Millions tuned into Transylvanian festival for Romanian leaders’ pro-European message

President Klaus Iohannis and Premier Nicolae Ciuca’s presence this weekend at the small but influential Haferland Festival which celebrates Saxon traditions, was watched by more than 11 million viewers, organizers said.

The leaders used the Transylvanian festival to promote a strong pro-European message which stood in stark contrast to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ‘mixed race’ comments last week at another Transylvanian festival prompting accusations of racism.

Media audience

The event had a media audience of more than 11.5 million people, after the surprise appearance of the president and the prime minister, Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu, Interior Minister Lucian Bode  and Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu.

The president joked that the prime minister had suceeded in bringing „about half the cabinet” on Sunday to the small village of Crit, central Romania, which is the heart of the festival.

Foreign ambassadors and Romanian ambassadors, personalities such as writer Andrei Plesu and footballing legend Gheorghe Hagi also attended the event, which has become a place for high-level political networking as well as hay-making.


Local residents, tourists and some of the thousands of Saxons who emigrated during the communist regime and afterwards danced at balls, enjoyed Saxon music, jam-making sessions, and book launches.

The president and prime minister used the occasion to promote Romania’s pro-European credentials and focus on inter-ethnic tolerance and the positive role a small ethnic minority can play both preserving its traditions as well as playing a role in national politics.

“The European belief, ‘unity in diversity’ is strengthened by events like the one taking part today. It can never replace, or worse still harm, the harmonious relations between Romanians and those that shared the vicissitudes of history who we are now building a European destiny with,” said Mr. Iohannis, himself a member of the Saxon community.

The high-octance political presence came just a week after Hungary’s Orban caused outrage at an ethnic Hungarian festival not far from Haferland with a speech arguing that Europeans should not „become peoples of mixed race.”

M&V Schmidt Foundation

The Saxon festival was started in  2012 by two local ethnic Saxons—businessman Michael Schmidt who created the philanthropic M&V Schmidt Foundation with his wife Veronica and German rock star  Peter Maffay, who heads the Tabaluga Foundation.

This year it was celebrated between 29 -31 July, in 10 Saxon villages in the Oat Country of central Romania where Saxons settled centuries ago and grew oats.

The gorgeous villages, some under UNESCO protection, need economic development. But thanks to events such as the Haferland Festival and  visits by Prince Charles who has a house in Viscri, there  is a slow revival underway.


Tourism has steadily increased in the past decade and there are conservation nature projects preserving wildlife and restoring old castles and churches which benefit from EU funds.

Local crafts such as pottery or jam and gin making are also contributing to the revival and  local farmers are rearing Black Angus and Limousine cattle.

„For ten years, the Haferland Week Festival has been a good example of how things can be done well, through commitment, passion and respect for traditions,” a press release sent to said.


“We congratulate the organizers for their efforts and the contribution to the preservation of the Saxon traditions and heritage!”

In Romania 2022, minorities culture and traditions are being appreciated and promoted, and society recognizes the added value they bring.”

This year’s edition focused on children and young people as the future of the country, with special focus on intercultural education and the environment.

Fairy tales

Veronica Schmidt launched a book of fairy tales written with her daughter Ann-Kathrin Schmidt called „Cheep and Chirp, A Mother and Daughter’s World of Enchantment”, with versions in Romanian, English and German and an audiobook. Proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to children from disadvantaged families.

Israel’s ambassador to Romania, David Saranga also launched his book „Returning to Romania” which covers his activity in Romania and the history of the Jewish community.

From the heart

The festival’s co-founder Michael Schmidt,62, said he started the event in 2012 with Peter Maffay. „It was a project that came from the heart. “

He thanked government and public institutions, public and private organizations, partners and journalists for supporting it.

“Haferland … has demonstrated over the years that it is an ambassador for the Oat Country, a platform to promote local entrepreneurs which has decisively contributed to the development of the area’s tourist potential,” he added.

Lansara cartii Cip si Cirip, co-autoare Ann-Kathrin Schmidt (centru).
Lansarea cartii Cip si Cirip, co-autoare Ann-Kathrin Schmidt (centru)

Prince Charles opens Viscri house to visitors


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