Sunday

23rd Jan 2022

German wins election to be mayor of Romania's third city

  • 'With their vote, the people of Timişoara...elected a European mayor for a European city. Timisoara was, is and will be a European city", Dominic Fritz told EUobserver on his win (Photo: Dominic Fritz/Facebook)

The residents of Timişoara, Romania's third-largest city, on Sunday chose a new mayor for the next four years - who just happens to be a German, rather than Romanian, citizen.

Dominic Fritz won 54.8 percent of the vote, beating the incumbent Nicolae Robu - who lost his bid for a third term running the major economic and cultural hub of western Romania.

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International attention on the 37-year old victor was fuelled by that fact that Fritz becomes the first foreigner to be elected mayor of any Romanian city.

Fritz holds no Romanian citizenship and no Romanian passport. He was born and raised in the Black Forest region of Germany, lived in Berlin where he worked as chief of staff to the ex-German president president Horst Köhler, and was a member of The Greens until 2019.

He first came to Timişoara at 19-years old, volunteering for a time at a local orphanage.

Fritz holds a residence permit in Timişoara. According to European law, those with residence can vote and run for elections anywhere in the EU both in the local and European Parliament elections.

This right was included in Romanian legislation in 2015: "European Union citizens who have residence in Romania have the right to elect and be elected under the same conditions as Romanian citizens, in compliance with the provisions of the law."

Following his weekend victory, Fritz now joins the selected group of Europeans governing a city in a country different from their own.

Clotilde Armand, a French-born Romanian citizen, is expected to become mayor a district in Bucharest, although the result could still be close.

The race is neck-and-neck. Armand was born and raised in France and got Romanian citizenship in 2015, months before her first bid in the mayoral race for Bucharest's "District One", which she lost in 2016.

Outside Romania, Dutch citizen Marcel Meijer was elected to become Denmark's only non-Danish mayor. In 2016 he won the local elections for Samsø Municipality, a town on the small Danish island of Samsø.

"With their vote, the people of Timişoara made history not only in Romania but also in Europe. They elected a European mayor for a European city. Timisoara was, is and will be a European city", Fritz told EUobserver about his win.

During the campaign Fritz promised that if elected he will modernise Timişoara's public transport, grow the city into an economic, tech and cultural hub and digitalise local administration.

The Romania revolution in 1989 which ousted longtime communist leader Nicolae Ceauşescu began in Timişoara.

The city is expected to hold the title of European Capital of Culture in 2023.

Author bio

Cristian Gherasim is a freelance journalist contributing to EUobserver, Euronews, EU Reporter, Katoikos, Von Mises Institute, and bne IntelliNews, with a particular focus on European and regional affairs.

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