A debate on ‘How Cluj can be perceived in Brussels’ is very justified, not because we are talking about Cluj-Napoca – we could just as well discuss about cities like Zalau, Timisoara or a sector in Bucharest. It is primarily an attempt to involve local citizens in thinking and discussing about the substance of European policies and what their impact is on their personal and community life. This is how Vasile Puscas began his speech during an event held recently in Cluj, organised by "Europe House" (“Casa Europei” Cluj-Napoca), in which the focus was the contemporary positioning of Cluj in the European Union, almost 6 years after accession to the EU.
Faculty of European Studies from Cluj gave a signal to Europe with it’s first real academic programme since 1994. In 1995 the European Students Association (AEGEE) organized a debate with MEPs in Cluj; the ministers that led the accession process of Romania into the European Union came from Cluj; and now a Cluj faculty graduate is European Commissioner. Successes from the “Babes-Bolyai” University and Technical University in Cluj are incredible. And that's no exaggeration! Their graduates are now working as professionals in the European Parliament, the European Commission or even NATO.
"Cluj is a serious center where things are done properly. It is not by accident that Romanians are good – the educational structure fits and amplifies their skills," said President of the Romanian Academy Ionel Haiduc (from Cluj), present at the event. Professor Emil Burzo, president of the local branch of the Romanian Academy, stated that nationally Cluj has the highest rate of people with higher education in Romania according to statistics from the European Commission.
However, as stated at the event by former Chief Negotiator of Romania, Puscas, "Cluj is likely to be a center of excellence in universities – in education as well as non-formal education". Nicolae Paun, Dean of the Faculty of European Studies in Cluj, stated: "Cluj's stature has strong position in Romania. It is a window of opportunity for Romania from the perspective of Brussels, as 60 graduates of our faculty work in the EU institutions in the capital of Europe".
But looking to the future, there are still things on the 2020 agenda for Cluj! Waiting for a highway linking Budapest to Bucharest, passing by Cluj! Airport modernization and expansion must continue! And finally research and innovation should be encouraged greatly given the strength of a city of over 300,000 inhabitants in which a third of the inhabitants are either student, teacher, or professor.
Following application submitted in March this year, Cluj was appointed the ‘European Youth Capital 2015’, thanks to strong documentation showing supporting investment in youth for responsible and sustainable urban development.
Coming from Cluj, I am incredibly proud of this!
This award is one more step on the way to obtain the title of European Capital of Culture for 2020.
Dan LUCA / Brussels