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The velvet Euro-skepticism


In Romania, signs of the physical impossibility of the country's integration are becoming increasingly evident and dramatic. Would anyone cast a glance sine ira et studio on the Romanian political and social scene, one would notice with no effort the extent of our incompatibility as regards the EU accession. True reforms in key structures of the State have not been made, or even, according to some calculations, a step backward has been taken as compared to the beginning of the mandate in 2000. And by reforms, we mean reforms in Justice, administration, environment, while the reform in agriculture - critical to defining an EU Member state - brings us on the verge of social outburst. And time flies away, as all chapters should be closed by the end of the year, and this October is the moment of truth as to whether Romania is or is not a functioning market economy.

I must confess to being, along with all the 80% of the Romanians, a Euro-dreamer, but, the way the Bucharest political model has ben taking shape lately, my dream (and therefore, the dream of the 80% I believe I belong to) stands slim chances to come true. So, under such circumstances, what could a government responsible for its own fate do? Nothing but change its strategy - which I think it has already begun to - namely to shift from Euro-optimism to Euro-skepticism. The two terms are, anyway, rather ambigous in the European Union itself, as they mean different things from one political environment to another, yet in Romania's case they mean: Euro-optimism - accepting the idea that for Romanian citizens the chance to do away with the endemic poverty can only be achieved inside the EU, whereas Euro-skepticism - the idea that integration will bring about nothing good, as the country will be turned into a peripheral sale market, and the actual chance would only be the gray area "pirating" the European market with cheap products and labour. The two terms have turned for quite long, since 2000 to be more precise, into veritable ideologies with an increasingly exact conotation, in particular since most Romanians see no distinction between globalisation (a rather fuzzy concept hiding, in addition, a tinch of fear) and the European Union enlargement to our benefit.
Obviously, a skeptical view is more and more convenient for those who got rich on contracts with the State and on dubious business, for such a behaviour would (and already is) severely sanctioned in Europe, but for the moment questioning European policies is not politically correct. Yet, the footnotes of political statements tend to include ever more Euro-skepticism terms, ordered by intermediate political structures or by civil servants fearing the vision of the Rule of Law instituted in the deepest structures. The dread of a much freer market, in which the political influence is reduced and the terror raised by veritable competition fuel and will continue to fuel the skeptical ideology, turning it, most likely, into a topic in the focus of attention in the ensuing period. Particularly since it is fairly easy to re-manipulate citizens through methods which have already asserted themselves in the European model (in other words, it wouldn't take a political genius to do it). Strengthening the fear of marginalisation, identity-wise nationalism  - the EU being the space of the national identity dissolution - the emergence of ethnic minorities as opposed to the majority, economic subordination to another centre, etc. are as many reasons through which one can scare out a population which has not even reached the political maturity of our former fellow socialist camp members.
Recent moves on the Bucharest political arena can only enhance the feeling that we are on a dangerous slope as far as the European integration is concerned. First of all, sacrificing the general interest to the private one is perhaps the most obvious proof that, in the name of the party's goal of winning the elections, the fundamental motivation - at least in the short run - of the Government, i.e. to integrate Romania to the EU can be put aside. Throwing two highly important Ministers in the race for City Halls proves that, in fact, the party tends to become more important than the country itself, which can nothing but take anything from its leaders, for all it is going to get, anyway, is poverty and disdain.
 We may indeed say that the political decision to appoint Ministers Mircea Geoana and Ioan Rus as City Hall candidates was a smart move for a political party, which kept its candidates until right before the electoral campaign to be able to send them strong and fresh in the race for the Bucharest and Cluj City Halls. Nonetheless, as far as the European integration goes, taking esential Ministers out of their offices seems to be an unpardonable mistake. 

 Rus' campaigning leaves his Ministry forsaken, and allows for barons' comeback

Only these days has the project of reform in administration been finalised, a project which, for the first time, can be acknowledged as being able to trigger a large scale change in the public administration - both at a regional and a central level. Yet, the fact that, precisely at this moment, the one who should lead the reform implementation is running for Cluj Mayor, blocks the system indefinitely. Even if, let's say, the Ministry could function without the decisive contribution of the political element - that is the Minister - it is highly unlikely that in his absence all the elements of the project will be implemented effectively, be it only because the lawfulness of the one who makes the necessary corrections is temporarily missing.
Moreover, recent events - the political response of those eliminated of the PSD - testify that the administrative system in counties or Bucharest districts is dominated by extremely powerful political-economic characters, who can successfully oppose the implementation of reform, leaving it as it was before - a mere form lacking the substance. The wedding of baron Mischie's son to the daughter of another local baron - apparently an ordinary fact of life, yet occuring at a time of extreme political tension - stands proof of the unmatched power of local branches of the ruling party, a power which they symbolically demonstrate to the central organisation as well. A grand wedding, once again tale-telling of the local barons' Phanariot habits, it could have been just a story for tabloids, had it not proved, once more, the local bureaucrats' financially-leveraged power, which turned them into protectors of their areas of influence. They are the first to oppose a new administrative order, either directly, or through delays and hindrances.  And without a lawful force, with considerable power to change things, as Minister Rus proved to be in Harghita, or in Ialomița - nobody would get even close to the pyramid-like structure of the local barons. And the latter, with few exceptions, have already prepared an anti-European and anti-Governmental propaganda ring, as long as they feel that actually the headoffice owes them, for the votes and lawfulness they have supplied, and not the other way round.
Changing horses in the middle of the race for integration only builds a sound case for these bureaucratic and political protectors of counties, testifying that in fact central decision-makers are more interested in the elections - therefore in their power - than in the goal proposed by all Romanian political parties, that of joining Europe in 2007. Because this is why local barons are necessary in the first place: to attract votes and money for the parties they choose to promote and impose in central structures, provided that they are left to rule their kingdoms as they deem fit - this would be called quid pro quo in Latin, and in Romanian "one hand washes another and both clean the face".
Unfortunately, we are witnessing a policy of half-measures that the PSD promotes, by threatening those deemed as unwanted with the Anti-corruption Prosecutor's Office, on the one hand, while placing themselves in a position to play by the local barons' rules in order to get votes and funds, on the other hand, although a consistent policy is more likely to have benefited them more. Eventually, however, the Government will find it necessary to change its electoral message as regards the EU, both at the request of bureaucrat barons, and because of the excessive delays in reforms.
Mircea Geoană - an unexperienced Mayor instead of a good, credible Minister
While our neighbour, Bulgaria, desperately wants out of the tandem with Romania in the integration process, the Government throws away one of its best cards in a game in which the image plays a critical part. And, more often than not, what you use most is the first to get worn out. Maybe Mircea Geoană will give rise to a favourable course for PSD in Bucharest, which I rather doubt. Nonetheless, whether he is elected or not, his image will be definitely affected. And it will be so for two reasons: first, because Mircea Geoană will have to take a stand on things he is not particularly good at, which will raise voters' doubts, and second because he will have to cope with a type of discourse which is definitely not one of his strenghts.  It is very difficult to cope with the kind of humour (in both senses of the word) put on by Traian Basescu, who knows he needs to be voted both in Primaverii, and in Ferentari, or with the "wise guy" dualism of Mitică Dragomir, who is probably not so much interested in winning the elections, as he is in getting a cut of the system of advantages provided by the City Hall, or with the gushing style of Monica Tatoiu, who fights for her own image. It is hard to believe that, after facing all of the above, and others, such as Raj Tunaru, Mircea Geoană will be able to put on the old Western haughtiness, quite in good taste in a cocktail but inoperative in the neighbourhood tavern. And the change in style will lead to a certain confusion with both the voters, and the ambassadors accredited to Bucharest. And still, if by any chance Mr. Geoana should win the elections for the capital city, most of the media have already casted a non-confidence vote, which is of course a handicap at the beginning of the mandate, as already many regret a good Foreign Minister turned into a mediocre mayor, in the most optimistic scenario.
It becomes clear, from the two examples mentioned above, and they are not the only ones, that the PSD is in an ambiguous, to say the least, situation at the moment, yet a situation it had been aware for a long time (which is why they proposed early elections in the past years): if they place their eggs in the basket of the EU integration in 2007, they will have to sacrifice the vote and money-making machine, whereas if they mean to win the elections, they will have to change the ideology discourse related to the EU accession, which apparently some of its representatives are already doing when they say 2009 or even later would be better. Because, at the end of the day, someone must be held responsible for the fact that we live our lives only for some of us to benefit from a wealth that, in many cases, exceeds the one of the rich in an EU Member state.

Publicat în : English  de la numărul 15


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Institutul de Proiecte pentru Inovatie si Dezvoltare The National Centre for Sustainable Development