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Instead of Revolution and Reform, Change and Accession

Arthur SUCIU

Romania’s accession to the European Union on January 1, 2007, is a turning point whose importance is comparable to that of the 1989 Revolution. It is a confirmation of the ideals of the 1989 Revolution, and at the same time another inaugural moment in the history of the Romanians. While in December 1989 the Ceaușescus’ dictatorship was ousted, and the communist repressive system with it, January 2007 gave us the opportunity and position to fully join the paradigm of Liberal democracy. In 1989 we only had the negative, the destruction of the foundations of a system; in 2007 we have the proof that the country’s reconstruction moved to the right direction and that the parting with the old communist paradigm is about to become a fact.

The consequences of this change are, in my opinion, very important, first of all because it brings us back to some mini­mal normalcy. It is only as a country which has reached a minimal standard of normalcy, that we can objectively understand our past and freely project a future. As it is perceived today, the trauma of the 1989 Revolution is almost healed; because today we can see clearly the steps ahead that we made during the tran­sition; we can see clearly why the communist regime is condemnable and what we can do to remove its last relics; we can restore the connection to that “before the before,” the time of relative normalcy between the wars; and we can see deeper in history what it was, actually, that made us want to be­come a Western-style democratic country.
Subjective as this may sound, over the past 18 years the political right wing has had the most beneficial interventions and made the most impor­tant decisions concerning Roma­nia’s future. This is not to say that the left had no contribution or only did bad things. But we will never forget, for instance, Corneliu Coposu’s insis­tence in 1990, in talking Ion Iliescu into introducing representatives of the historical parties in the new Parlia­ment. It was then, and then alone, that the multi-party system was truly reborn in Romania. Unfortunately, FSN leaders, who had initially decided not to take part in the election, eventually did, and set up a super-dominant political entity. The President elected in May 1990, Ion Iliescu, became, for quite a long period, the promoter of all possible changes in the Romanian society. And these changes were very slow and intricate, with severe distor­tions of the political and social life and an alarming decrease of the right wing’s role as a political alternative. During the FSN-FDSN-PDSR gover­n­ment (1990-1996), for reasons related both to an uncertain interna­tional context and to a troubled historical background, Romania swayed between the West and the East. There were extremely powerful reactionary forces, those who sought either to preserve the status-quo, or to push the country to a direction that would benefit them. All political and civil forces had to close ranks around the Liberal and Christian-Democratic parties, in order to finally ensure the success of the democratic political alternative. The change in 1996 was the time of a genuine rebirth of the Romanian society, after six years of very shadowy transition and of the governing of an obsolete PDSR.
Today, we should be prepared to acknowledge the merits of the CDR government between 1997 and 2000. Primarily because of the painful measures to reform the economy, people’s living standards decreased, and that time does not bring out very nice memories. But if we analyse things in cold blood today, we realise that those sacrifices were ready. Thanks to those reforms, entire sectors of the economy, including the banking industry, were gradually healed, and in 2000 Romania had its first healthy economic growth since 1989. But that was by no means the only accomplishment of the troubled CDR government (of which PNȚCD and PNL were the key forces). The most important event was the start of European Union accession negotia­tio­ns, at the end of 1999. A foreign policy firmly oriented towards the West and the values of Western democracies made Romania’s EU accession not only possible, but also feasible. And the one who supported this direction with the utmost energy and deter­mination and, as we can see today, with concrete results, the one who cut off the ties with Moscow for good, was without doubt the then President of Romania, Emil Constantinescu.
Today we are able to correctly understand what the CDR government meant for Romania’s democratic deve­lop­ment. It is high time we left bitterness behind and revised our perceptions on a time of major chan­ges and major achievements in our recent history. We must also remem­ber that those efforts, some unpopular and radical measures, as well as the flawed communication within the ruling coalition, led to the right wing’s elec­toral failure in 2000. This failure was so devastating, that it once again threa­tened to wash away the Romanian right as an alternative. Basically, in that extremely difficult context, PNL was the only right-wing party that secured its access to Parliament, with a less than spectacular score, and became the coagulation force of the Romanian right.
The most significant achievement of the CDR government was, as I have already said, the pursuit of a clear direction for Romania’s future. The chan­ge operated in 1996 made the Western orientation and the European integration irreversible. The 2001-2004 PSD government was thus unable to return to the PDSR-style practices of the early ’90s. PSD largely followed the same direction, carried on the reforms, often took clear right-wing measures, opened negotiation chap­ters with the European Union and finalised them until the end of 2004, and completed Romania’s accession to the North-Atlantic Alliance. On the other hand, in the same period corrup­tion rose to alarming levels, and mea­su­res aimed at intimidating the media, the political opposition and civil society were steps back in Romania’s journey towards consolidating democracy. Ins­tead of opening up to citizens and encouraging their participation in the political and social life, PSD chose an excessively centralised policy and continued to apply principles specific to welfare states. Also, PSD tried to avoid critical aspects of the transition, such as denouncing communism or the moral reform of the society. The Ilies­cu-Năstase government barred the appeal to the past, and with it Roma­nia’s progress towards normal­cy. In this respect, the early 2000s were particularly difficult for the oppo­sition and particularly for PNL, which was under a duty to preserve the right-wing alternative in Romania. The Liberals were aware that they were the only ones who can do something to make things right. The victory of the D.A. Alliance in the 2004 election was a decisive step in this respect.
While in the early ’90s the right wing and the democratic forces in Romania primarily gathered around PNȚCD, over the past eight years the Liberals were in charge with the progress of the right and with carrying on the democratic processes. In contrast, one may state that the situation during the PSD governmental term was even more difficult than the one during which the Democratic Convention was established, in the early ‘90s. Under-represented in Parliament, with the civil society ever more silent and indifferent as to what was going on in Romania, with an increasingly atomised population and with people vulnerable to the governmental propaganda and to showy social protection measures, PNL managed to quickly build a viable political alternative. In retrospect, the establishment of the D.A. Alliance and its electoral victory were vital steps towards the Liberal victory.
Romania’s journey towards normalcy restarted after 1989, but normalcy as such and the certainty of an evolution towards a state with consolidated democracy only came with Romania’s accession to the European Union, on January 1, 2007. It was around this moment that Romania made substantial progress in fighting corruption and ensuring the independence of the judicial system. It proved complete openness to the acknowledgement of the past and the moral reform of the society, particularly of the political class. And to make sure that everything that was “before” can no longer influence what will be “after,” Romania resolved to acknowledge its past and condemn the criminal and disgraceful deeds of the undemocratic regimes of the past. What the CDR government started in 1997, the Liberal government completed in January 2007. Romania’s EU accession is, in its last stage, a Liberal accomplishment, and the project as a whole is an achievement of the historic parties PNL and PNȚCD. Unlike in the CDR governmental term (1996-2000), when economic decline was reported in the first three years, the Tăriceanu government (2005-2008) gave Romania an economic growth rate above the European average. The right has proved its capacity to provide wellbeing as well, not only the sacrifice of reforms. We may be tempted to believe that normalcy is drawing near—but, as we already know, new dangers loom ahead.

By Arthur SUCIU

Publicat în : English  de la numărul 63


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