Klaus Werner Iohannis (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈkla.us joˈhanis], German: [ˈkʰlaʊ̯s joˈhanɪs]; also spelled Johannis; born 13 June 1959) is the president of Romania. He became leader of the National Liberal Party (PNL) in 2014, after having served as leader of the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania (FDGR/DFDR) from 2002 to 2013. Iohannis was a physics teacher and a school inspector before entering full-time politics.
|5th President of Romania|
|Assumed office |
21 December 2014
|Prime Minister||Victor Ponta|
Gabriel Oprea (Acting)
Sorin Cîmpeanu (Acting)
Mihai Fifor (Acting)
Nicolae Ciucă (Acting)
|Preceded by||Traian Băsescu|
|Mayor of Sibiu|
30 June 2000 – 2 December 2014
|Preceded by||Dan Condurat|
|Succeeded by||Astrid Fodor|
|Leader of the National Liberal Party|
28 June 2014 – 18 December 2014
|Preceded by||Crin Antonescu|
|Succeeded by||Alina Gorghiu|
|Leader of the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania|
|Preceded by||Eberhard Wolfgang Wittstock|
|Succeeded by||Paul-Jürgen Porr|
Klaus Werner Iohannis
13 June 1959
Sibiu, Sibiu County, Romania
|Political party||Independent (2014–present)[a]|
|Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania|
National Liberal Party
|Education||Samuel von Brukenthal National College|
|Alma mater||Babeș-Bolyai University (BSc)|
|Occupation||High school teacher, politician|
|a. ^ PNL membership suspended while president|
Iohannis was elected the mayor of the city of Sibiu (German: Hermannstadt) in 2000, representing the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania. Although the German population of the once predominantly German-speaking city of Sibiu had declined to a tiny minority, Iohannis won a surprise victory and was re-elected by landslides in 2004, 2008, and 2012. Iohannis is credited with turning his city into one of Romania's most popular tourist destinations, and the city was declared the European Capital of Culture in 2007. In February 2013, Iohannis became a member of the National Liberal Party (PNL), accepting an invitation from then liberal leader Crin Antonescu, and was immediately elected the party's First Vice President, eventually becoming the PNL President during the following year.
In October 2009, four of the five political groups in the Parliament, excluding the Democratic Liberal Party (PDL) of then-President Traian Băsescu, proposed him as a candidate for the office of Prime Minister of Romania; however, Băsescu refused to nominate him despite the Parliament's adoption of a declaration supporting his candidacy. He was again the candidate for Prime Minister of the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Social Democratic Party (PSD) in the elections in the same year.
Iohannis is the first Romanian president to come from an ethnic minority as he is a Transylvanian Saxon, part of Romania's German minority, which settled in Transylvania beginning in the 12th century. He was initially elected in 2014 and then subsequently re-elected in 2019.
Personal and professional lifeEdit
Born in the historic centre of Sibiu to a Transylvanian Saxon family, Klaus Iohannis is the eldest child of Gustav Heinz and Susanne Johannis. He has a younger sister, Krista Johannis (born 1963). His father worked as a technician at an enterprise, while his mother was a nurse. Both his parents as well as his sister emigrated from their native Sibiu (German: Hermannstadt) to Würzburg, Bavaria in Germany in 1992, acquiring citizenship there under the right of return granted by German nationality law, as most other Transylvanian Saxons after the fall of the Iron Curtain. However, he chose to live and work in Romania. As of 2014, his parents, sister and a niece live in Würzburg. Iohannis has stated that his family settled in Transylvania in present-day Romania 850 years ago. After graduating from the Faculty of Physics of the Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca in 1983, Iohannis worked as a high school physics teacher at various schools and colleges in Sibiu, including, from 1989 to 1997, the Samuel von Brukenthal Gymnasium in Sibiu, the oldest German-speaking school in Romania. From 1997 to 1999, he was Deputy General School Inspector of Sibiu County, and from 1999 until his election as mayor in 2000, he was the General School Inspector, head of public schools in the county.
Iohannis is fluent in German and Romanian at a native level and also speaks English. The original spelling of his name (which is German) is Johannis, but the name was registered by a Romanian official as Iohannis on his birth certificate and he has used both spellings interchangeably. In 1989, he married ethnic Romanian Carmen Lăzurcă, an English teacher at the Gheorghe Lazăr National College in Sibiu. They have no children. Iohannis is also a member of the Evangelical Church of Augustan Confession in Romania, the German-speaking Lutheran church in Transylvania.
He joined the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania (DFDR/FDGR) in 1990, and served as a member of its board of education in Transylvania from 1997, and a member of the local party board in Sibiu from 1998. In 2001, he was elected President of the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania.
Mayor of SibiuEdit
In 2000, the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania in Sibiu (FDGS) decided to back him as a candidate for mayor. Despite the fact that Sibiu's German minority had shrunken to a mere 1.6%, Iohannis was elected with 69.18% of the votes and has won three re-elections in a row, getting some of the largest electoral scores in the country: 88.69% of the vote in 2004, and 83.26% in 2008. He is the first ethnic German mayor of a Romanian city since Albert Dörr, who served from 1940 to 1945.
The contemporary small but well organised German minority is rather popular in Romania, where they are often viewed as hard-working, precise, and uncompromising. Many Romanians also remember that the country experienced some of its best moments under German kings over a century ago.
Throughout his tenure as mayor, he has worked to restore the town's infrastructure and to tighten the city administration. Iohannis is also widely credited with turning the city into one of Romania's most popular tourist destinations thanks to the extensive renovation of the old downtown. During his first term, Iohannis worked with a city council which was formed by PDSR, FDGR, PD, CDR, and PRM. Since 2004, during his second and third terms, his own party, FDGR, had the majority. Since 2008, FDGR has 14 out of 23 councilors, PDL has 4, PSD has 3, and PNL has 2.
Iohannis established contacts with foreign officials and investors. Sibiu was declared the European Capital of Culture of 2007, along with Luxembourg (the bearer of the distinction in 1995). Luxembourg chose to share this honourable status with Sibiu due to the fact that many of the Transylvanian Saxons emigrated in the 12th century to Transylvania from the area where Luxembourg is today. Sibiu, or Hermannstadt in German, was built by the Transylvanian Saxons, was for many centuries the cultural centre of that group, and was a predominantly German-speaking city until the mid 20th century. Many Germans left the city after World War II, and especially in 1990, within months of the fall of the Iron Curtain.
On 7 November 2005 Iohannis was nominated as the "Personality of the Year for a European Romania" (Romanian: Personalitatea anului pentru o Românie europeană) by the Eurolink – House of Europe organization.
Candidacy for the Prime Minister of RomaniaEdit
On 14 October 2009 the leaders of the opposition parliamentary groups (the National Liberal Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, and the group of smaller ethnic minorities), proposed Iohannis as a candidate for Prime Minister of Romania, after the government of Prime Minister Emil Boc fell a day before as a result of a motion of no confidence in the Parliament. Coming from outside the national-level politics of Romania, Iohannis had an image of an independent politician, although his party has consistently allied itself with, and Iohannis campaigned in the prior European Parliament elections for, the National Liberal Party. The National Liberal Party (PNL), the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), and the group of small ethnic minorities in the Parliament subsumed Iohannis as their common candidate for Prime Minister of an interim government. On 14 October, Iohannis confirmed acceptance of his candidacy. However, on 15 October President Traian Băsescu nominated Lucian Croitoru, a top Romanian economist, as Prime Minister, and charged the latter with forming the country's next government.
After the second round of talks, a day before Croitoru's nomination, Băsescu noted: "Some parties have proposed Klaus Iohannis. I would like you to know that I have not rejected the possibility for him to become Prime Minister in the condition that my options would be directed towards other [national unity government] solutions. But I have rejected such a proposal because it comes from PSD or another party [PNL]", referring to his alleged constraint to consider a proposal of the largest party (PDL), constraint disputed by the other parties. The opposition criticized the President for not designating Iohannis. Social Democrat leader Mircea Geoană accused Băsescu of trying to influence the upcoming presidential elections by having them organised by a sympathetic government. Crin Antonescu, the leader of the National Liberals, vowed his party would derail other nominations but Iohannis'. After the nomination of Croitoru, Antonescu, a candidate in the presidential election, stated that he would nominate Iohannis as prime minister if elected president. Three days later, on 18 October, Geoană suggested Antonescu was trying to use Iohannis as an "electoral agent" for Antonescu's bid for president. In response, Antonescu told the press that Iohannis "is not the type of person that would let himself be used". Geoană and PSD leadership has held a second meeting with Iohannis in Bucharest in the evening of 18 October. UDMR, which the previous day announced it would also attend, declared in the morning that all their leaders were not in the city. PNL was present at the meeting with lower level representatives, after Antonescu announced in the morning that he was campaigning in Cluj-Napoca. On 21 October the Parliament adopted with 252 votes in favor (PSD, PNL, UDMR, and minorities groups) and 2 against a declaration requesting the President to nominate Iohannis as Prime Minister.
In the National Liberal PartyEdit
On 20 February 2013, Klaus Iohannis joined the PNL, announcing this during a press conference with Crin Antonescu. At a PNL extraordinary congress, he was elected First Vice President of the Party. In the meeting of 28 June 2014, he was elected President of the PNL with 95% of the votes.
Candidacy for the President of RomaniaEdit
In 2009, Iohannis had stated that he might possibly run for the office of President of Romania, although not in that year. Former Prime Minister Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu had said on 27 October 2009 and again on 23 April 2010 that he would like to see Iohannis become President of Romania.
PNL and PDL started in the summer of 2014 procedures to strengthen the political right. The two parties will eventually merge under the name PNL, but went for elections in an alliance: the Christian Liberal Alliance (Romanian: Alianța Creștin-Liberală). On 11 August the alliance chose Iohannis as its candidate for the presidential election in November and so he was registered as an official presidential candidate. He received 30.37% of the votes in the first round, finishing second and consequently qualifying for the second round. In the second round on 16 November he was elected President of Romania with 54.43% of the cast ballots.
President of RomaniaEdit
|Presidential styles of|
|Reference style||Președintele (President)|
|Spoken style||Președintele (President)|
|Alternative style||Domnia Sa/Excelența Sa (His Excellency)|
Iohannis took office on 21 December, when Traian Băsescu's term ended. His presidential campaign focused on fighting corruption and on improving the justice system. Iohannis is also a supporter of a strongly pro-Western foreign policy. Regarding the unification of the Republic of Moldova with Romania, much discussed in the electoral campaign, Iohannis stated that "is something that only Bucharest can offer and only Chișinău can accept", and this "special relationship must be cultivated and enhanced especially by us [Romanian state]". Upon taking office, Iohannis suspended his membership in the National Liberal Party; the Romanian constitution does not allow the president to be a formal member of a political party during his tenure.
A heavily disputed draft law proposed by Nicolae Păun, leader of the Party of the Roma, regarding the amnesty of some misdemeanors and the pardoning of certain penalties was rejected by the Chamber of Deputies at the initiative of Klaus Iohannis and the party he led, after PNL asked the Judiciary Committee 17 times to reject the draft law.
The collaboration with socialist Prime Minister Victor Ponta was praised by both sides at the start of the mandate, but deteriorated thereafter once with foreign visits of the Head of the Executive, without informing the President, but especially with the criminal prosecution of Victor Ponta for 22 alleged corruption charges, prompting Iohannis to demand his resignation from the head of the Government. Relations with Parliament went similarly. Iohannis criticized the Parliament for defending MPs by rejecting the requests of the National Anticorruption Directorate for lifting their immunity, as in the case of PSD senator Dan Șova or Prime Minister Victor Ponta. Regarding the judicial system, Klaus Iohannis pleads for a sustained fight against corruption. Likewise, Iohannis expressed dissatisfaction with attempted amendments to the Penal Code. Since coming into office, President Klaus Iohannis has made a habit to hold consultations with parliamentary parties. The first round of consultations took place on 12 January, the purpose of these discussions being a political agreement that would ensure, by 2017, a minimum threshold of 2% of GDP for the Ministry of Defence, agreement signed by all parties. The second round of consultations focused on the legislative priorities of the parliamentary session: voting in diaspora, financing electoral campaigns and parties and lifting parliamentary immunity. Because the Parliament has not implemented the commitments made on 28 January, Iohannis has organised another series of consultations on the state of electoral laws, but also on rejection of Justice requests for approval of arrest or prosecution of MPs. The topics of other meetings between the president and parties focused on the Big Brother law package and the national defense strategy.
International trips as President (2015 to present)Edit
It has been suggested that this section be split out into another article titled List of international trips made by Klaus Iohannis. (Discuss) (March 2021)
|1||10 February 2015||France||Paris||Talks with President François Hollande on French–Romanian relations, combating terrorism and Ukraine|
|2||25 February 2015||Moldova||Chișinău||Talks with pro-European parties on bilateral relations and the process of European integration of Moldova|
|3||26 February 2015||Germany||Berlin||Talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the situation in Ukraine, investments, European projects and strengthening the rule of law|
|4||12 March 2015||Poland||Warsaw||Talks with President Bronisław Komorowski on Ukraine, NATO and Moldova|
|5||14–17 May 2015||Italy||Milan, Rome||Meeting with Romanian community in Milan and Pope Francis|
|6||21 May 2015||Latvia||Riga||Eastern Partnership Summit|
|7||15–16 June 2015||Croatia||Zagreb||Meeting with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and President of the Sabor Josip Leko|
|8||12–13 July 2015||Spain||Madrid||Meeting with King Felipe VI, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Romanian community representatives|
|9||23–30 September 2015||United States||New York City, Washington, D.C.||Represented Romania at the United Nations General Assembly from 26 to 29 September. Met with the United States President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden|
|10||6–11 March 2016||Israel||Jerusalem||Meeting with President Reuven Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein|
|11||23 March 2016||Turkey||Ankara||Talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on security issues and refugee crisis|
|12||7 June 2016||Luxembourg||Luxembourg City||Reception at Neumünster Abbey in honor of the Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg|
|13||8–9 July 2016||Poland||Warsaw||NATO Summit|
|14||24–25 January 2017||France||Strasbourg||Official visit to the Council of Europe, as well as the European Court of Human Rights|
|15||19 June 2017||United States||Washington D.C.||Joint press conference with United States President Donald Trump regarding terrorism in Qatar|
|16||27 November 2017||France||Paris||Joint political declaration signed at Elysee Palace|
|17||29 December 2020||Moldova||Chișinău||Meeting with new President Maia Sandu|
Unification of Romania and MoldovaEdit
Regarding the unification of Romania and Moldova, Klaus Iohannis declared during the 2014 presidential campaign that the unification is something that only Bucharest can provide and only Chișinău can accept. "If Moldovan citizens want the unification with Romania, then nobody can stop them", stated Klaus Iohannis. After election, his position mitigated, stressing that, at the moment, Romania should support Moldova to consolidate its pro-European path. President Klaus Iohannis said that a possible unification of Romania and Moldova could be discussed at the moment things are going well and stable in the two countries.
Autonomy of the Hungarian minorityEdit
In March 2017, a sub-group of the ethnically Hungarian Székely community in southeastern Transylvania launched a petition demanding autonomy for their region, arguing for political and administrative self-rule, their own elected president and flag, as well as the recognition of Hungarian as an official language next to Romanian. Iohannis, on a visit to the region in July, cautioned against decentralization and the creation of regions based on the ethnic origin of residents. He argued for more and improved cooperation between Romanians and Hungarians "as the only solution for us" instead, stressing local administrative reforms and developing the region.
On 28 April 2020, a draft legislation favouring the autonomy of Székely Land, submitted by two deputies of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) in December 2019, was tacitly adopted by the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Parliament of Romania, in which the Social Democratic Party (PSD) holds the majority of seats. The draft bill was automatically adopted after it exceeded the 45-day deadline for debate. On 29 April, Klaus Iohannis criticised the draft's adoption in a television speech, stating "as we [...] fight the coronavirus pandemic, [...] the PSD [...] fights in the secret offices of the parliament to give Transylvania to the Hungarians". In his speech, he used Hungarian language in a mocking manner: "Bună ziua ["good day" in Romanian], dear Romanians; jó napot kívánok ["good day" in Hungarian], PSD." On the same day, the draft was rejected in the Senate, with both PNL's and PSD's senators voting in favour of the rejection.
The president's speech was met with widespread criticism. Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó described the statements of Iohannis as "particularly uncivilized and suitable for inciting hatred" and asked the Romanian president to show "more respect to Hungarians". In turn, Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Bogdan Aurescu called Szijjártó's statements "provocative and inadequate". In a radio interview, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán also reacted to the speech, saying "we have never heard such remarks from Romania, not even in the worst, most antidemocratic, tumultuous times". The president's comments were also criticised by members of the Romanian opposition parties PSD and ALDE, but also by the confidence and supply USR (which has been supporting the PNL minority government since 2019). Iohannis was fined RON 5,000 by the National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD) for discrimination and ethnicity/nationality-based violation of the right to dignity.
Ukraine's education lawEdit
Iohannis criticized Ukraine's 2017 education law, which makes Ukrainian the only language of education in state schools, and cancelled his visit to Kyiv in October 2017. Iohannis said that Ukraine's new education law "will drastically limit the access of minorities to education in their native language. We are deeply hurt by this. We have many Romanians in Ukraine."
President Klaus Iohannis is a supporter of the fight against corruption in Romania. Since coming to power in November 2014, has sent several messages of support to prosecutors investigating sensitive cases against politicians accused of corruption. Making one of its important position was on 25 February 2016 at the annual meeting of the National Anticorruption Directorate: "From year to year the work of the National Anticorruption Directorate has become more effective as the number of cases investigated and complexity, as well as final decisions on confiscation and recovery of property from crime. You are a model of functional institution and created a performance standard. Through the work and achievements, you've earned the appreciation of the Romanian citizens who want to live in a just society, in a country without corruption, the institutions, elect to represent them and those who perform public functions are actually serving the people. The results obtained by you in fighting corruption, appreciated and beyond Romania's borders are a guarantee that the process of strengthening democracy and the rule of law in Romania are on track. I am convinced that we will be increasingly more powerful in applying the constitutional principle that nobody is above the law and to align our established practice in countries with democracies that put the citizen at the center of any policy", stated Klaus Iohannis.
Romanian society is not yet ready for a definite answer. I won't give an answer but as a president I am willing to open up the issue for discussion. We have to accept that any minority has rights and that a majority is strong when they protect the minority.— Iohannis in a 2014 debate with bloggers
However, he is pleading for the acceptance of differences and diversity: "nobody should be persecuted because they belong to a different group or they are different".
Regarding the initiative to amend Article 48 of the Constitution (prohibition of gay marriage) started by the Coalition for Family (Romanian: Coaliția pentru Familie), Iohannis reiterated the concepts of tolerance and accepting one another. "It is wrong to give obedience or walk the path of religious fanaticism and ultimatum solicitations. I do not believe in them and do not support them. I believe in tolerance, trust and openness to other", said Iohannis in a press conference. Thus, Iohannis is the first top official in the country to open the discussion about same-sex marriages. His reaction was praised by international media, including The Washington Post, while religious and conservative organizations in Romania have criticized his position on LGBT rights.
Iohannis has said that migration "has to be controlled" and "it affects Romanian habits" and has supported stronger external European borders. Iohannis accepted the migration quota set for his country by the EU, but said he is still opposed to mandatory quotas being set by the commission.
In February 2016, the National Agency for Fiscal Administration (ANAF) sent a notice of evacuation of the headquarters of two TV stations owned by Dan Voiculescu, sentenced in August 2014 to 10 years imprisonment in a corruption case with 60 million euros worth of prejudice. In this context, Klaus Iohannis stated that ANAF approach in Antena TV Group case is "hasty", "inappropriate" and that "freedom of expression in media can not be suppressed for trivial administrative reasons". His position was met with a wave of criticism from supporters and public figures. On the same note, Iohannis stated that union with Moldova is "a less serious approach" in the context of the Transnistrian problem, of differences between Romania and Moldova regarding economic stability and fighting corruption, and can be discussed when things are stable in both countries. The statement sparked indignation among unionists who accused him of demagogy, considering that during the electoral campaign of 2014 he expressed a favorable position on the issue. In March 2018, at the 100-year anniversary of the Union of Bessarabia with Romania, he was absent from a plenary vote regarding the issue.
- Honorary senator of the Babeș-Bolyai University (UBB)
- Romania: Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Romania
- Romania: Grand Master Member of the Order of merit
- Austria: Grand Officer of the Order of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria
- Belgium: Knight Officer of the Order of the Crown
- Bulgaria: Order of the Balkan Mountains
- Germany: Officer of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
- Germany: Charlemagne Prize (German: Karlspreis)
- Germany: Kaiser Otto Prize from Magdeburg (German: Kaiser-Otto-Preis)
- Italy: Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity
- Italy: Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (30 May 2016)
- Luxembourg: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau
- Luxembourg: Knight Officer of the Order of Merit of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
- Moldova: Order of the Republic
- Poland: Order of the White Eagle
- 2014 – Step by step (Romanian: Pas cu pas, German: Schritt für Schritt, ISBN 978-606-588-756-5), autobiographical volume and bestseller in the history of Gaudeamus International Book and Education Fair
- 2015 – First step (Romanian: Primul pas, German: Erster Schritt, ISBN 978-606-588-831-9), a continuation of the volume "Step by step" of 2014. Talks about his plans as president.
- 2019 – EU.RO – un dialog deschis despre Europa (English: EU.RO – an open dialog on Europe, German: Ein offener Dialog über Europa)
Local elections (Mayor of Sibiu)Edit
|Election||Affiliation||First round||Second round|
|Election||Affiliation||First round||Second round|
(supported by FDGR)
(supported by FDGR)
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- Die Lokomotive von Hermannstadt, interview with Gustav Heinz Johannis, in: Monatsgruß (monthly magazine of the Evangelical-Lutheran dean of Würzburg), October 2007, p. 5.
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- (in Romanian) Sibiu City Council composition Archived 10 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine at Sibiu's Local Administration's webpage. Retrieved 16 October 2009
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- "Democratic Liberals submit their own nomination for prime minister. Other parties keep supporting their own nomination". Hot News. 15 October 2009. Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2009.
- Mircea Geoană; Crin Antonescu; Bela Marko; Varujan Pambuccian; Daniela Popa (14 October 2009). "Open letter to Traian Băsescu" (PDF) (in Romanian). Archived (PDF) from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 15 October 2009.
- "Băsescu spune ca n-are nimic cu Iohannis dar România are nevoie de un premier cu experiență în economie" [Băsescu Says He Has Nothing against Iohannis but that Romania Needs a Prime Minister with Economic Experience] (in Romanian). Ziarul Financiar. 14 October 2009. Archived from the original on 29 February 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2009.
- "PNL, PSD si UDMR l-au "desemnat" pe Johannis premier, desi neamtul nu e pe gustul lui Basescu" (in Romanian). Ziarul Financiar. 15 October 2009. Retrieved 21 October 2009.
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as President of the Senate