Oradea puts itself back on the map as a tourist hot spot with EIB support for Romania urban development

The prime meridian is a geographical line that divides the Earth into the eastern and western hemispheres. Today it passes through London’s Greenwich district. But for 203 years, from the 15th to 17th century, a small Romanian city served mapmakers as the location of the prime meridian. Now the people of Oradea want to put their city back on the map as part of the European Investment Bank’s focus on Romania urban development.

Throughout its 1,000-year history, the city was a bridge between the West and the East and, thus, was influenced by both cultures. But during the 20th century Oradea declined. “As the country was preparing to join the EU, city officials started working out how to benefit from EU funds,” said Nadia Has, the city’s deputy treasurer. “In the last 10 years, the city has absorbed more than EUR 150 million of EU funds.”

>@Visit Oradea
©Visit Oradea

“The main goal for Oradea is to become a more connected, competitive, smarter city with a well performing educational system, public services and quality tourism,” Has says. The EIB has been helping the city to achieve these goals since 2008.

Romania urban development helps residents and businesses

Since 2015, the Bank has supported the city with loans worth EUR 57.6 million aimed at transport infrastructure and urban development, with projects such as the improvement of local roads and amenities to increase the city’s tourism attractiveness and quality of life. The upgrading of Oradea’s urban infrastructure will have significant socio-economic benefits for the residents and businesses of the city and surrounding areas.

The city has experienced an average 17% increase in the number of visitors per year since 2015. “The Bank financed important roads in the city, as well as a public garden and an aqua park, which led to an increase in tourism,” Has said. In 2017 more than 225,000 people visited the city. “Most of our visitors are Romanian,” said Mihai Jurcă, the municipal official overseeing the city’s marketing, “but gradually we are being rediscovered by Germans, Italians and Austrians.”

The aqua park has been a massive success. In its first year, it attracted over 300,000 visitors.

>@Visit Oradea
©Visit Oradea

The city took advantage of EU funds to rehabilitate its historical centre, bringing it back to its former glory. “This is what people appreciate the most. The city feels rejuvenated and its image in Romania has changed, thanks to these improvements,” Jurcă said. “Today, everybody looks to Oradea for advice. We have become a great example to other cities in Romania”.

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©Visit Oradea

Young people return home

The EIB and Oradea signed their first agreement in 2008. This was the EIB’s first loan granted directly to a Romanian municipality or county. The EIB funds contributed to the purchase of ten trams, thereby stimulating further investments and fostering Oradea’s economic development.

“My city has changed dramatically,” Jurcă said. “I see young people coming back or staying in the city because we worked hard to transform Oradea into a prosperous and a dynamic city.” The next step is to invest in education. “We need to attract more people here, which is why we are working with the local university to turn it into a leading school in Romania so we can keep Oradea’s progress on an upward path.”