romania. At local level, through his dialogue with representatives of the local public administration during his visits to all the historical regions across Romania, he endorsed descentralisation, the development of the cities, giving up on allocating public funds to the local communities on political patronage.
Defending the values of the market economy, responsible public policies and economic diplomacy
Sustainable development and defending the values of the market economy have been priorities ever since the beginning of the President of Romania’s mandate in terms of economic policies.
In this view, throughout his term of office he has aimed at achieving a balanced relation between the public authorities and the private environment, a fruitful dialogue with the business environment, boosting competitiveness and economic diplomacy.
The President of Romania has consistently targeted a healthy development of the Romanian economy, which is built on durable patterns derived both from the realities of the internal markets and from the global trends.
A promoter of predictable and responsible public policies, as well as of specific legislation assigned to good governance, able to respond to legitimate needs and expectations, the President has constantly drawn attention on the risks unpredictability brings about in the Romanian economy.
In every circumstance, the President has constantly warned that the economic measures taken ad-hoc, without impact studies and without observing the fundamental laws of the market economy can lead to weakening the economy and to putting the sustainable economic growth at risk.
President Klaus Iohannis has always considered a priority to permanently support entrepreneurship and the internalisation of the Romanian businesses. In this light, from the very beginning of his term of office, the President aimed at contributing, through dialogue and mediation, to identifying and capitalising on new opportunities, also at diminishing and removing certain barriers the business environment is facing in Romania.
Through his actions throughout his mandate, the President of Romania has mainly pursued the best possible value, both in front of the national interlocutors and in the discussions with foreign investors, of the most powerful competitive advantages of the Romanian economy.
Throughout his term of office, President Iohannis has repeteadly urged caution and predictability when formulating and implementing fiscal policies. Moreover, he has advocated for a flexible, inclusive and adapted labour market while he militated for educational policies tailored to the needs and realities of the market.
As he acknowledges the importance of strategic and utmost relevant fields for the Romanian economy, the President took part in a series of meetings, debates and consultations and granted his High Patronage to relevant events of the economic environment.
Therefore, the business environment has frequently benefitted from the actions of economic diplomacy by which the President of Romania supported the cause of internationalising the Romanian economy and he has been its main promoter, both at home and abroad.
The President of Romania’s policy of economic diplomacy has always represented and will continue to be the best way to guarantee that Romania stays a safe destination for investment, where the foreign capital along with the Romanian one can contribute to running safe and sustainable business.
Promoting culture, safeguarding our cultural heritage and boosting the inter-confessional dialogue
Throughout his term of office as President, Klaus Iohannis has continuously conveyed messages to encourage the cultural environment as a whole, for he believes that a society that cherishes freedom cannot renounce the diversity the communities can offer and cannot fail to look after investment in the cultural infrastructure and projects.
Romania is acknowledged and respected across the world for its cultural heritage, for its contemporaneous art and creativity that give substance to the dialogue among civilisations.
In this light, the President of Romania together with the President of France, in 2018-2019, initiated and gave Patronage to the Romania-France Joint Cultural Season. Additionally, President Klaus Iohannis has granted his High Patronage to Europalia Festival (late 2019 – early 2020).
Romania is the venue where the spirit of Europe reverberates and where the great universal values in music, theatre, literature meet together. For the whole of his mandate, President Iohannis has consistently supported the great Romanian cultural projects with international echo, such as George Enescu International Festival, the Sibiu International Theatre Festival, the National Theatre Festival – Bucharest or Bookfest International Book Fair, which enjoyed his High Patronage.
In the messages he has conveyed and the public actions he has carried out, the President of Romania has acknowledged the outstanding value of Romania’s cultural heritage, as a treasure of mutual influences between the rural and the urban communities, between the Romanian majority and the national minorities, as proof of our dialogue with the cultural embodiments of Europe’s traditions and art.
The positive background of understanding and inter-confessional dialogue historically acknowledged in Romania has been reaped during President Iohannis’s term of office by the Holy Father Pope Francis having accepted the invitation to visit Romania, thus giving tangible proof of the outstanding development of relations between Romania and the Holy See.
Efficient healthcare policies and a quality education
With regard to the large public systems, education and healthcare, President Klaus Iohannis has permanently highlighted the need to reform them for the benefit of the citizens.
As a mediator between the decision-makers in public heathcare and the society, the President of Romania has seeked to learn about the serious troubles in the public healthcare system and the way the policy-makers find answers to them. Consequently, the visits he made during his mandate to medical sites, public or private hospitals or medical research instituties and centres, proved his constant concern for Healthcare as well as President Iohannis’s determination to take action to boost the improvement of the global governance for healthcare and to prompt efficient healthcare policies.
President Klaus Iohannis hereby has followed the goals in the Presidential Programme and through all his actions devoted to healthcare he has promoted the education for healthcare and prevention, truly placing the patient at the core of the system, giving value to the medical staff and not least, implementing innovation in healthcare by upholding the concept of personalised medicine.
As he is convinced that the international expertise is essential in Public Healthcare, Klaus Iohannis has encouraged to deepen collaboration between Romania and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Actually, the President of Romania set up at the Cotroceni Palace a platform of dialogue and debate on the healthcare and environment policies in Romania and he has launched and organised a series of events jointly with the civil society and international bodies. Therefore, taking the premise that the health of the individual must not be separated from the health of the environment, President Iohannis has proved resolvedness in urging that Romania must meet the Objectives of Sustainable Development of the 2030 Agenda.
A quality education, boosting performance and respecting merits, is for the President of Romania a priority objective of his mandate. In this regard, Klaus Iohannis has initiated a wide-scope national project - „Educated Romania”. The project involved over 10.000 people who sent their opinions on the development of the education system for 2030, both by online consultation means and by offline ones (conferences, debates, events organised by third parties). Many non-governmental organisations and public institutions offered suggestions and included in the project’s timetable events related to the topic in order to collect the Romanians’ opinions and to send them to the President of Romania with the purpose of being taken account of while working for the project.
The results of this wide public consultation were worded in a vision document for the development of the Romanian education system in the time horizon of 2030, and were given shape through a series of specified objectives and actions that, once they are put into practice, they can turn this collective vision into reality.
In December 2018, President Iohannis launched for debate the Vision and Strategy on Romania’s Education in the horizon of 2030 and invited all who are interested to send recommendations to improve it. The Project proposes a series of goals and actions to be taken to support the development of a flexible education system able to respond to the needs of school and university students and teachers, which runs a personalised and quality education process tailored both to external changes and to the future trends.
At the same time, throughout his term of office, Klaus Iohannis has visited many education institutes in the country to have a clear picture of the status of Education in Romania and to highlight their merits, as well as the difficulties they face and the need to solve them swiftly.
As a former teacher and current mediator between state and society, President Iohannis assumed the belief that the performance of a nation stands first in the achievements of the education system!
By granting High Patronage of the President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis intended to boost initiatives in Education that are launched by the civil society.
Relation with the Romanians abroad
Willing to respond as well as possible to the needs of the Romanians living abroad, the President of Romania has stressed the necessity to massively reconnect the Romanian state to its citizens living abroad, based on two principles: to capitalise on the resource they represent for Romania’s development and arising awareness on the need that the state pay equal attention to all its citizens, wherever they live.
The President’s vision has taken shape through actions on two levels: a level of culture, identity and profession that was aimed at creating a community meant to facilitate expertise exchange between the Romanians at home and those living abroad and, on the other hand, a social and economic level paying attention to the needs of the families whose members have left the country to work abroad, including seeking for solutions so that they can come back home.
Throughout his mandate, the President has been listening closely to the needs of the Romanians living abroad and has maintained an open dialogue. The concerns voiced by the representatives of the communities he visited during his official trips or sent to the Presidential Administration were the grounds for the requests he has sent to be solved to all the assigned institutions.
On the other hand, to give support to the families whose children have been left alone in Romania, the President has endorsed the launching of a green line and urged the assigned ministers and institutions, the associative environment and the international orgaisations to create an inter-institutional Working Group, which has proposed solutions for the various concerns arisen once parents have left home to work abroad.
Furthermore, in order to help the Romanians come back home, the President of Romania supports the creation of programmes to identify available jobs in the country and give personalised assistance to remove bureaucratic barriers that make it difficult for them to reenter the labour market and the social life in Romania.
After the incidents during the ballot on 26 May 2019 for the European Parliament and the referendum on the justicial system, the President of Romania established a work group within the Presidential Administration, which identified the required measures to be taken to ensure all conditions for citizens to be able to exercise their right to vote.
These measures are meant to: remove excessive bureaucracy of the voting process in the polling stations abroad; supply the polling stations with all the necessary equipment; change the electoral legislation regarding the procedures when closing the polling stations; increase the number of polling stations abroad; implement voting in advance for the elections for the President of Romania; expand the right to vote by mail being exercised for the elections for the President of Romania and for all the other types of ballots.
The President of Romania requested the Government and the Parliament to include these measures in the electoral legislation.
President Klaus Iohannis, on 23 June 2018, announced his intention to run for a second term as President in the presidential elections, which took place in the autumn of 2019, winning the elections in 24 November 2019 with 66.09% of the total valid votes cast.