Grassroots Democracy and Civil Society: An Interview with Nicolae Raţiu

Nicolae Raţiu

Nicolae Raţiu was born on May 7, 1948 in Davos, Switzerland. He is the younger of two sons of the former Romanian politician Ion Raţiu. He studies at the Marlborough College in Marlborough, Wiltshire, England, less than 80 miles from London (1965) and the State University of New York Maritime College (B.Sc. in Marine Transportation and Economics, 1971).

Mr. Raţiu is Managing Director of the Regent House Properties Ltd. (1971 to present) that does property investment and development in UK and Romania, and Chairman of the Pilkington Raţiu Business School (2012 to present) in Bucharest, Romania.

He is also Chairman of the Raţiu Family Charitable Foundation, President of the Raţiu Democracy Center, and senior advisor to the family’s Bellerive group of companies in the UK, France, and Romania, with a major portfolio in real estate development and investment.

A businessman and philanthropist, Mr. Raţiu is also a trustee of a number of further charities in Romania and the UK, amongst which are The Romanian Cultural Center in London, Pro Patrimonio (The National Trust of Romania), ADEPT, and The Relief Fund for Romania.

Mr. Raţiu is currently living in London, UK.

I met Nicolae Raţiu on November 17, 2018, at the Romanian Embassy in Washington, DC, during a gala-symposium on issues of politics, security, management and culture, an event sponsored by the ALIANȚA (The Alliance – The Friends of the Romanian-American Alliance) Foundation.

On that occasion, Mr. Raţiu was kind enough to give me a brief interview.

1. Mr. Raţiu, Romania is about to end the Centenary Year of 2018 since its Great Union. How would you characterize the year of 2018 for Romania and Romanians?

Well, it’s the year of the great celebration, that’s the celebration of unity that took place a hundred of years ago. There is a unity amongst Romanians, I suppose, today, but there is also, like in several parts of the world, a polarization of the people. There are those who support the current government and there are those who turn it against the current government. I mean, it’s a… there is no close… sort of middle ground at the moment, unfortunately. And we see the same in the USA, we see the same in the UK, and in France or in Italy, it’s all over… That’s not going to be in Romania, but it’s a difficult time, and I’m not quite sure how long it will take to come out to this. But, in the meantime, of course, we can celebrate a hundred years since the creation of Greater Romania.

2. Thank you so much. How would you characterize, in short, the Anglo-American relations with Romania during the current administrations, Iohannis, May, Trump, you know, with the wave of nationalism, Brexit, immigration, and so on and so forth?

I think… It seems that the relations between the USA and Romania are, at the presidential level, at a high level, are very good. Also, from the security point of view, in cooperation within NATO, relations between Romania and the U.S. probably couldn’t be better. There is a current understanding, there is a mutual respect of the difficult roles of those nations, and I think the U.S., especially, respects Romania and the link with Romania. The fact that they, Romania, is in NATO, is to the benefit of NATO, for the benefit of the U.S. And, on the other side, I think Romanians are [there] statistically. Some eighty percent of Romanians, when asked the question “Who is your best ally?” the answer is “The USA.” And that’s why I think the relations are good. Relations between UK and Romania are rather mute because the Britain has so torn apart with this Brexit argument. There is not enough time to think of anything else. The patriots write nothing else than on that subject. They don’t know what’s right and favorable for Romania. I don’t see Brexit being good for the UK or good for Romania. And it’s not going to be good for Romanians living in the UK because there are persons in a rather precarious situation for their future. They don’t really know what their rights are, it’s still unclear, and how long they can stay. And how, as students, they can complete their studies. If there are so many gray unknown areas, this is just to make a stupidity.

3. What challenges will Romania face in its near future, in your opinion?

The Romanian government has recently been criticized severely, and votes are taken against them in the European Parliament by a vast majority, sanctioning their actions that they’ve been taking in the areas of justice and the rule of law, to dismantling so much the separation of powers and independence of judiciary. And this is in regard within a large drop of confidence in Romania, probably the rest of the EU, United States, other trading partners, because to do business in Romania you need to know that you have the protection of an independent law. Now, the impression and that reality that is being delivered by the ruling parties in government is precisely removing that security. So, therefore, not surprisingly there has been a drop over the last eight or nine months. That’s a drop in foreign choice investment, there is a certain unease in Romania that, perhaps, not a crisis is coming, maybe a very bad crisis. And the other recent measures taken by the Romanian government to increase drastically the minimum wage, I only see this as a total destruction of the advantage, of the commercial advantage that Romania has left it in its trading with other nations. As a matter of fact, in industry, the actions taken by the Romanian government will decimate a lot of factories in the industry, and people will be put out, factories will close, people will be put out of jobs. So, theoretically, they have a higher minimum wage, but they have no job.

4. In conclusion, Mr. Raţiu, can you share any of the Raţiu Foundation projects in the future?

Well, we have two particular projects, I should say programs, here in the U.S. One is with the Woodrow Wilson Center, which is the “Ion Raţiu Democracy Award Fellowship” and the second is the Chair of the Romanian Studies, the Ion Raţiu Chair of the Romanian Studies Georgetown University, which continues. We may add possibly some fellows to that, we don’t know, we’ll see. That’s in the U.S. In Romania, we are increasing the “Centrul Raţiu pentru democraţie” (The Raţiu Democracy Center), based in Turda. In Turda, in Cluj [county], we are increasing working with other partners, like London School of Economics, and UCL [University College London]. And there are various think tanks, and some organizations on doing, on putting together conferences to study, and talk, and debate issues like the importance of the rule of law, the importance of the independent investigative journalists, on measures and programs to include youths in civil society. So, like civic responsibility and having grassroots democracy, with the intent to increase the volume of these, because we think there is a vacuum in the, especially, in the younger generation to discuss the understanding to be productive, concrete, positive in the future.

5. Thank you, Sir.

With pleasure.


NOTE – A version of the article was published in MEDIUM.


TIBERIU DIANU has published several books and a host of articles in law, politics, and post-communist societies. He currently lives and works in Washington, DC and can be followed on MEDIUM.





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