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June 22, 2024
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Romania’s President’s Official Visit to Japan Sparks Controversy following Luxury Travel Conditions

Romania’s President Klaus Johannis is the subject of another public scandal in the country This time, the controversy sparked after the local media found out about the travelling conditions during the official visit to Japan.

Johannis met Japan’s Emperor, His Majesty Naruhito, and Japan’s Empress, Her Majesty Masako…

Romania’s Presidential couple meeting Japan’s Emperor and Empress

…but also Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Romania's President and the Prime Minister of Japan meeting in Tokyo
Romania’s President Klaus Johannis and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Photo source: Presidency.ro

The official visit seemed successful, even before any news regarding future economic cooperation between the two countries. Yet, the Presidency’s choice regarding travel means for this visit upset the leading Romanian state-owned air company, TAROM.

An adviser from TAROM, the Romanian state company used mainly by state officials, including MEPs, ministers and even the Prime Minister, published the news on his Facebook account, saying:

Are you curious about what plane President Iohannis is travelling on? This is the Boeing 737-900ER aircraft, registered LX-DIO, belonging to the Luxembourg company Global Jet (no, not TAROM). The plane flew the President, his wife and the staff of the Presidential Administration from Romania to Japan. Route: Bucharest -> Sibiu (first lady) -> Baku (food) -> Tokyo. Info from BoardingPass.The photo of the outside of the aircraft was taken at Haneda airport, Tokyo, after landing, the ones inside are taken from the Global Jet website, and the route is published on FlightRadar24. I am also posting a photo of a TAROM aircraft taken at Tokyo airport during an official visit in March 2011.

Marius Popescu, adviser at TAROM, on Facebook

Is spending half a million EUR for air travel during an official visit too much for a president?

The trip cost the Presidential Administration half a million Euros. The cost was estimated by the local media and considered the cost per hour of flying a luxury jet like the one in the photo, which is around EUR 20,000, multiplied by 24, which is the approximate duration of the flight, but also all the airport taxes and the additional costs with operating the aircraft.

This adds to the costs of the Presidential staff, bodyguards, and all the expenses with the protocol. All this made Romanian journalists think of any scenario.

Is flying a luxury jet like this worth flying instead of one of the aircraft of the Romanian state-owned air jets? Is it something related to the protocol? Does Romania afford such luxury travel for the president and the presidential staff?

Was the expense justified? You cannot drive a Dacia car and sign millions of Euros worth of contracts unless you are an eccentric billionaire not interested in appearance. Does this sort of thinking influence the decision?

Can TAROM airliners or jets cover the distance without issues or risks to the Presidential couple’s security? There are too many unanswered questions.

Luxury travel conditions in private jet used by Romanian Presidency staff for the official visit to Japan

In our opinion, the problem derives from Romania’s complicated political context. The President is not at his peak in popularity, let alone serving his last full year in office. Besides, his past controversial statements, one of which said that he was very content to be president because he has the opportunity to show the world to his wife, don’t help from this perspective. He’s been more famous by his nickname, ‘the first tourist of the country’ rather than for his accomplishments in the office.

Thus said, when you’re known as a luxury tourist, chances are any such luxury mistake could cost you a lot more from a political perspective. Unless, of course, you justify the decision adequately.

On the other hand, depriving a President of a presidential air jet is quite unacceptable. The truth is that Romania’s Presidency does not have a jet at its disposal, and the Parliament rejected repeated attempts to acquire one. This is a political way to retaliate for all the political mistakes of the current president. Still, again, it is unacceptable for the presidency to rely on private jets or to fly airliners. Disregard any opinion about his efficiency in the office, the man is the president of the country and should be offered the best conditions possible to exercise his mandate to the benefit of the people.

So, to conclude, it’s quite a lot to spend half a million to meet the Prime Minister of Japan or any other official in Asia or elsewhere, no matter how successful the political or economic negotiations are. But still, any country’s president should have the means to travel safely and enjoy a certain level of comfort.

The real problem with scandals of this kind is that they deviate the attention from the main subject of the official visit. Instead of paying attention to the economic achievements of the visit, people are distracted and are more concerned about the luxury conditions of the travel. Apart from that, Japan’s diplomacy could be disturbed or even offended by witnessing such scandals following the visit.

Photo source: Global Jet

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