There are over 2,500 companies in Romania with Iranian capital and in some sectors, a very noticeable presence. Also inter-governmental cooperation has increased conspicuously in the last few months.
According to official economic data, Romania imports from Iran mainly petroleum, hydrocarbons, par formaldehyde, resins and fruits. Romania exports to Iran mainly parts and accessories for cars, tubes, furnaces and other machinery.
These areas reflect Romania’s general exports. June 2011 figures indicate that in 2010 Romanian exports of machine building industry parts (electrotechnics included), together with metal and metal products, combined to equal 57% of total exports.
In 2010 (based on provisional data from the government), the value of Romania’s exports to Iran stood at 116.2 million euros- an increase of 32.76% over the previous year’s 87.5 million euros. In 2009, the export to Iran represented 0.30% of Romania’s total export and in 2010 0.31%. In 2010 the value of imports from Iran was just over 32 million euros, compared with 16.9 million euros in 2009- a very substantial increase. However, in the bigger picture, imports from Iran in 2009 represented just 0.04% of Romania’s total imports, and in 2010 just 0.07%.
In 2010, the value of Romania’s imports from Iran stood at 21.4 million euros (0.10% of Romania’s total imports), compared with 22.3 million euros in 2011 (0.08% of Romania’s total imports).
According to an October 2011 press communiqué from the Ministry of Economy, in 2010 Romanian-Iranian trade reached the total value of $196.4 million. In the first 7 months of 2011 this value was at $154.1 million, of which the Romanian exports represented $122.19 million, meaning an increase of 71% in comparison with the same period of the year 2010.
Bilateral friendship groups exist in both the Romanian and Iranian parliaments. In the Iranian parliament, the president of the group is Ahmad Nateqnoori Lakson of the Health and Medical Education Commission. A delegation of this group visited Romania relatively recently, from May 9-13, 2011, traveling from Teheran via Frankfurt and arriving in Bucharest at 1:30pm on Sunday the 8th. On April 6, the Iranian side had disclosed that “unexpected developments” had caused the visit to be changed from the originally agreed date of May 2-6.
Details of this trip are visible on a photocopied email from Iran’s Embassy in Bucharest (.PDF). The specialized interests of the various members are indicative of the kind of sectors in which Iran sees opportunities with Romania.
On May 9, 2011, during the visit, Iranian group leader Ahmad Nateqnoori Lakson disclosed that Iran wants closer commercial relations with Romania in fields such as natural gas and oil, and that “we want to benefit from Romania’s access to the Black Sea,” according to a press release.
For his part, the vice-president of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Romania, Sorin Dimitriu, added that sectors such as research, academic and cultural exchanges, road infrastructure, fossil fuels and, green energy are attractive and could be profitable for Iranian investors. The bilateral state relations should focus more on these sectors, Dimitriu declared.
The Iranian delegation visiting Romania in May 2011 was comprised of: Ghasem Mohammadi (Agriculture, Water & Natural Resources Commission); Ali Motahari and Hamidreza Fouladgar (both of the Industries & Mines Commission); Samad Fedaee (Social Commission); Seyyed Salman Zaker (Legal Commission); Saed Javad Zakari (Expert/Secretary); Khasi Poor (General Director for Trade Affairs, Iran Chamber of Commerce), and other officials.
For its part, the Romanian parliamentary friendship group with Iran is led by Horea-Dorin Uidoreanu (National Liberal Party/PNL), who has been president of the group since March 30, 2010. Other members of the parliamentary friendship group with Iran include: its vice-president, Ciprian-Florin Luca (Social Democratic Party/PSD); Mihaela Stoica (Democratic Liberal Party/PDL); Ion Ariton (Democratic Liberal Party/PDL); Tinel Gheorghe (Democratic Liberal Party/PDL); Mircia Giurgiu (independent); Teodor Viorel Melescanu (National Liberal Party/PNL); Oana Tohme Niculescu Mizil Stefanescu (Social Democratic Party/PSD); Constantin Tamaga (Social Democratic Party/PSD); and Verestoy Attila (Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania/UDMR).
Interestingly, several of these members belong to similar groups with other Muslim states. For example, Attila is secretary of the Romanian parliamentary friendship group with Jordan, and a member of the Saudi Arabia and other similar friendship groups, while Uidoreanu is also vice-president of the Romania-Lebanon friendship group, and belongs to other similar groups. Stoica is also a member of the Romanian Friendship parliament group with Iraq and other groups, while Melescanu is also a member of the Romanian Friendship parliament group with Egypt, and other groups. Stefanescu is also on the Romania-Lebanon friendship group and other groups.
It is natural to expect that, given these associations, such individuals would attract the attention of domestic and foreign intelligence services wishing to learn more about the political, social and economic dynamics in these countries. However, only private data exists regarding this possibility.
According to data from the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in 2008 some 2,524 joint ventures with Iranian capital existed in Romania. Iran was in 38th place in terms of countries making foreign investments in Romania. However, such figures may not reflect real totals are third-country or indirectly registered companies/investors may play a role too, mostly Russian joint ventures.
Official economic data (.PDF) from the Romanian government showed that as of December 31, 2010 Iranian investors (by country of residence) had a share in 2,616 companies in Romania, representing 1.51 of the foreign companies in the country. Altogether they had a subscribed capital of 14.6 million euros. By September 30, 2011 (.PDF), the number of such companies had increased slightly (to 2632), though the other figures had dropped (1.48% of businesses, and 11.7 million euros.
The distribution and amount of companies involved with Romania-Iran trade also creates an opportunity for espionage, though details are equally scant. There are few prominent businesses in Romania with direct Iranian ownership. However, one of the main producers and distributors of cereals in Romania, Agricover Group, is owned by Iranian investors. Its turnover in 2010 was 153 million euros.
On March 31, 2011, Voxcapital.net reported that Iranian businessman Kanani Jabbar owns 90% of the capital of Agricover SA. Jabbar also reportedly holds a Romanian passport. Further, Ziarul Financiarul reported on March 30, 2011 that the Agricover group is owned by “Iranian investors who also own the Prodal ’94 company.” The financial magazine had previously reported in December 2008 that Prodal ’94 is “controlled by the Iranian group ICB, the same group that owns Agricover.”
Interestingly, Prodal ’94 is the Romanian producer of Stalinskaya Vodka and Wembley Dry Gin. A May 2010 article by PMR, a British-American company that provides market data for investors in Central and Eastern Europe, notes that Stalinskaya “currently accounts for a 38% share of the vodka market in Romania in terms of sales value, and Wembley [accounts for] a 47% share of the gin market, according to Nielsen.” Along with Prodal ‘94, the ICB group is comprised of Granddis (distribution) and Bere Spirt Turnu-Severin (a distillery). “All three companies are majority-owned by Romanian citizens of Iranian origin,” adds PMR.