Professor Nicolae Robu has graduated from Politehnica University of Timisoara with BSc in Automation and Computers. Before becoming mayor of Timisoara in 2012, he proved his administration and management skills as PhD Supervisor, Vice-Rector and then Rector of Politehnica University for 8 years. His mandate as rector is highlighted by an outstanding degree of internationalization with partnerships concluded with more than 100 academic institutions worldwide. Despite full schedule as an active mayor of a flourishing city professor Robu is still teaching courses at Politehnica. He discusses the city’s development plans.
TGR: What are some of the highlights of your mandate so far as Mayor of Timisoara?
I adopted, since 2012, an assiduous development and modernization plan for the city. This was subsequent to my strong belief that even with Timisoara being an extraordinary city with an enormous potential, it was at the time, far behind from what it could represent. That is why I launched a great number of projects and I developed them almost simultaneously. It was not easy for me and neither for Timisoara’s citizens however I consider that the benefits of my approach have appeared in a considerably faster way.
Some of the most important and visible projects that I implemented as mayor are the rehabilitation of the city’s historical center, rehabilitation of the Bega river banks including building 9 stations and resuming the public boat rides on 7 vessels, 3 passages for traffic decongestion and implementation of the most modern traffic management system in Romania. We are continuously investing in modernizing the mobility infrastructure as well as the education, health, culture and sport infrastructures.
TGR: Timișoara has been designated to be one of the European Capitals of Culture in 2021. How are you preparing for such opportunity?
It was a harsh competition with 13 other strong and reputable cities from Romania. For this project we are planning to invest heavily in our cultural infrastructure. The most important one is Multiplexity, a center for arts, technology and experiments. It will be financed from the city’s own budget. We have substantially financed the Philharmonic, the German and Hungarian theaters, the city’s House of Culture and various other cultural projects. We have a very rich and diversified cultural agenda that includes events all year long. All the events have the scope of attracting and involving as many citizens and tourists as possible. For instance, access to all the festivals is free of charge.
We are also moving towards taking the culture into the neighborhoods instead of keeping it downtown only. This means that the events will occur in squares all around the city, right in the midst of the citizen’s most frequented places.
TGR: What sources of funding is the city accessing for its investment projects?
To ensure the co-financing required for implementing on time the EU funded projects we accessed a loan from the World Bank, though IFC, which created the prerequisites of our success. We are proud to advertise that, despite running a large number of EU funded project we had a 100% success rate and managed to absorb all the money. We have a continuous interest in accessing more loans for future development. Timisoara’s indebtedness is very low, probably the lowest in comparison to the larger cities in Romania, only 8%. In consequence we are allowed to get bank loans up to 30%. In 2019 we have high hopes for getting a significant loan because the city needs constant improvement. The high improvement rate cannot be maintained without such loans. We have a vast portfolio of projects in our long term vision concerning the developing of Timisoara, amounting to a total of about EUR5 billion investment needed. We are realistic and aware that these kind of sums aren’t at our reach however we are ready to absorb as much as we are allowed to.
TGR: Timisoara is considered to be a cultural, academic and business hub of the whole Banat region. How did the city achieve such honoring labels?
Timisoara is a beautiful city with a rich cultural life and a safe city where many different ethnic and religious communities have lived in peace and harmony for centuries. According to international rankings for quality of life, Timisoara had always been situated around 20th place within European cities and most of the times on the first place in Romania. We have amazing parks dispersed all over the city but those along both sides of the Bega river are extraordinary. The facilities and leisure opportunities are altogether appealing especially to young people and make Timisoara a very attractive city. We are one of the few cities in Europe to have 6 different means of transportation to cover the city: trolleys, busses, trams, minibuses, 7 boats on Bega river and 440 bicycles, all included in Timisoara’s public transportation.
In terms of academic opportunities, we have 4 highly appreciated state universities, with great performance rankings. For example, the West University of Timisoara ranks in top 5 universities of Romania. I am convinced that whoever decides to study here would be entirely satisfied with both the professional growth and human achievements they can accomplish.
TGR: Why should investors choose Timisoara?
We stimulated the private investments by various methods, of course, as far as the Romanian legislation and European standards permitted. We are granting land in industrial parks under very convenient conditions with all the utilities required for greenfield investments. We offer tax cuts of up to 100% to new investors depending on how large the investment is and how many jobs they create. For several years in a row Timisoara has been named the most dynamic city in Romania by the prestigious economic magazine Forbes. In 2018 we got the title of most recommended city for investment, both from Forbes magazine and from the European Business Assembly, an Oxford-based organization.
Timisoara is a cultural attraction with an outstanding historical center, with extended leisure areas, with lots of parks, with navigational Bega canal, it’s a place where no important company failed. On the contrary, every company that came here developed its business with a greater rate than initially planned.
We invite investors to come to Timisoara with confidence, they will be well received and success is guaranteed. Moreover, I invite citizens from all around the world to come here as tourists, especially in 2021 when Timisoara will be the European Capital of Culture.