Although the coronavirus pandemic is again in full swing in Romania, the western Romanian city of Temesvár/Timișoara celebrates its annual festive day with a series of events that began last Thursday and will culminate today with a blues festival — although with the number of spectators limited to 500.
The local municipality declared August 3 the Day of Temesvár in 1999, to mark August 3, 1919, when Romanian troops entered the city, ending the longest chapter of the town’s over 700-year history. It became part of Romania as a result of the Trianon Treaty, which saw Hungary lose 72 percent of its territory and two-thirds of its population to neighboring countries.
Romania discovered its first coronavirus case on February 26, and the pandemic had its first peak there on April 11 with 523 cases. But as in many other European countries, it is now battling a second, much more severe surge. The number of new daily cases just hit a record 1,356 on July 30.
While this would be the 20th time the city is celebrating its official day, the reason for defying the pandemic is entirely unrelated: On September 27, Romania will hold municipal elections and incumbent Mayor Nicolae Robu is running for a third term in office, having led Temesvár since 2012.
An engineer by training and owner of the local ACS Poli Timisoara football club, and former rector of the local Technical University, Robu (65) is facing an unlikely challenger: a 37-year-old German, Dominic Fritz, who fell in love with the city and moved there last year with the goal of becoming mayor. With a master’s in political studies, he quit his job in Berlin as chief of staff for former German President Horst Köhler. This became possible back in 2015 when any European Union citizen was allowed to run for a local administration position in any other member state,
Fritz is running on a platform of digitalizing local administration, unleashing the multiethnic city’s creative potential and restoring mobility in a city stifled by automobiles. He is hugely popular on social media and among the young generation, but polls still show Robu as having a significant lead.
Robu’s Achilles heel is that many of his opponents accuse him of having failed to properly prepare Temesvár for the year 2021, when it will be a European Capital of Culture together with Újvidék/Novi Sad in neighboring Serbia. Incidentally, both countries belonged to the Kingdom of Hungary before World War I.
Title image: Concert in Temesvár. (source: Mayor’s homepage)