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25th Jul 2021

Merkel to follow the Pope as honorary doctor at Romanian university

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit the Transylvanian city of Cluj, or Klausenburg in German, on Tuesday (12 October) to receive the title of Doctor Honoris Causa from the local Babes-Bolyai University. Ms Merkel, a doctor in physics in her pre-politics life, will collect another honorary doctorate in Bulgaria, during the first leg of her two-day trip to the region.

Cluj is the biggest Romanian alma mater and the only one in Eastern Europe with a multicultural status. It offers three separate lines of study, in the languages of the three Transylvanian historical communities: Romanian, Hungarian and German. The Chancellor's agenda includes a meeting with German-speaking students, followed by the inauguration of the new German Institute and a walk through the historical centre of the old town.

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The initiative for the honorary distinction came from professor Ladislau Gyemant, dean of the faculty of European Studies and one of the leading figures of the local Jewish community. According to Mr Gyemant, the title will be awarded not only in appreciation of the German leader's general political merits, but particularly in recognition of her environmentalist credentials, notably in the fight against global warming.

There is, however, some scepticism in university circles about the appropriateness of the move, and some members of the professorial corps in private expressed the opinion that Ms Merkel as German Chancellor could not refuse an invitation coming from leaders of a Jewish community.

Rumours in the local German-speaking business milieu that Merkel would announce an important business deal involving a major Transylvanian investment by BMV, the Bavarian car manufacturer, were not confirmed by government sources in Berlin.

Ms Merkel is not the first German VIP to receive the honorary distinction from Cluj university. She was preceded by Pope Benedict XVI, who accepted the honour when he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The award ceremony, however, took place in Rome, after his inauguration as head of the Catholic Church. Other figures made Dr. h.c. in Cluj after the fall of Communism include the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, and the former king of Romania, Mihai I.

Ms Merkel's Bulgarian promotion is a rather low-key affair in comparison.

Her tight schedule on Monday leaves no room for the 324 kilometre road trip to the city of Ruse itself. Instead, she will receive the diploma from Ruse's Angel Kanchev University in the Granit Hall of the Council of Ministers building in Sofia. Political sources in the Bulgarian capital said the more prestigious Sofia University had shown reluctance to make Ms Merkel its honorary doctor.

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