Saturday, 4 February 2017

The Romanian government backs down

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The Romanian government has given in to pressure from mass protests.

Late this afternoon the leader of the ruling Social Democrat party (PSD), Liviu Dragnea, said that the alternative to repealing the corruption ordinance was a million people on the streets of Bucharest. That's slightly more than half the city's total population. More than 5% of the country's population.

Mr. Dragnea would be Prime Minister except that he has a conviction for ballot rigging and therefore, unless or until a pesky law is changed, is ineligible for a position in government. He is, however, running Romania.

This evening the Prime Minister, Sorin Grindeanu, a cypher, said: 

"Tomorrow (Sunday) we will hold a government meeting to repeal this decree. I do not want to divide Romania. It can't be divided in two." 
He added that a public consultation would take place on reforming the justice system.

Romania is the one Latin country in Eastern Europe and it has a distinctly Latin American atmosphere, 
which extends to politics. The last PSD government resigned after street protests. This one, fresh from a landslide victory at the polls in December, has also been defeated by the street. And the protesters in the street represent what is most valuable in Romania. They protested for the rule of law and probity in public life. 

Romanians are sometimes unjustly denigrated in Western Europe. They should not be. They have stood up, forsaken their warm homes and stood out night after night in freezing temperatures, for the principles that are supposed to guide the E.U.

Viewed from England the E.U. can often seem corrupt, illiberal and ineffective. Viewed from Romania it represents a wonderful, large-spirited ideal of decency and good government.

It's too late for the taxi driver who drove me tonight. He was 34 and said the attempt by the government to wreck the anti-corruption agency had made him resolve to emigrate within a few weeks. He has therefore arranged a job in Norway. 
'There is no future here.'
I love living in Romania, but if I were a 34 year-old man without a degree, earning EUR 400 net a month driving a cab, I should not.

The 1848 revolutions in Europe - 'the springtime of the peoples' - ended in failure in Europe, but many of the men of 1848 became emigrants to the New World and achieved the ideals they were pursuing there. 

What happens in Romania is only part of the story. Much of the Romanian story is being written abroad by Romanian emigrants. Romania's success or failure depends on how many of them eventually come back.

What now? 

Romania is left with a government that no intelligent person trusts, but I am not sure how many intelligent people ever trust a PSD government. 

The electorate, most of which is not very intelligent, recently gave the PSD a resounding mandate. 

The opposition party in Parliament, the Liberals, condemned the government's attempt to dismantle the system for prosecuting corruption offences, but corrupt Liberal politicians would also benefit from an amnesty. 

We shall see whether the government succeeds in implementing its proposals in Parliament.

We are waiting for the second shoe to drop.


  1. Note please: "Announces". Means absolutely nothing until the actual doing of the deed (plus publishing in Monitorul Oficial). I ain't holdin' my breath. Peter Heisey

  2. Love your blog, written in plain English, telling it like it is, without any personal agendas. Totally the exception to most of the garbage and the simple resending of other people's stuff. Keep it up! Gavin Ryan

  3. What a fantastic result for and by the Romanian people.... clear challenge to corrupt government decisions wins the day! Very proud of Romania today...

  4. ...he has a conviction for ballot rigging..

    Liviu Dragnea (the second most senior politician in the country), whose party was the big winner from December 2017 elections, could not even become prime minister due to a suspended jail sentence for having planned a lottery to encourage participation in the 2012 referendum to impeach the then President Traian Basescu. This is despite the fact that he later gave it up, realising that it was illegal. He has also been charged just before elections again, for having talked an associate into putting his party secretary on the public payroll when the party’s funds ran dry. If he gets a second conviction, the first becomes active and will serve time on both.


    1. Alina Mungiu-Pippidi’s recent articles have been pretty disappointing, showing some sort of shift in her views of Romanian current politics and the fight against corruption. This article is no exception. Here are a few examples of how biased her public discourse has become:
      First of all, the second paragraph is very misleading. Readers are led to believe that abusive prosecutions are the norm of the day in Romania. So what if MPs hiring relatives is legal in France? In Romania this is one of the most widespread corruption issues. Passing legislation to favour private interests is NOT why MPs have been elected; their job is to legislate for the people, not for some private interests (most of the time their own). Having lunch with someone suspected of corruption is certainly not a crime; this actually is a gross attempt of manipulation and it’s rather low for Alina Mungiu to do this. Finally, not all ministers issuing legislation on criminal matters are indicted by DNA; only those whose actions include corruption.
      Yes, Liviu Dragnea did receive a suspended jail sentence “despite the fact that he later gave up his illegal plan”. But maybe that was the reason for the sentence being suspended. As for his current DNA file, Ms. Mungiu makes it sound as if it’s not such a big deal… Dragnea only did this “when the party’s funds ran dry”. This couldn’t be further from the truth: the corruption in this case lasted more than seven years! For more than seven years, two ladies (not one) employed by PSD have in fact received their salaries from the local county budget, instead of being paid by the party. For more than seven years, their salaries were paid by the Teleorman county Department for Child Protection, subordinated to the county Council whose president was Dragnea.
      But the part that made me really angry is the next one, referring to Senate president Tăriceanu. According to Ms. Mungiu, Tăriceanu was charged for “not confessing a brief luncheon meeting”. This is in fact a lie, and Ms. Mungiu should know better. Tăriceanu was charged for (1) making false statements under oath (perjury) to protect people standing trial in a real estate case and (2) favoring of the perpetrator. Anti-corruption prosecutors said that Tăriceanu, prime minister in 2005-2008, hampered the investigation by denying knowledge of connections between “Prince Paul” and a politically connected businessman and others.
      (“Prince Paul”, who is under house arrest, is standing trial on money-laundering charges, illicitly obtaining assets and buying influence. He is accused of illegally acquiring 158 acres of state-owned land, costing the state 145 million euros).
      Later in her article, the author notes that SRI has used 44,759 wiretaps in 2014, “double that of the FBI for a population sixteen times smaller than the US”. However, Ms. Mungiu forgets to compare the levels of corruption in Romania vs the US. For her information, the “Corruption Perceptions Index 2016” (published by Transparency International on January 25, 2017) is ranking Romania 57th with a score of 48. Compare this to the US, which is ranked 18th with a score of 74.
      It is very unfortunate that Alina Mungiu is joining the recent efforts to fight DNA. I am referring to the sustained campaign to discredit the fight against corruption that was lately present in the British media (see David Clark’s articles in The Guardian, The Telegraph) or report by the Henry Jackson Society. Ms. Mungiu’s next article will probably try to convince us that Dan Adamescu was wrongly convicted to the 4-year sentence for bribing judges in order to obtain favorable court verdicts in cases related to his insolvent companies; or that his son, Alexander, who is currently settled in Britain, was wrongly charged with bribing judges…
      I believe that the professor of democracy studies taught us a wrong lesson.

  5. I do not know who Mr Nes is, but Professor Mungiu-Pippidi has an international reputation and no friend to mr. Dragnea quite difficult for Romanians to thin objectively, I think, their journalism is either red or yellow, either black or white, and people are contaminated with partial views, selective facts and violent expression. what a