Our guest today is Razvan Radu, originally from Romania, moved to Luxembourg 25 years ago. Rasvan is the president of Romania Luxembourg Business Forum ROMLUX and has been running the organisation for 16 years.
Tetyana Karpenko: Razvan, nice to see you.
Nice to see you too. And thank you for having me here today.
Tetyana Karpenko: You moved to Luxembourg for your studies. Can you say a few words about how Luxembourg changed during these times?
Razvan-Petru Radu: Yes, I still remember September 98. I came with a backpack and a CD player. Remember CD players?
Tetyana Karpenko: Did you come with a train?
Razvan-Petru Radu: No, with a Swiss air flight at 6:00 in the afternoon. I remember very well, and I just landed in Findel, which is not the airport, you know today. I was literally wondering if it’s the right place, because it was so….
Tetyana Karpenko: I still can remember the old building.
Razvan-Petru Radu: People say, today it’s a nice airport. Back then it was really a regional, let’s say, a box next to the landing. Luxembourg, it was very different. Still many things look like today, but many things were not at that moment existing. So we didn’t have, for instance, tram at that time is quite recent. It’s quite recent, but we didn’t have Philharmonie, we didn’t have a university, we didn’t have football pitches, artificial football pitches, all with lights, and play football in the night.
But for a few exceptions, of course, we didn’t have a lot of things that today people take for granted, like schools, maisons relais (after school care facilities). The school where my kids are learning today didn’t simply exist. I’m not talking about maisons relais, which came after, or other facilities that we really take for granted today.
It was nevertheless still a very good life and pleasant people. And it was amazing every day to discover the diversity, to discover the opportunities. And if you think there are tones of opportunities today, well, it was the same feeling 25 years ago.
Tetyana Karpenko: Speaking about the university, I know that you graduated from our university when it wasn’t still not a university.
Right? It’s an interesting story.
Razvan-Petru Radu: Absolutely, yes. When I came here, actually 98, the Luxembourg was not issuing a bachelor level diploma. So you maximum could have third year of studies at the Hochfachschule for engineering at the organisation that was called the moment Institut Supérieur de Technologie. And then if you wanted to do economics or law, you had the Centre Universitaire on Limpertsberg, and I think it was maximum two years. Then you needed whatever you did, you had to go to Paris, Brussels, Vienna, whatever you wanted, Nancy, to get a real diploma.
Well, my luck, I was one among other 18 other colleagues and the Institut Supérieur de Technologie. And that year it was decided to deliver prolonged studies and have four years studies for engineering, which deliver at the end bachelor diploma.
And this is how I was, actually, I’m the class of 2000 and the very first class of real engineers in this country. University was going to be founded in 2003. So three years later, by reuniting the three big parts of the Institut Supérieur de Technologie, Centre Universitaire and Centre Walferdange, if I remember well.
Tetyana Karpenko: Well, how does it feel like to be part of the history of Luxembourg?
Razvan-Petru Radu: It’s true. Recently, talking especially with the kids and friends and people keep coming to Luxembourg about this unusual event, I started to think even writing a book once. Because, some things are getting lost in the memories. And it is absolutely normal that people take for granted what they see today. And we have a human tendency to forget history, right?
Tetyana Karpenko: That’s true. I know there are quite a lot of people from Romania who live and work in Luxembourg. What do Luxembourg and Romania have in common? It should be something, for sure.
What is common between Luxembourg and Romania
Razvan-Petru Radu: I There are many things, but I’m thinking of two, three in particular. Now, talking about many Romanians. Let’s put some numbers on that. There are many, but there are still few. I think we talked today about around 7000 romanian nationals in Luxembourg. That’s quite a number, meaning more than 1% of the population. When I came in 98, we talked about 300. And I remember that you had everybody in the same room for the National Day in Hotel Park Belair. So going from everybody in the same room to 1% of the population, that’s quite a journey.
We have a lot of things in common. I felt like a fish in the aquarium from the first day. Number one, it was not something that I had to force myself to accept, everything was natural in daily life, in work, in friendships. And I’m thinking of two very strong characteristics when looking to Luxembourg and Romania. First of all is the national identity. Our both countries are very similar into the journey, historical journey.
Romania and Luxembourg always had to fight for existence in between superpowers, but they themselves are not superpowers, neither Luxembourg nor Romania, but were fighting for existence and defining an identity and keeping it. And both countries are still there after hundreds and thousands of years, and they have an identity, and people tend to respect it and tend to actually invest in preserving it.
That’s one thing. The second, and that’s why I always felt like a fish in the water. I know the right English word, but it’s bon vivant. The Luxembourgs, as well as Romanians, have really the bon vivant spirit, where you will work seriously, you will want to achieve something, but you will have a lot of fun around, and you will not take life as serious as it looks like. Sometimes the music party, and especially hospitality, generosity, it is at the end of both people. Everybody here is a minority in Luxembourg, including Luxembourg – the capital. Right? So tell me what it is, if it’s not generosity of hospitality to live like we live in Luxembourg, with all these minorities in this, I would say, perfect fairy tale.
Tetyana Karpenko: Yeah, that’s true. You mentioned that Luxembourg and Romania have deep historic ties. It’s always interesting and surprising to find out about such facts. Could you share some more information on that?
Razvan-Petru Radu: Absolutely. It is surprising, and it was also surprising for me to learn them. I think we have over 160 years of diplomatic relations, first of all. It’s not something that started yesterday, not something that started 25 years ago, but started quite early into the journey, the historic and diplomatic journey. And that didn’t come either by chance. It came from the fact that in 12th, I think, and 17th century, there were actually people who emigrated from the Moselle region here to parts of Romania, mainly in Transylvania, thanks to the mobility, as we call it today, of the Austro-Hungarian empire at that moment. And this did not let were not erased from the memory. But you find today the roots of those moves, and especially around the region of Sibu, region which was visited immediately after the romanian revolution.
I think it was 1994 that Grande Duke Jean initiated the first state visit. And funny thing, funny enough, the delegation took the phone book and started to call people around and speaking something which is very close to Luxembourgish. I can even testify from my own family. I have parts of the family who are now living in Bavaria, but I spent my childhood in that region, near Sibiu. And when they come here, when they came to visit me in Luxembourg, they were asking, what the hell is written like in my village? They were reading things, or they were listening to RTL. That’s what people, are speaking still, even today. Of course, it’s not one to one, but they understand perfectly. It’s not the German that they speak in Romania, but it is exactly very close to the old Luxembourgish.
Tetyana Karpenko: That’s very interesting. Do you know why people migrated that time to Romania from Luxembourg?
Razvan-Petru Radu: Well, I think from what I know, I’m not a big historian, but both in 12th and 17th century, it looks like it was not a wonderful economic perspective in this region of the Moselle, plus the plagues and health issues. And Transylvania was not necessarily the golden El Dorado like California, but it was definitely a very rich and fertile land.
So between dying, starving here, or getting land in Transylvania and prosperity with your family, I think it was quite fair exchange, which was, it looks like, facilitated by the government at that moment.
From Luxembourg to US through Romania
Tetyana Karpenko: True. Razvan, you are the president of Romania Luxembourg Business Forum, ROMLUX. And I know that you organized the inauguration of the Amazon building in Luxembourg. Why it was ROMLUX?
Razvan-Petru Radu: We talked earlier about the ties and the similarities between the countries. Well, we founded ROMLUX in 2007, and I think there were over 30 people among which you counted economy and politic personalities of the time, getting really involved into building this bridge between Romania and Luxembourg. And thinking of 2007, just looking back, it was the year Romania joins EU, 1 January 2007. It was the year of the very first european cultural capital that Romania participates into with Cebu and Luxembourg. And this is coming from one of the founders, Erna Hennicot-Schopges, who was minister of culture back than, back in the early 2000, and who proposed that, due to the ties, historical ties between Luxembourg and Transylvania.
So we all worked in the association to build this bridge between the two countries by creating events, by bringing people together, business, culture, education, and by creating value. So these events brought us more members, brought us, gave this opportunity to do things that alone would have not been able, or as a small community, disorganized, we couldn’t achieve. This is how we managed to bring here people who are, let’s say, images of the romanian culture or society, like Dan Grigore, one of the greatest pianists of the world, Dorin Prunariu, the romanian cosmonaut, Constantin Brâncuși. So we didn’t bring Brâncuși because he’s not living, but he’s the greatest modern sculptor in the world, the one at least opening the modern sculpture.
And we have also the chance of having Remus Botaro, another big artist in our association, who is very close to the life and art pieces of Constantin Brâncuși. And we managed to organize in 2013, 1st in the Château de Septfontaines, this amazing exhibition with pieces of Constantin Brâncuși, Modigliani, Rodin and Botero. So then Amazon suddenly comes here. Well, they came a long time ago, but they decided to really go big around that time. And I know that they were looking for bringing something or creating something that brings Luxembourg and United States together.
I was just saying in the discussion that we can bring Luxembourg and United States together, but we need to go through Romania. And this was actually the incentive because Constantin Brâncuși met Edward Steichen in the atelier of Auguste Rodin in Paris. And Edward Steichen, as you know, one of the world’s greatest photographers who lived more in United States than he lived in Luxembourg, even participated in the World War I and World War II because he knew the area and he was actually a captain in the first World War. He was a captain of counter espionage for United States. And this friendship of Brâncuși and Steichen was all along their life and created this bond.
So there are photographs of the art that Brâncuși created, many of his art creations and one of the most famous is bird in the sky, which cost I don’t know how many millions today, but has the big merit of actually opening the modern sculpture, creating a modern sculpture milestone in history. It was actually taxed by the US government when it was sent by Brâncuși to Steichen, it was taxed by us government as being a tool. $600 or something like that at that moment. And Steichen was outraged by the fact that the US government considers that a tool and not art. So actually he payed with his own money, and he sued the US government. And actually he was winning.
And there is an actually stating that this is an art modern piece, art modern sculpture, and it should be exempted of taxes. And that’s the history behind. We brought all that and Amazon liked it and we had of course, the American ambassador, Romanian ambassador, Dutch ambassador and so on. It was a very nice evening.
Luxembourg is a wonderful country to do everything you are dreaming of
Tetyana Karpenko: But speaking now about your story, about your journey, could you share with us main lessons that you learned?
Razvan-Petru Radu: What I learned here, I can not definitely identify one specific moment of a tough lesson learned, but I learned to be in any situation, really open, friendly to people and don’t burn bridges. If you succeed, celebrate it. If you fail, don’t burn the bridges and learn from it. Because we still live in a small country where whatever you learned in a big city or big country where you’re coming from might or might not apply.
You sometimes might need to learn from scratch what you learned in your life before coming to Luxembourg, because it will probably not work the same way here. So it’s important to be open, to be friendly, and to really accomplish your dreams, really start pursuing what you dreamed of doing. And I think it’s a wonderful country to do everything you are dreaming of doing in life.
Tetyana Karpenko: You are a deputy head of unit at the publication office of the European Union, and you told me that you are in charge of digital publications of the EU documents, right? Yes. What kind of documents can we find there?
Razvan-Petru Radu: Well, publication office is the official publisher of the European Union, so in charge of publishing legislation, European legislation, European publications, European tenders, European “who is who?” Reference datasets of both European institutions and governments, and last but not least, reference data and research publications. So all in one, I think we cover a lot of, or most of the official authentic information published or produced by the European institutions. We have a crucial role for transparency in the markets, in the decision making, the access to public institutions. And European Union is first and utmost legal space union. So legislation, it’s the basis of everything which is actually happening in decision making.
Tetyana Karpenko: But is it open for citizens or just for lawyers?
Razvan-Petru Radu: No, it’s absolutely open to anybody. And as you said, I’m working on this. I cannot call it a factory of information, but what we produce, it is trustable information and it is absolutely 100% open and free of charge to anybody being it private person or business organisation. It is all available on our portals, publication office portal, on Eur-Lex (Access to European Union law), on EU Whoiswho (The official directory of the EU), on Ted (Public procurement within the European Union), CORDIS (EU-funded research projects and their results). These are brands which are actually quite well known by people in each domain. And we not only allow and promote free and easy access to all this information, but we’re actually trying every day to make it as simple as possible, to be reused, to be downloaded, to be disseminated further, to actually really be there where citizens and businesses need to have it as easy as possible at hand.
Tetyana Karpenko: You know, there is such a phenomenon that people coming to Luxembourg would like to stay only two years, and then they just don’t want to leave. Why do you think it is so?
Razvan-Petru Radu: I consider this country a bucket list country. You really can pick up everything you wish to do in life and you can achieve it from Luxembourg.
Razvan-Petru Radu: I don’t have any counterexample, honestly. In my 25 years here, and I can speak from my personal perspective, but I have a lot of friends around and I see the same things. You come here to study, you have plenty of opportunities and you can have successful studies and go abroad if you want. Make experience. That’s what the youngest are doing. Most people come here for business reasons, right?
You can come and create a company and you can really have success. You can deliver to the world. How many companies are actually delivering business from here to the entire world or to Europe? Luxembourg is a gateway, right? You can come here today. This is something probably which is different to 25 years ago, for the cultural life, to be involved in the cultural life or in the sports life, I’m amazed with what the various sports my kids are doing. I always love sports, so I follow sport events. My kids are practicing lots of sports and they see what is happening. And this is really amazing and an evolution, a fantastic evolution in the last 25 years.
So you can found a family here, have kids in school. Neme me one country, just another country in the world where you can do as many things as you do in one day here in Luxembourg. Free transportation, free school, free after school activities. I don’t know how many tens or hundreds of possibilities of sports, cultural activities for kids and adults, going, taking the tram or the car or the bike, whatever, and have access to the amazing culinary or cultural events during the whole weekdays or weekend wine tastings.
Take the plane or take the car. In 2 hours you’re in another big capital of Europe. If you want to travel more, you’re even in states in 5 hours. So just tell you where else can you do it with the same rhythm, with the same level of possibilities and accessible to everybody. I mean, you really need just to click a button or take the bus.
Tetyana Karpenko: What advice can you give to people who just moved to Luxembourg?
Razvan-Petru Radu: Exactly. To be open, to consider all opportunities around themselves. There are plenty possibilities to meet people, to get involved with whatever you like. Get involved with your parents association, with the music, with the sports. Don’t miss the Bazaar International in November or December. I think it’s the best event to meet people basically the whole Luxembourg or the National Day in summer. There are tones of events. Get to the business forum or to the association or cultural association promoting the country you’re coming from.
Just be open, talk to people and get involved. It’s as easy as that in my opinion. It is so easy to know anybody in the world here and to do everything you ever dreamed of doing. It. But you need to do that little effort of not sitting at your home and just waiting things to happen. You just need to go talk to people, go an event, give them a chance and be open.
Do you have some life hacks for those who just arrived?
Razvan-Petru Radu: That’s a tough one. I have no life hacks. Not one in particular. Except, again, try to simply talk to the people around you, being it in the neighborhood, being it at work and getting involved. Subscribe to newsletters and go to events.
The life will unveil from that point onwards in a multitude of facets and unexpected rich tonalities. I think you have in Luxembourg people from literally every country in the world, but with the difference to Paris and London in a very small scale. So you have such that rich abilities and possibilities touch with your knowledge, with your experience, with your outreach. Basically any continent and every country from this small little Luxembourg.
Tetyana Karpenko: Do you know some hidden gems, some places to visit that are not that known?
Razvan-Petru Radu: Yeah, I should do a list, but I think that small scale of Luxembourg, you have many. Not far away from us, there is a place I often take people to see, the Schumann house. Robert Schumann was actually born there, and it was happily bought back by the Luxembourgish state. I think it’s Jacques Santer who bought the house back to the patrimony. There is a place in Schengen where you can see the whole area from the middle of the wineyard. You can sip, really, a glass of wine and have the wonderful mMoselle land and see the three countries at the same time. There is a place which is very warm, close to my house. Actually, it’s in Munsbach. You have the Château de Munsbach, and actually you have the place. It’s called Rosarie.
It’s the place where you will find all or most of the luxembourgish traditional rose types. There is this association called Friends of the Roses, and I think there are over 600, I’m not joking, over 600 types of Luxembourgish roses. It’s a wonderful place to visit in spring, and not only in spring, but all along the year. And a very nice place.
Voila. It’s a hidden gem because it’s not on the highway, it’s near the highway. And I would go on and have a lot of others. In Berdorf, you have that wonderful cliffs or gorge, the Berdorf. It doesn’t look like anything when you’re around camping, but if you just walk like 200 meters and you will have a best raking view. You think you’re either in the Grand Canyon or Swiss Alps. But yeah, it’s little Swiss, but at that height you don’t that little. So I think, that’s some good examples which are a little bit hidden of the normal track, but with a little bit of time on your hand and car, you can get to them.
Tetyana Karpenko: Where do you bring your friends? What do you show them when they come to visit you? Besides the house of Schumann?
Razvan-Petru Radu: Yes. What I typically do is taking them with my car and I do a tour. It’s a luxury to actually be able in two, maximum 3 hours to do the tour of the country. And I’m getting from here, of course, a little bit in the city with the main spots and the two bridges and the valley. And the valley itself I consider is a hidden gem.
I think the most hidden things in life are the one which are in plain sight. And this is one. Tell me another capital where you can sit in the full green in the middle of the day and quietly appreciating nature. You don’t hear the traffic from above. It’s wonderful nature down there in the summer or spring day and you’re in the heart of the city. So the valley itself, the patrice, I think it’s a wonderful hidden gem also. Showing that and going through Bonnevoie to Itzig is a nice road. And from Itzig to Sandweiler you see the whole city in Kirchberg. You have a nice view there. You continue. And there is one of the scenic roads, I think going down to Moselle, you have top of heights of Remisch again. You see the entire Schengen Moselle, then going up on the Sûre and coming back to Vianden and then coming back through the Larochette back to Luxembourg. And yeah, it’s basically sticking to the basics. Even the national anthem of Luxembourg is starting with the three rivers of this country. I truly believe that the hidden gems and the not hidden gems, the plain sight gems are on these three rivers, Alzhet, Mosele and Sûre. And if you just follow them, you have the wonderful sight of this wonderful country.
Tetyana Karpenko: Well, thank you so much for your interview.
Razvan-Petru Radu: You’re very welcome and happy to be here.