Tag Archives: Romanian Politics

New posts on Kosmopolito.org

The latest posts on kosmopolito.org:

Nov 11th: The problems of EU debates

Oct 30th: Hope.Act.Change. 50% more or less

The Romanian face of justice

In the aftermath of the report issued by the European Commission on the Romanian justice system and fight against corruption, many comments and interpretations have emerged in the Romanian press . This was to be expected. One of the most prominent debates stirred by the report these days is about the re-confirmation of Daniel Morar as Chief Attorney of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA). (more here, here and here)

His mandate is due to expire on August 12 and various scenarios have been voiced in the media that all aim at Morar’s replacement.  The Social- Democrats (PSD) want to change the procedural rules that regulate the appointment of the head of DNA. The Liberals, that for a while now have, more openly than not, sided with the Social-Democrats (yes, Romania is definitely not a good case study of political doctrines!), are also opposing Morar’s second term. Fears of being prosecuted for corruption, as well as the quasi-paranoid assumption that the DNA (and implicitly its leader) is a political tool of President Basescu can be traced as the main roots of these positions.

One should not forget that this discussion takes place only few days after the Commission harshly criticized Romania precisely for the politicization of the justice system and fight against corruption. So, as could be imagined, all this political maneuvering is not at all well seen in Brussels. The Commission is probably remembering the case of Monica Macovei, former Minister of Justice, who was also becoming “uncomfortable” for some parts of the political arena, and therefore had to leave her position, notwithstanding the great appreciation and support she had in Brussels.

A clear sign that the Commission has had enough is the declaration made by the EC spokesman Mark Gray on the topic:

We have seen the comments published by the Romanian media, quoting so-called sources in Brussels, referring to the reconfirmation of Morar as head of DNA. Our position is very clear. We expect the reform process to go forwards, not backwards. We constantly emphasized the good DNA results and the importance of institutional stability in investigating files and in initiating investigations in high-level corruption cases. Reconfirming the chief prosecutor will be a test for the renewed commitments of Romanian authorities

Usually the European Commission does not interfere in questions regarding the staffing policy of Romanian institutions. But they do it in cases where they see that there is a real danger of a deterioration. The intervention will, surely, be criticized by the Social- Democrats and Liberals, as biased and outside the scope of the Commission’s mandate. But the Commission probably realised that its neutral approach leaves too much room for interpretation to Romanian politicians.  By putting aside the diplomacy for a moment and calling the facts by their name, the Commission is increasing the pressure on Romania. Controversial as it may seem, this attitude might prove to be the only “mild” weapon the Commission has left before it starts deploying its artillery of sanctions and safeguard clauses.

Written by Anda

Latest monitoring report on Romania- definitely not the last

Today the European Commission released the monitoring reports on Romania and Bulgaria, foreseen by the “cooperation and verification mechanism”.

On the whole, not many surprises: the rough tone that was expected, telling off the two countries for the very small (if existing) progress regarding judicial reform and fight against corruption. This time, Bulgaria is more severely punished, with part of its funds being suspended. Romania receives yet another warning but still no decisive measure such as the activation of the safeguard clause or retention of European funds.

What is the Commission’s assessment of Romania? In the usual diplomatic slang, the report notes that Romania presents a “mixed picture”. However, it does not take great further reading to realize which are the predominant shades in this “mixed picture”: although Romania seems to have re-established its commitment to judicial reform and the fight against corruption, the “legal and institutional framework is still fragile” and decisions on (especially high level) corruption are highly politicized. Some progress is acknowledged, but so is the lack of political consensus regarding justice reforms.

In conclusion, Romania still has a (rather long) way to go in fulfilling all the benchmarks set at the time of accession and will continue to be closely monitored by the Commission. A crucial element is the political will to fully implement all the commitments made by Romania when joining the EU; and looking at the Romanian political arena at the moment, this does not seem to be a safe bet.

One can almost hear the sigh of relief in the high governmental offices in Bucharest, at the confirmation of the fact that (1) no safeguard clause will be activated, (2) no funds will be suspended, (3) Bulgaria is considered to do worse and is more harshly sanctioned. ‘Schadenfreude’ and relief, that’s all.

Unfortunately. Now they can happily continue their holidays. They “escaped” this time again. This makes me doubt the effects of such a neutral report. Maybe next time the Commission can act more severely. It is sad, but only a “shock therapy” might make the Romanian political class aware of the importance of fulfilling its commitments and not just indulging in the mere satisfaction of doing slightly better than the neighboring country.

Written by Anda

Corruption in Romania

A short reminder for the European Commission that will issue the progress report for Romania next week, dealing with the progress made in judicial reform and the fight against corruption … safeguard clauses, anyone? (check here for the so called Cooperation and Verification Mechanism)

Click here to watch the video.

(Hat tip to The Short Story Made Long)

Oh yes, and Bulgaria (more…) has even bigger problems …

Blogs – A new image tool for Romanian Social Democrats

Blogs are one of the latest additions to the Romanian political landscape. From a totally unknown concept, they have turned overnight in fashionable tools, a “must have” for any politician who wants to be taken seriously. In fact, most of the politicians pay small fortunes to have a blog (although most of them use free services such as blogger.com and wordpress.com). A lucrative business for young IT students and graduates. Here you can read sharp (and often quite critical) and to the point analysis (including statistics) on the inclusion and impact of new media tools (especially blogs) in Romanian politics.

But apart from the mere presence in the blogosphere, do the Romanian politicians’ blogs have any real impact on their image or their electoral capital? This remains to be judged, taking into account the election results. However, what is more interesting and tells a lot about the personality of the blog owners is the way they use the blogs and their way of dealing with comments.Having spent the last fours years in the opposition, the Romanian social-democrats (PSD) are trying to win back people’s trust in the context of the electoral year 2008. Nothing unexpected, so far. However, this time they are making use of a bit more than the usual campaigning methods. Already for about a year now, quite a few leaders and notorious members of the Social-Democrat Party started having blogs, where they comment (some more frequently than others) the latest developments and describe, in the eve of elections, their electoral campaigning trips throughout the country.

Maybe not surprisingly, in dire need of a new, fresh image, the social-democrats are the most active new members of the Romanian political blogosphere. Be it a former President or Prime Minister or a Member of the European Parliament, they all try to catch the attention by describing (arguably some more eloquently than others) their daily business, reacting to various events and declarations, advertising and commenting books (theirs or others’) as well as their TV appearances. Thus, an important number of blog posts are issued every day, generating a reasonable amount of traffic and quite a few comments. Until now it actually sounds like a very good example of what a blog is meant to be: an open forum of ideas and debates. However, if you start reading the whole thread of comments (which sometimes can get extremely irritating, I confess), you soon realise that something is not quite as it should be. Most of the comments are just praising the author, in a completely uncritical way, the very same people (one merit has to be acknowledged: a very loyal, if small, audience was created around these blogs) comments in the very same way on all the blogs, the authors are very often complimenting and quoting each other and so on. Sometimes it really gives the impression of a spider web, a closed network where the elements are clearly positioned to reinforce each other, a  game of mirrors that, only when observed from outside, reveals its artificial, “closely directed” nature.

In fact, the blog of the Electronic Communication Service of PSD might give a hint on the organisation of the “red” Romanian blogosphere: it acts as a hub for all official blogs of PSD politicians but also includes some “recommended blogs” that, at a closer look, turn out to be the very active and passionate commentators of the former.

A few critical comments per post are allowed, of course, as a hint towards an “open dialogue”, but any unfavourable opinion (on their own blog or on any other) is quickly countered, usually giving birth to a new defensive blogpost. It is not the idea of replying to comments in itself that is bothering, it is more about the passionate towards aggressive tone adopted by the writers for their replies.

Baring all this in mind, it has to be said that some of the social-democrat bloggers  do provide some quality content. For instance, some of the Romanian MEPs (also, not surprisingly, some of the more active ones) are regularly updating their readers about their activity in Brussels and Strasbourg. In my opinion, this is an effort that has to be appreciated, as it sheds a bit of light on what is going on on the EU arena and on the involvement of the Romanian representatives.

An electoral device, purely an image tool, or a new defense mechanism, the blog has become a daily presence in the Romanian political arena and it is interesting to see if it will make a difference in the eyes of the electorate.

Written by Anda

Welcome back!

The summer break is over. Slowly, the Brussels xpat crowd is coming back from holiday.

I just started deleting blog spam….it is incredible what kind of spam you get these days! It used to be only the obvious things about different medications and various operations, as well as dating opportunities…but now they started making compliments:

  • informative post, keep it up.
  • dude cool site i like it very much.
  • revolutionary. breathtaking. awesome post dude.
  • Excellent forum with fantastic references and reading…. well done indeed…
  • great site, nice design.
  • nice choice of colors.

and my favorite:

  • your blog is so important. you are the new media

That should give me indeed enough motivation to go on with my blogging 😉

In case you just returned from your holidays in a remote area without newspapers and Internet connection, you might be interested in what happened during the summer. Here is the ultimate (but incomplete) list of important things you missed:

1. Early elections in Poland! What does this mean for the new EU treaty?

2. European Parliament elections in Romania!

3. Still no government in Belgium! Even summer was cancelled in Brussels this year.

4. The IGC is on the way, Gordon Brown needs strong nerves; and just to make sure: Britain has not lost control of its foreign policy: part 1 and part 2

5. George W. Bush lost Karl Rove and Tony Snow.

6. President Sarkozy is back!! Sarkozy in the US!! A new Iraq strategy?? A deal with Gaddafi!! Cecilia Sarkozy saves Bulgarian hostages (on her own!!)!! Hyperactive president!!

7. Georgia and the mysterious missile; Russia proposes own IMF candidate

8. Germany: Two years of Angie and Italian Mafia in Germany.

9. EU news: EU wants to break up energy giants; The EU and Kosovo

10. Media news: BBC dropped from Russia’s FM waveband; wordpress.com is blocked in Turkey! wordpress.com is still blocked…

11. George Tabori and Ingmar Bergman

In the euroblogosphere two (among many others I have not yet discovered) very interesting new blogs appeared: Brussels Comment and The European Parliament (that wants to find out what Europe has ever done for us).

Bad news for the German speaking blogosphere: The best political blog has decided to call it a day! Good bye Kosmoblog! We will miss you!

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Romania’s political mess – A mini roundup

Last week the political crisis in Romania truly escalated. A few weeks ago I posted a general introduction on the nature of politics in Romania and the fight between President Basescu and PM Tariceanu.

Now, President Basescu is suspended from office and there will be a referendum on May 19 (unusual for elections: a Saturday AND the day of Saint Patriciu …), the political elite is deeply split, demonstrations in favour of Basescu took place, a parliamentary coalition without any mandate is in power and politicians already want to change the Romanian constitution to prevent Basescu from becoming president again, leaving the country with a interim president and interim MEPs (due to the indefinetly postponed EP elections) …. So what happened in Romanian politics? Everything is quite messy (as usual), so let’s make some sense out of it. Here is a little blog/commentary roundup:

Vladimir Tismaneu and Paul Dragos Aligica call it a Parliamentary Putsch:

The frivolous impeachment procedure is payback for Mr. Basescu’s unremitting fight against corruption and his support for transparency in dealing with the secret police archives from Romania’s dark, totalitarian times. When the president last year called the former communist regime “illegitimate and criminal,” he made himself many enemies among the old nomenklatura.

Andrei Plesu, a former Romanian foreign minister and well known writer and former Basescu advisor also lashes out at the parliament:

One can say without exaggeration that in all the years of its fragile democracy our country has been led by faceless voting robots who wave their hands between naps while the demagogues keep talking.

Valentina Pop comments on Romania’s backlash to kleptocracy:

The new political configuration around liberal prime minister Calin Tariceanu is using and abusing every possible democratic tool for its undemocratic goals: delaying the European elections for fear of facing the voters, an impeachment procedure against president Traian Basescu based on no constitutional grounds and a cabinet reshuffle to get rid of performing ministers thought to be “too close to the President”.

(…)

For the newly installed “Black Coalition” – the one Romanian voters never approved – the stakes are great. The four “Black Coalition” parties – Liberals, Socialists, the ethnic Hungarian UDMR party and the small Conservative Party of former communist secret police agent and media owner Dan Voiculescu – are trying to defend the very privileges and impunity they have been used to so far.

The European Commission seems to have predicted something like this when it constantly called for “continued reforms that are irreversible.”Four months after Romanian accession, it is clear that not even the post-accession monitoring mechanisms imposed by Brussels and the threat of safeguard clauses are real means of pressure for the Romanian politicians.

And she comes to a rather worrying conclusion:

Romania’s return to kleptocracy will be devastating for its citizens and business environment. But ultimately, Romania’s backlash will prove that EU’s “soft powers” are sometimes too soft. This is particularly so when facing old guard communists with decades of experience in cooking the books, corruption and promises that are never fulfilled.

Jon Worth also thinks about the role of the EU:

In the meantime the EU looks on quite helplessly. Barroso and others have stated that Romania needs to get the crisis sorted out using its own methods, but the European Parliament elections in Romania have been postponed in order to achieve a national solution. Plus with pressure being increasingly applied to Basescu, and government ministers talking a much more anti-EU rhetoric, the situation for Brussels is not easy. If the EU was to trigger the safeguard clauses that accompanied Romanian accession, would that actually help? On the other hand, with equally shaky politics in Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, would a tough message to Romania from the EU not just look like hypocrisy?

The nEUrosis has an excellent overview focusing on the legitimacy of the whole suspension procedure:

A democracy is based on a clear separation of powers, all of whom bear the same degree of independence. When any of these over-rules the decision taken by another, the premises of democracy are severely affected. When a Parliament dominated by anti-presidential forces decides to over-rule a constitutional advice provided by the highest constitutional authority in the country and assumes constitutional powers the most immediate question is: in which sort of democracy are we living?

Gérard Delaloye, a historian and journalist, thinks that the Romanian constitution should be changed:

The Romanian political class … cannot be spared a drastic revision of the Constitution without plunging the country into anarchy or dictatorship. Furthermore, the current crisis also rests on the exorbitant power of members of parliament, deputies and senators. The electoral system, directly inspired by the communist regime is based on a list ballot of proportional representation where the elected representatives are chosen by the parties, not the voters. Thus, over fifteen years, a parliamentary autocracy has been created which serves its own interests when it is not obsequiously pandering to those of the oligarchs, its backers.

Cristina Viehmann looks at the underlying reasons of the crisis that do not only stem from the personal fight between Tariceanu and Basescu:

But there may be other reasons as well. The president’s reforms were undeniably aimed against the interests of many politicians, many of them belonging to the Social Democrat Party (PSD), which ruled Romania from 1990 until 1996 and again from 2000 to 2004. (…) For many, the PSD symbolizes what Romania was unable to deal with after 1989 – its communist past.

Regarding the anticipated outcome of the referendum she is rather sceptical:

According to opinion polls, Basescu is backed by 50 percent of the electorate and is therefore very likely to win and return to office. But once in power, he will find himself immobilized by the parliament.

However, EurActiv speculates about new parliamentary elections later this year while The nEUrosis sees a light at the end of the tunnel:

The entire political scene might not settle after the referendum in May, but at least one issue could become clearer: president Basescu and the strong reforms advocated by him and his supporters show the right way for Romania, not the economic interests or behind-the-scene political games of those for whom the reform of the Romanian institutions and society exists in theory, but not in practice.

But even new presidential elections would be difficult to win for Basescu according to Catalin Dimofte who sees a certain mood of apathy among voters:

In the end, the assumption of many political analysts that Basescu will easily win early presidential elections may turn out to be false. It relies on a single risky belief, which is that his opponents will not be able to come up with a credible candidate of their own.

….. to be continued…..