The new government established this month in Romania includes at least one name that would sound familiar to Israeli ears: Ilan Laufer. The young Israeli, only 33 years old, born in Rishon LeZion, who became a successful businessman in Romania was now appointed State Secretary. The position is on the level of a deputy minister and it involves being in charge of business development, commerce and entrepreneurship.
Laufer immigrated to Romania at the beginning of the new millennium, after his father was offered a job there. He is the owner of a large retail group that includes a cosmetics chain, a chain of clothing stores and real estate properties for rent. After moving to Romania, Laufer married Alina, a local celebrity who became famous after being a presenter on TV and participating in entertainment and reality shows.
Alina converted to Judaism prior to marrying Laufer, learned Hebrew, and the couple is raising her daughter from a previous marriage together. Alina's ex-husband, George Papagheorghe, is a famous singer and presenter of the local "Dancing with the Stars."
Laufer is lauded for bringing the affordable Swedish fashion chain H&M to Romania. He is used to starring in the finance columns as a young, energetic millionaire and is often invited to appear on TV as an economic commentator. Prior to his marriage, he was quite the eligible bachelor and would often be featured in gossip rags. He has a large family in Israel and visits often with Alina.
Recently, Laufer was appointed State Secretary of foreign trade in the new Romanian government under Sorin Grindeanu. The position involves being in charge of business development, commerce and entrepreneurship. Laufer was appointed by the head of the Social Democratic party (PSD), Liviu Dragnea, who is considered a great friend to Israel.
Laufer will mainly need to focus on promoting foreign investments in Romania, and among other things, encouraging investments from Israeli entrepreneurs and businessmen. The Bucharest Parliament has already approved the composition of the new government, which includes 23 ministers, out of which eight are women.
Laufer will not be the only Hebrew-speaking member of government in Bucharest. Andreea Păstârnac, who was up until recently the Romanian ambassador in Israel, was appointed minister in charge of Romanian citizens abroad. Păstârnac, who speaks fluent Hebrew, is a professional diplomat considered close to government officials in Romania.
Authorities in Bucharest have recently decided to focus their efforts on persuading Romanian expatriates living in other countries to return to their homeland. In Israel, there are approximately 400,000 Romanian-born people, and like all Romanian citizens living abroad, they havethe right to vote.
Laufer is not the first Israeli who built a career in Romanian politics. Nati Meir came before him, a businessman who was elected to parliament on behalf of the nationalist party "The Greater Romania". In 2008, he resigned from the parliament and two years later, was sentenced to four years in prinson on charges of fraud and tax evasion. Later on, he was again put on trial for fraud and forgery, indicted and sentenced to seven years in prison which overlapped with his prior conviction. About a year ago, he was released from Romanian prison and came to Israel as a returning resident, completely destitute.