Saturday 30 June 2012

EU should 'undermine national homogeneity' in Southern Europe

The headline in the BBC was:

EU should 'undermine national homogeneity' says UN migration chief

The future of Romania is written here, I fear. Feminism and loss of faith in her future, or whatever the reasons are that Romanian women have fewer children, have done for her, unless something changes. 

Ceausescu's natality policy was considered by people in the West as very brutal though abortions and contraception were once outlawed almost everywhere but some kind of policy to encourage more children seems essential. As far as I know, only Russia is serious about this.

The 2011 Romanian Census, published this week, suggests that the population of Romania which has fallen to 19 million will halve on present trends in ninety years. But this means nothing, as present trends will not continue. Already Romania has more pensioners per head of population than any other country in Europe.
Peter Sutherland, the Southern Irish chairman of Goldman Sachs International, former chairman of BP, former EU commissioner and former head of GATT is an internationalist and a progressive, a man of the twentieth first century, used to seeing the world from the window of a jet not a bus. He heads an unpromising sounding body called the United Nations Global Forum on Migration and Development. Just over a week ago hd told a sub-committee of the British House of Lords Home Affairs Committee that migration was a "crucial dynamic for economic growth" in "some" EU nations, "however difficult it may be to explain this to the citizens of those states".

An ageing or declining native population in southern EU states, he said, was the 
"key argument and, I hesitate to the use word because people have attacked it, for the development of multicultural states... 

...The United States, or Australia and New Zealand, are migrant societies and therefore they accommodate more readily those from other backgrounds than we do ourselves, who still nurse a sense of our homogeneity and difference from others.And that's precisely what the European Union, in my view, should be doing its best to undermine."

So in other words the Romanians of our day must be replaced by a different, mixed population who will have enough children to pay for old age pensions. This is the unforeseen end result of the welfare state.

Mr Sutherland might care to study the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Article 8 states:

States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples.

Is there an alternative? The Japanese think so and prefer their race to grow old rather than be mixed but Japanese rely on families rather than the state for their old age. They may be proven right in the end but by then it might be too late for Europe to go back. 

Thursday 28 June 2012

Dana Năstase, prison visitor, aged by ten years?

A typically frank Romanian headline says 

Dana Nastase has aged by ten years! See her on a visit to her husband Adrian Nastase! 

(Her husband of course is now in prison). 

Romanians are much more truthful than the English, in so many ways. They lie about trivial things because they know that time and space do not exist but in judgments on character and personal appearance they are horribly truthful. The English are very honest in business but too kind to be honest about these things.

I always thought Mrs. Nastase was rather attractive in a curious way but I have a penchant for tough, bad girls.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Bombo, Bombo, te duci la Congo!

"For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground. And tell sad stories of the death of kings."   Richard II, Act III, Scene II

'Bombo, Bombo, te duci la Congo' (Bombo, Bombo,  - homophobic nickname for Adrian Nastase - go to the Congo) shouted the crowds in the streets before Mr. Nastase was defeated by a whisker by the current President Traian Basescu in the 2004 Romanian presidential election. But now Mr. Nastase is at last actually in Rahova prison, for a crime everyone is sure he was guilty of, after a failed suicide attempt that looked like a bizarre ploy not to go to gaol, many people do not seem as pleased as you would think.

Most people, except foreign diplomats, believed former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase's suicide attempt was a sham to avoid prison (I am by not sure but what do I know?) But wonders never cease and I realise Romania has changed, thank God. As of last night, Adrian Nastase is in Rahova, after all, despite all the people, myself included, and it was all the people i spoke to, who expected the Government to use his psychological condition as a reason to keep him out of gaol. His party, the PSD, after all has just come to power. And - mirabile dictu - the doctors who attended him after the putative suicide attempt are being investigated by the authorities for their part in the strange story. 

And now Romanians are feeling sorry for him, even substantial political commentators who loathe the PSD, like Dr. Alina Mungiu-Pippidi. Why? 

To answer that would be to understand much. I can only try.

Romanians expect all their politicians to be corrupt and they are right to do so. Since at least the Greek Phanariot rulers in the eighteenth century, who purchased their thrones from the Sultan and got the money back from Romanian tax payers as quickly and unscrupulously as possible, most politicians go into politics to enrich themselves.  In any case, many of the Romanian public are corrupt too. In Romania, everything is seen in almost purely human terms rather than in terms of abstract principle. Abstract principles are so bloodless and ....well, abstract. I am sure this is how Mr. and Mrs. Nastase and their friends and enemies see things. 

And Romanians are very soft-hearted and sentimental, something that sometimes goes along with brutality. Goering wept effusively when his dogs died.

I remember teasing PSD princess and TV starlet Raluca Badulescu, spendthrift daughter of a senior PSD politician, about only donating 2 million old lei ($60) to the flood victims at a telethon and she said 'Yes and I wish I hadn't given them that much. They don't need my money. Other people give them money and anyway I don't care about them. I just don't care about them.' Here spoke the true Phanariot spirit. But when we turned to discussing the Nastases and whether they might go to prison - this was years ago, but the court cases had already started against the couple - she asked me, wide-eyed, 'You don't think they could go to prison do you? That would be horrible.' Her heart was soft where the Nastases were concerned even though she had gleefully told me incredible estimates of their defalcations. Some Romanians - quite a few - mostly, it is true,  with connections with the PSD - told me admiringly about the amounts they believed the couple had made. What belongs to everyone belongs, in post-Communist countries, to no-one. Someone else, an academic who dislikes the PSD,  explained to me in a matter-of-fact tone, 'They have to make provision for Andrei', meaning the Nastases' son.

My own reaction to the news about Adrian Nastase?  I am put in mind of the words of Viscount Whitelaw, Margaret Thatcher's long-serving deputy, who said at one point in the sorry life of the Callaghan administration, which preceded hers,

We should certainly not gloat. This is no time to gloat. But I can tell you, I am gloating like hell.

Nastase is the seventh former Prime Minister to go to prison since the war. I wonder if any went to prison before Communism. I am sure many ought to have done and that most politicians in Romania ought to now. Five Prime Ministers at least, by my count, were killed (Iorga, Duca and Calinescu by the Fascist Iron Guard, Antonescu and Maniu by the Communists) as was of course Nicolae Ceauşescu. King Michael was forced to abdicate at gun-point. 

Alison Mutler, the AP's woman in Bucharest, put it well when she told me:

Last night's shooting shows us that it has not been anaesthetised, globalised or gobbled up by the EU. It is still the raw, dramatic, painful Romania that has lured many of us over the years.

She thinks Monica Macovei, former Justice Minister and now MEP, chose the wrong word when she said the alleged abortive suicide (which she thinks was a set-up) was 'soap opera'. The correct description says Alison is simply 'opera'. Yes, quite, and Romanian history, whether recent or longer ago, is very operatic.

Going back to the eighteenth century, seven in all of the Phanariot princes of Wallachia or Moldavia were executed. I particularly remember the story of Constantin Hangerli, briefly and unhappily Prince of Wallachia.

In February 1799, the Sultan issued a firman or decree to execute Hangerli and an emissary was dispatched to Bucharest, accompanied by a negro servant who was, in fact, an executioner. Hangerli, after being read the firman in the Royal Palace, in the centre of Bucharest, was attacked by the two as he was attempting to call his guards. He was strangled by the negro, shot twice in the chest, stabbed once and finally decapitated with an axe that the negro carried for that purpose in his bagAccording to  R.W. Seton-Watson's magisterial History of the Roumanians:
'When some of the boiars rushed in, they found that the prince's head had already been hacked off and the room was deluged in blood. His naked body was then thrown out into the street and left there till evening.'
In the same winter, in Hampshire, Jane Austen was completing Northanger Abbey.

Many more Romanian monarchs were executed before the Phanariot period by order of the Sultan [1] or for other reasons, including such famous figures as Vlad the Impaler and Constantin Brancoveanu, whose martyrdom for the Christian faith was extremely operatic.   Being ruler of Romania is not a very safe job viewed in actuarial terms. And this is probably part of the reason why some misguided Romanians are now saying imprisoning former Prime Ministers is 'un-European'.

[1]This reminds me that one seventeenth century Sultan so disapproved of smoking that he would personally execute smokers on the streets of Constantinople if he caught them in flagrante delicto. This is much more extreme than the recent EU inspired legislation governing smoking in public places.

Romania, like every country, needs an elite

Foreign rule of Romania by the E.U. is of course on the whole better than rule by the local political class although it brings all sorts things I passionately hate, rules about slaughtering pigs and riding horses and carts and a thousand other infringements on freedom and attacks on tradition including teaching in schools modish Western ideas about feminism and homosexuality. The problem is not only that Romania has such an execrable political elite but that it has an execrable elite - her elite was destroyed often literally by Communism. That is what Romanians have to rebuild starting with the intellectuals and the journalists and the historians many of whom are very compromised figures, inevitably.

Nowadays the elite in the West for some reason disapprove of elites and elitism and indeed they have have made the idea of an elite look pretty bad.

This weeks's quotations

Martin Amis

I don't think intellectual snobbery is too reprehensible, especially with the amount of attention given to people who haven't got anything to offer.

Cesare Pavese

A man is never completely alone in this world. At the worst, he has the company of a boy, a youth, and by and by a grown man - the one he used to be.

He knows not his own strength that hath not met adversity.

One stops being a child when one realizes that telling one's trouble does not make it any better.

Benjamin Disraeli 

But this principle of race is unfortunately one of the reasons why I fear war may always exist; because race implies difference, difference implies superiority, and superiority leads to predominance.  (In the House of Commons, 1 February 1849). 

Lord Salisbury

By a free country I mean a country where people are allowed, so long as they do not hurt their neighbours, to do as they like. I do not mean a country where six men may make five men do exactly as they like. That is not my notion of freedom.

Petre Ţuţea

I stayed in prison for thirteen years for a nation of idiots.

Diana Preotu

They say it is better to be poor and happy than rich and miserable. But how about a compromise like moderately rich and just moody?

Soren Kierkegaard

There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming.

Henry Miller ‎

Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music-the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself."

Ernest Hemingway

Never mistake motion for action.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Own only what you can carry with you; know language, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.

Alexandra Svet

Nothing is worth spending money on except books and travel.

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Books read (and films seen) this year of grace 2012

The High Window*, Raymond Chandler
The Long Goodbye*, Raymond Chandler

Muhammad, Karen Armstrong
Stalingrad Anthony Beevor 
Defying Hitler, Sebastian Hafner
Berlin at War: Life and Death in Hitler’s Capital 1939-45, Roger Moorehouse
This Business of Living: Diaries 1925-50* Cesare Pavese
Relapse into Bondage Alexandru Cretianu
Friends and Heroes*, Olivia Manning
Waugh in Abyssinia Evelyn Waugh

History of the Roumanians* R.W.Seton-Watson 
A History of Romania Kurt Treptow

Bold means I loved it. An asterisk means I have read it before. 

What a masculine, middle-aged, philistine and shamefully short list. I am even reading military history, which is the last refuge of the middle-aged male. In fact I tried Beevor's Stalingrad on a recommendation from an aesthete friend but it bored and repelled me. 

I read Chandler for the prose style not for the plot, though he is  a good storyteller. I thought when 14 that The Long Goodbye was too long and too much trying to be a proper novel. Now I absolutely loved it except the ending with the silly twist which I merely skimmed without attempting to understand it.

Karen Armstrong is not worth reading as she does not mention that the evidence for her subject's life is extremely late indeed (two centuries after the event) but the new book by Tom Holland on the origins of the Koran sounds good. Holland apparently went to my college years after me and took a Double First in Classics and History and has many books to his credit. I try not to be jealous.

Hafner's book, to my great surprise, an account of his uneventful life in Berlin in 1933, found among his papers and published ten years ago, is absolutely wonderful. It is beautifully written and deeply horrifying because of the sheer normality of his life as he describes it in Berlin in 1933 and the ease and rapidity with which Germans accepted Nazism and Nazi indoctrination. I hope it becomes a classic and is read in a hundred years' time as it deserves to be. People follow like sheep. I saw a somewhat faint parallel with another totalitarian ideology with a whiff of sulphur, political correctness, which has made cowards of us all in recent years. 


The Moorehouse book is not particularly well written or strikingly insightful, but it efficiently covers the ground. The story of Stella Kübler, the beautiful blonde Jewess who was used by the Nazis as bait to uncover Jews hiding in Berlin, chilled my blood. One solitary Jew was permitted to survive in the Jewish cemetery burying Jews according to Jewish practice. He was still alive when the Russians came. This is what a friend of mine Madeleine Farrar-Hockley calls Hitler porn but my excuse is that I know very little about German domestic history during the Nazi period, the subject is important and I am interested in biographies of cities, writing as I am one a book on Bucharest. 

Olivia Manning's third volume in the Balkan trilogy, set in Greece, which I reread while spending the weekend in Athens and Hydra, inclines me to think that the reason I like the first two so much is because of my love of and interest in Romania not Manning's writing. She does not create characters. Her characters are clearly drawn from life in many cases and therefore do not come alive. It is the invented ones like Yaki who live, although Dennis Deletant tells me most of her characters were amalgams and Yaki is partly based on a free-loader in their set.

Please click here for my review of Waugh in Abyssinia which I strongly recommend to everyone who likes Waugh.

I am ashamed that only now after owning the book eight or nine years have i read Seton-Watson all the way through. A very good book which is still the leading work in English after Keith Hitchens. And written in clear prose as if for the intelligent layman not for other historians, as books were written in the 1930s. T.S. Eliot wrote in the 30s about the dissociation of sensibility that took place after the Renaissance when men were up to date on everything from poetry to astronomy but since the 1930s this dissociation of sensibility has gone a very great deal further. Reading Seton-Watson inspired these thoughts.

Keith Treptow gave me his History of Romania in 1999 and I never read it until now, thinking it looked light-weight, but on reading it I found it taught me a lot. it is disfigured by some big mistakes and bad proof-reading and sometimes by terrible prose but it is lively and stimulated thought. Dennis Deletant has explained to me that it was not really written by Treptow but a group of Romanian historians and was written in a great hurry for Adrian Nastase to be able to distribute copies as presents when the visited the USA as Foreign Minister in the 1990s.

This Business of Living: Diaries 1925-50 by Cesare Pavese, seemed to me at 23 a remarkably deep book but now I find it uninteresting and read it simply to understand his depressive psychology rather than to understand the world. He did coin some wonderful aphorisms but I did not find any of them in these diaries. Here are some:

A man is never completely alone in this world. At the worst, he has the company of a boy, a youth, and by and by a grown man - the one he used to be.

Artists are the monks of the bourgeois state.

He knows not his own strength that hath not met adversity.

Life is pain and the enjoyment of love is an anesthetic.
No woman marries for money; they are all clever enough, before marrying a millionaire, to fall in love with him first.

One stops being a child when one realizes that telling one's trouble does not make it any better.

'No woman marries for money; they are all clever enough, before marrying a millionaire, to fall in love with him first.' Thackeray said this before him, I am almost sure.

Films seen

The Blue Dahlia (1947)*
The Brasher Doubloon (1947)
Albert Nobbs (2011)
In a Better World (2011)

Sunday 24 June 2012

"By a free country I mean a country where people are allowed, so long as they do not hurt their neighbours, to do as they like."

"By a free country I mean a country where people are allowed, so long as they do not hurt their neighbours, to do as they like. I do not mean a country where six men may make five men do exactly as they like. That is not my notion of freedom."

Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury

This is why the Equality Act and all similar legislation is an infringement on freedom along with many other so called human rights laws which restrict freedom while giving entitlements.

Night of the Sânziene, (June 23rd- 24th)

I am posting about fairies instead of watching England play Italy and I don't feel guilty. 

My friend Sarah has just written one of her enchanting blog posts about last night, the night of the Sânziene.  

It puts me in mind of one of my very favourite poems, Bishop Corbet's wonderful lament for Catholic England. In Catholic England magic and fairies existed, as they still do in Romania which never had a Reformation to remove what the old churches subsumed of paganism, pre-Christian magic and a close connection with the earth. 

Witness those rings and roundelays 
Of theirs, which yet remain, 
Were footed in Queen Mary’s days 
On many a grassy plain; 
But since of late, Elizabeth, 
          And later, James came in,  
They never danced on any heath  
As when the time hath been. 

Sarah, who left Romania years ago, knows a hundred times more than I about this country and makes me ashamed. But like me (and very unlike some foreign bloggers) she loves Romania with a passion. 

More here about the Night of the Sanziene.

Until I read Sarah's post, which she was kind enough to send me, the only Sanziana I was aware of was a lubricious starlet called Sanziana Buruiana (celebrity culture came to Romania long ago, long before I did, and she appears almost daily in the less weighty newspapers). 

She is no fairy but here, in a recent pose, Miss Buruiana's dress seems to me to symbolise fecundity, but I am not sure whether she is a symbol of midsummer or of the forthcoming ripe harvest. 

Pola Illéry

Posting Ivor Porter's obituary reminds me I forgot to post this obituary of Romanian Jewess Pola Illéry, who died in February aged 103 and is thought to have been the last leading lady from the silent films. Even though tastes in beauty change over generations, her picture is still arresting.

The Daily Telegraph obituaries are the best things in that fine newspaper and probably in English journalism. They form a history of the twentieth century comparable with John Aubrey's Brief Lives, an analogy that was very much in the mind of the paper's great Obituaries Editor, the much-missed  Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd. I regret that I did not take the opportunity to work for him.

Pola Illery

Ivor Porter has died

Ivor Porter

I forgot to post here the obituary in the Daily Telegraph of Ivor Porter, an English hero who who died a few days ago, aged 98. He knew Olivia Manning and her husband, Reggie Smith, in Bucharest when he was a junior lecturer at the university and a few years back published a very good biography of King Michael, which I recommend. I had always hoped to meet him and Patrick Leigh Fermor but, as Gorbachev said, history punishes those who delay. The obituary is by Porter's friend, Professor Dennis Deletant.

Porter's nephew by divorce writes about Porter here. I look forward very much to Dennis's book on the SOE in Romania during the war where no doubt we shall learn more about Porter.

Nowadays the British Council which once gave paid employment to all sorts of odd people who needed to live now tries to sell language classes for a greater profit than its competitors. Such is the impression I have from meeting the head of the British Council in Bucharest the other day at the Jubilee Party. Ill fares the land...

Ivor Porter, Ramona Mitrica, London February 2009 

Saturday 23 June 2012

Television is good for you

I switched the television on yesterday for the first time in three or four years, to catch up on the Nastase suicide attempt story. It is invaluable for breaking news stories but what is more  Euronews keeps me much better informed than the internet. I actually absorbed some news about the resignation of the Paraguayan President, I who was once au fait with every country in the world but who thanks to the internet am now very ignorant.

In a more general sense though, television keeps one in touch with reality or what passes for it. perhaps reality is a socially agreed construct and television is the instrument by which it is constructed. . The trouble is televison's so damnably passive and prevents you thinking - which is I suppose the point of it.

I had forgotten how delightful the folk music in Etno TV is yet unlike my neighbours I find after three or four minutes I want to switch over. I don't know why. I had also forgotten female Romanian television presenters and how many, in a country of brunettes, are blondes. And what blondes. They bring to mind the immortal words of Raymond Chandler:

She was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.

Ed Miliband and the end of things

Yesterday Mr Ed Miliband, the leader of the British Labour Party, purported to change Labour policy on immigration. He said:

“We too easily assumed those who worried about immigration were stuck in the past, unrealistic about how things could be different, even prejudiced.

“But Britain was experiencing the largest peacetime migration in recent history, and people’s concerns were genuine.

“Why didn’t we listen more? At least by the end of our time in office, we were too dazzled by globalisation and too ­sanguine about its price.”

Asked if immigration was too high, he said the number of low-skilled workers coming here was “probably still too high” but many were from the EU who could not be stopped. (I hope this is right. Why are low skilled workers from outside the EU admitted at all unless they marry British subjects?)

He wants to reduce employers’ demand for cheap foreign labour rather than making any “blanket promise” about numbers, which is an admission that the whole idea is a fraud on the voters. Sir Andrew Green, of Migrationwatch UK, commented:

“What was missing from his speech is an appreciation of the scale that immigration has reached, which is the reason for public concern. Net immigration has reached 250,000 a year. That’s going to add five million to our population in 15 years.”

Please think about these figures. Mrs. Thatcher, in her famous remarks about 'swamping' by immigrants, which so annoyed her colleagues in the shadow cabinet when she was Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, said that an annual intake of 50,000 immigrants amounted to two towns a year and made people think they were being swamped. 

In office, in the face of fierce opposition from Labour, her party passed legislation to reduce immigration yet every year thereafter while the Conservatives were in power about 50,000 immigrants continued to arrive, until the final year of the Major Government when the numbers suddenly rose, for reasons I do not understand, to 65,000. They were, we were told, so-called 'secondary immigrants' and were usually wives from the Sub-Continent who had entered arranged marriages with British subjects. This is the reason why there are now many more South Asians than West Indians in the U.K.

For how things proceeded under New Labour, scarcely reported in the press and undiscussed by clever people, click here

I living in Romania and reading the newspapers on-line had absolutely no idea of the huge transformation that was taking place back home. In 2005 I  invested in a 750 pp. biography of Tony Blair by Anthony Seldon which has one index reference to immigration which leads to a single sentence about attempts to reduce the numbers of asylum seekers. Other political biographies and contemporary histories are equally silent and yet in these thirteen years the United Kingdom changed utterly and irrevocably. Now after the change of government 250,000 more people entered the UK to live in 2010-2011 than left.

According to this article in the Guardian, based on figures from the Office for National Statistics. the non-white British population of England and Wales grew from 6.6 million in 2001, after four years of liberal immigration under Labour,  to 9.1 million in 2009 – nearly one in six of the population.

Sir Andrew said Mr ­Miliband was also wrong to talk mostly about migration from the EU, adding:

“In the Labour years, there was net foreign immigration of 3.5 million. Only one fifth was from the EU.”

Sir Andrew has done an absolutely wonderful job of informing the public in a clear way about immigration figures, often dealing with obfuscation and lies from civil servants and journalists and without becoming identified with the right or any political standpoint. But however he works out what proportion of net immigration is from the EU, net immigration is completely irrelevant - suggesting, as it does, that the departure of a hundred thousand indigenous Englishmen and women and the arrival of a hundred thousand Somalis represents no change. Talking about schools and hospitals is also largely beside the point. If the women of England suddenly started having an average of five children we would build the hospitals and schools with no objection. The point is identity, culture, national survival, the survival of Christendom, the survival of European civilisation.

Immigration is much, much worse by far than any other of the many terrible mistakes made by Labour, even the unnecessary wars, even devolution, because it is irrevocable and changes the nation herself. 

Assimilation is a red herring and can only be partial. Among middle class people it works better than with what used to be called the lower class but in the age of the Internet and relativism there is less and less to assimilate to. We should decide if we want Europe to remain mostly white and Christian or not and act accordingly. 

Yes I am an immigrant (from one member of the European Union living in another but I would enjoy living further afield too) and love being a foreigner, love living in Romania  and would not want to live in my own country again, but  people it is all a matter of numbers. Numbers, that is to say, of immigrants from alien cultures who will transform the host culture. In fact almost the only thing I don't really like about Bucharest is the very large number of foreigners like me who are here, though most are not here for good except those that marry Romanians. A few confirmed bachelors like me will die here.

And the reason I love it here so much is that it is such an un-pluralistic, homogeneous, old-fashioned place where almost everyone is Orthodox, everyone is patriotic and, despite or because of Communism,  the existence of God is taken for granted in the same way as the sun rising and falling each day.

In any case we are not talking about restricting movement of peoples within the European Union, whether or not that would be a good thing. In fact the existence of a large supply of well educated, conservative Christian immigrants from Eastern Europe, within and if necessary from beyond the EU, is a strong reason why, if it is decided that the West does need immigrants (and this is absolutely by no means clear), that immigration from outside Europe is not necessary. And I say this, of course, lest it be necessary to explain, not because there is anything in the least wrong with people from countries that are predominantly not Christian and not predominantly of European descent, but simply that their traditions are different from our traditions. We go to great lengths these days to preserve natural habitats and animal species and we should do the same with national traditions, for reasons that would require a book to explain, were explanation for some reason deemed necessary. 

The only hope of ending immigration is by persuading the intellectuals and especially the right-of-centre British establishment that this is urgently necessary but instead it is difficult even to have the courage to discuss the issue.

The most moving and saddest thing I have read on this subject is by the wonderful Charles Moore, former editor of The Spectator and The Daily Telegraph and official biographer of Margaret Thatcher. It is here.

If European countries decide they do not want to retain, in a century, a white Christian majority, they can carry on as now, but the decision I think should be a conscious one and decided democratically, not in secret but after long open debate. Opinion polls show that immigrants and their descendants would be mostly in favour of stopping immigration into England and possibly this holds true in other European countries. (All but one of my British Indian friends want to stop immigration but one does not - she wants more immigrants from the Sub-Continent but objects to East European immigrants.) 

If Europe prefers to retain a white and Christian majority, European states also have unfortunately to resile from international treaties on asylum seekers, very uncharitable though it may sound. At present English judges have ruled, to quote a single example, that every Iranian practising homosexual has the right to asylum in the U.K. There may be many of them and certainly there will be many more asylum seekers incommoded by revolutions and wars who can make their way to England or to Europe. One solution, if it is unacceptable to ignore asylum seekers, who are mostly in part would-be economic migrants (and would-be economic migrants are admirable people), is for developed countries to pay impoverished countries in Africa, such as Burkina Faso, to take them. I suspect many would decline asylum in Burkina Faso, but we can try the experiment and see.

Bucharest Saturday morning in the dog days

I did not go to the seaside (Vama Veche, where this conformist country becomes non-comformist) in the end. I did not go to the country and the true Romania. They joy of waking late and coffee. Dog day weather is so tiring.

Maybe later a croissant special at Gregory's but no need to hurry. A bath and then who knows? Saturday morning approaches the Platonic idea of life. All is potential, nothing actual. 

This suits my psychology only too, too well.

otiumCatulletibi molestum est:otio exsultas nimiumque gestis.otium et reges prius et beatasperdidit urbes.

Sloth, O Catullus, to thee is hurtful: in sloth beyond measure dost thou exult and pass thy life. Sloth hath erewhile ruined rulers and gladsome cities.

Friday 22 June 2012

Was Adrian Nastase's attempted suicide another case of plagiarism?

Yesterday and today people are asking if Adrian Nastase's suicide attempt was genuine or just a ploy to escape prison. Some well-connected people who follow politics closely and who do not like him or his party, the post-Communist PSD, think it was a genuine attempt to kill himself but most cynics, who are always the majority in Bucharest, tend to think it was a trick. There did not seem any sign of blood in the pictures of Nastase on a stretcher his neck bound in a rather dapper Hermes scarf that reminded me of a scarf Paddington Bear might wear. Last night there was even a protest outside the Nastases' house (one of them - he is after all Nastase Sapte Case - Seven Houses Nastase). 

I am unsure whether this suicide attempt was genuine but it would be very Balkan if it were not. Either way, Mr. Nastase has been deeply humiliated and, either way, he should go to gaol. Some Romanians think he still will but  I doubt it now. I suppose it is up to the Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, who is Mr. Nastase's protege. I wonder if the Prime Minister's great foe President Basescu, sitting on the sidelines, will want Nastase and his party humiliated by his being sent to prison or prefer him to be released so that the President can complain it was a stitch-up. I suspect that in the President's residence, the Cotroceni Palace, they have the fortitude to bear Mr. Nastase's misfortune.

The  cynics might scoff at the suicide attempt, but even if it were arranged, even so things have changed. A year ago no-one thought a former PSD Prime Minister would ever really be sentenced to prison at all let alone evade it by putting a gun to his own head.

Usually the courts do or used to do what the PSD wants, at least when the PSD is in power. What is interesting is that the PSD did not prevent the verdict - clearly Mr. Ponta could not afford to do so with parliamentary elections coming this year. 

My fellow blogger Sarah has no doubts that this is a farce and blogs about it here.

What an extraordinary two days. Almost forgotten is the startling news that the Bucharest Court of Appeals on Thursday sentenced powerful and 'çontroversial' businessman Sorin Ovidiu Vantu to one year in prison for blackmailing former Realitatea Media manager Sebastian Ghita. One is reminded, of course, of Al Capone's conviction for tax evasion.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Former Romanian prime minister Adrian Nastase shoots himself

  • Yesterday was a red letter day or red letter early evening.  Mr. Nastase sent to gaol and  Mrs. Udrea charged with plagiarism. The day before, the job of this month's Prime Minister became in jeopardy because he (allegedly) plagiarised his doctoral thesis. Could the whole Romanian political class be forced to resign and/or be sent to prison?

    The Romanian friend I had dinner with last night refused to believe the court had sentenced Mr. Nastase  to gaol. I did not believe he would stay in gaol more than a fortnight before falling ill and being released. 

    This morning I wake up to see Mr Nastase tried to kill himself. This is not just political smoke and mirrors. The blood is real.

    Which Prime Ministers killed themselves? The only one who comes to my mind is Count Paul Teleki after Hitler invaded Hungary's ally Yugoslavia. Castlereagh was never Prime Minister. Did Mubarak attempt suicide? He threatened it but he was a former President not Prime Minister.

    Even I have to feel sorry for him. This is not about a bad conscience but loss of face, which hurts much more in Romania and the Near East than in Western countries. 

    Nastase's suicide attempt will be a turning point in Romanian history, just when every cynic in Romania, which means virtually everyone in Bucharest, was saying of course he will not go to prison and it is all a farce for public consumption.

    But I hope very much that this does not get Victor Ponta off the hook by distracting us from the allegations of plagiarism. Is there any possibility that these could bring him down? People who know about these things tell me not but they said there was no chance Adrian Nastase would go to prison.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Why, when women behave like men, can't they behave like NICE men?

Why, when women behave like men, can't they behave like NICE men? 

Dame Edith Evans

Sunday 17 June 2012

The creation of Romania and the Arab Spring; conservatives, liberals and neo-cons

Lord Robert Cecil in 1857.

Re-reading R.W.Seton-Watson's History of the Roumanians (1934), 
I was struck by the support given by Mr. Gladstone and Lord Robert Cecil (later Gladstone's great conservative opponent, Lord Salisbury), after the end of the Crimean War, to the idea of parliamentary government in the 'Danubian Principalities'  - Wallachia and Moldavia, which later formed Romania. I see parallels with British and Western attitudes towards last year's Arab Spring. Cecil, supporting a motion introduced by Gladstone in the House of Commons in May 1856, welcomed "an opportunity which might never recur of establishing those institutions to which we owe our own happiness."   Wallachia and Moldavia  deserved parliamentary rule and would benefit from it, he and Gladstone argued, just as people last year argued that Arabs deserved democracy and the rule of law.

The Eastern Question ('Eastern' meaning the Near East, European Turkey or the Balkans) bedevilled international politics between 1821 and 1914, rather as the Middle Eastern question has done in the last sixty years, and ended in dragging the world into the devastating war which, in many senses, was the end of civilisation. Both the Near East and the Middle East are attractive but backward places, not especially important in themselves, but the decline of Ottoman power and the emergence of nationalism left them highly unstable. Over the Eastern Question hung the question of whether Constantinople should one day be Russian, Bulgarian, Greek or remain Turkish. Finally in 1915 England agreed that Russia should have Constantinople and the long-held Russian dream of Mass in the Hagia Sofia seemed at last to be close to fulfilment. Whoever had Constantinople controlled the Straits but control of the Straits and the Black Sea was of limited importance in an age of colonies and later the Suez Canal. Likewise, now the Cold War is over, it is hard to see why the Middle East is accorded so much importance. The Middle East has very much oil, of course, as during the Second World War had Romania, but so have Russia and other countries. 

Of course the Romanians were not ready for democracy in the 1850s or half a century later and perhaps the Arabs are not ready yet but Romania benefited from representative government. It is not yet clear whether representative government will take hold in Egypt or Tunisia and, if so, whether this will be a benefit. (Iran after all had until recently a greater measure of democracy than any other country in the Middle East except Lebanon and Israel). In Syria and Libya the odds are very much against free institutions, in my opinion. 

Home rule was a good thing for Romania and independence  de jure instead of de facto for Romania did not unduly unbalance the balance of power in Europe. It did little harm, except to ten thousand soldiers killed in the War of Independence, those maimed and their loved ones. It was a war not sought by Romanians but fought bravely by them, largely for the benefit of Russia, Bulgaria and Serbia. King Carol I distinguished himself by being the last European monarch to command an army in battle at the battle of Pleven, in Bulgaria, where he won a famous victory against the odds. Romania was given part of the Danube Delta and a small stretch of impoverished coastline, the Northern Dobrudgea, sparsely inhabited by a motley mixture of nationalities, but her ally Russia annexed Southern Bessarabia, now the Republic of Moldova, a sore which still hurts to this day.

By contrast, the overthrow of the dictatorships in the Arab World seems at the present moment likely to do much harm to the countries concerned and to the West, by bringing to power Muslim extremists and perpetuating in Libya chaos. It is a great pity that monarchies cannot be reintroduced into Egypt, Libya and Iraq as they were in the Balkans. Even better perhaps, if I am allowed a flight of fancy, were princelings like Carol I of Romania available to be sent to the Middle East as constitutional monarchs in the nineteenth century sense, with real powers, to take a large part in the governance of their backward kingdoms, but the spirit of the age would not permit it.

I wonder whether the Arab countries will ever have good government and even whether Islam and parliamentary systems can co-exist. Turkey is a Muslim exception that seems to prove the rule, as the Ataturk settlement rested on secularism enforced for the army and, for many years, by a dictatorship. In democratic Turkey the Ataturk settlement is crumbling and political Islam becoming more powerful but we hope that moderate Islam and democracy can be combined. On the other hand, the pro-British monarchies in the Middle East, before Israel and Nasser, were stable parliamentary systems and Egypt in the early 1920s even had a Jewish Minister of Finance.  Islam is therefore not always incompatible with representative institutions, at least in countries which were clients of imperial Britain. 

At one point during the Austro-Piedmontese War of 1859 the idea was floated for a moment of compensating Austria for the loss of Venice by giving her Wallachia and Moldavia. This idea died in thinking, but a period of Austrian rule, unlike Ottoman rule, and unlike Hungarian rule of the kind Transylvania endured after 1867, might have had advantages for Romania. This was what Bosnia enjoyed as a Hapsburg protectorate after 1878 (governed jointly by the two halves of the Dual Monarchy). It would have united Romanians on either side of the Carpathians and would have raised the cultural and economic level of Wallachia and Moldavia.  

Home rule and independence in Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece, by contrast with Romania, led to wars, pogroms and ethnic cleansings. They destabilised the region for many years and not only the region. The First and Second Balkan Wars were followed by a third Balkan War which we know as the First World War. It began in Bosnia and ended in Bulgaria, where the Central Powers were finally defeated. Flanders was only an inconsequential side-show. It might be called the War of the Ottoman Succession.

Romanian independence was not very problematic because Romania had never really been  part of the Ottoman Empire, though shown as such on the  maps, and had always been ruled by Christian princes, without any settlement by Muslims. The Sultan was a sort of suzerain rather than the direct ruler of Wallachia and Moldavia - a suzerein status they shared, among the Sultan's domains, only with the Lebanon.  From 1812 the Tsar had treaty rights to interfere in the Principalities and so the Principalities were effectively Turkish protectorates which were also Russian protectorates. Romania is therefore in some senses not part of the Balkans. 

Romania's small 'Turkish' Muslim minority was acquired, along with other minorities, only after independence, when the  Northern Dobrudgea was awarded to Romania. Before independence Muslims had been forbidden to settle in the Principalities. No pogroms were therefore carried out by Muslims on Christians or vice versa, as happened in Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece and, worst of all, with the massacre of the Armenians in Anatolia by the Young Turk government. Romania's large minority at the time were her Jews, who had immigrated in the preceding two generations from Russia and the Hapsburg Empire. Their position was only affected by independence insofar as the Great Powers were not prepared to recognise independence without the Jews being granted civil rights, something the Romanians, both the politicians and public, resisted fiercely but unavailingly. 

It was perhaps a pity in some ways that, from 1917, after the Tsar was overthrown and the USA entered the First World War, 'democracy' was suddenly adopted by the Allies as an agreed standard for good government in the white world. This, in time, came to be applied to colonies in Africa and Asia, regardless of whether developing societies were ready for one man one vote. Universal suffrage in the twentieth century has become seen as the sine qua non for political legitimacy, even though the UK only got manhood suffrage in 1918. In fact, a property franchise made very good sense in early 20th century Romania and a household franchise worked well in early 20th century England. An electorate confined to graduates or to the literate or to property owners would lack legitimacy nowadays but in the Arab world and elsewhere it would, in itself, make good sense.

Disraeli's attitude to Romania's war of independence in 1878 was very different from Gladstone's or Salisbury's twenty years earlier.  Disraeli was a conservative of the school of Metternich and Kissinger, whereas the heirs of Gladstone are Woodrow Wilson, whose fourteen points were disastrous for Central and Eastern Europe, and, ultimately, George W. Bush and the Neo-Cons. 

Disraeli had no love for Russia and publicly claimed Romania was amply compensated at the Congress of Berlin for losing Bessarabia, but he had told Queen Victoria in a letter that  "the compensation allotted to the rebellious tributary states for their alliances with Russia would be as meagre as possible." Dizzy promised Bessarabia, among other things, to Russia in return for Russia's giving back to Turkey the Greater Bulgaria created by the Treaty of San Stefano, yet when he returned to England 'with peace in our time' he 'hoodwinked' (Seton-Watson) British public opinion by complaining (accurately but disingenuously) that  the Tsar had broken international law by annexing Bessarabia. 

Disraeli sympathised with Turkey as a legitimate monarchy and a force for stability. Seeing what chaos, bloodshed and ethnic cleansing resulted from the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and in the Middle East it is not easy to say he was wrong about this though it partly cost him the 1880 election. He had no sympathy for Romania and tried to ensure she received as little as possible in return for rebelling against the Sublime Porte. Disraeli was a true legitimist and a higher conservative than Lord Salisbury. I am a legitimist too, but to Romanians and to me Gladstone and Salisbury emerge out of Romanian history much better. 

Disraeli was a Protestant convert but perhaps his Jewish background, as well as his happy memories of 'the pleasure of being made much of by a man who is daily decapitating half the country' when he was the guest of Ali Pasha in Albania as a young man in the 1830s,  made him less biased in favour of Christians and against Muslim Turkey than other statesmen. On his deathbed, he was said to have been heard to mutter Hebrew prayers. During the Eastern Crisis, Gladstone wrote of Disraeli to the Duke of Argyll, "He is not such a Turk as I thought. What he hates is Christian liberty and reconstruction."

How interesting it is that events almost never have the consequences clever statesmen think they will have. Napoleon III worked for the unification of Italy and Romania, which both became the allies of Austria and Germany (secretly in Romania's case) and therefore enemies of France. Russia nearly caused a  European war in 1878 by trying to create an independent Greater Bulgaria. The other powers, though not Gladstone, feared Bulgaria would be a Russian poodle, which is why Disraeli was prepared to fight. In London, the hit song in the music halls, sung by The Great MacDermott, went:

'We don't want to fight,
'But by jingo if we do,
'We've got the ships,
'We've got the men,
'We've got the money too.'

Yet in the two world wars Bulgaria fought against her Russian elder brother and against England and France. Other examples are legion.

An in some ways comparable mistake was made by President Eisenhower in 1956 in not backing Britain and France's admittedly duplicitous invasion of Nasser's Egypt. This enabled America to take from Britain and France the leading role in the Middle East but left the region the source of grave instability that it has remained and led to Egypt, Libya and Syria becoming Soviet allies.It also precipitated the overthrow of the pro-British Iraqi monarchy and the eventual emergence of Saddam Hussein. Three years later Eisenhower, who had opposed Anglo-French imperialism in Egypt, was faced with his own rebellious vassal state in Castro's Cuba. British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who had been 'first in and first out' of the Suez venture, expressed much sympathy with Eisenhower, but then Macmillan was the greatest beneficiary of the American sabotage of his predecessor, Sir Anthony Eden.

The Conservative Disraeli was pro-Turkish and the Liberal Gladstone pro-Christian but the Conservatives, in opposition from 1905 till 1915, gave up their preference for Turkey over Russia. From 1914, allied to Russia and ruled from 1915 by an all-party coalition, England fought the Ottoman Empire. The consequence is today's Middle East. 

In the First World War and the early 1920s Lloyd George retained enough of his previous radicalism to be a passionate pro-Hellene.  Lloyd George and Clemenceau very nearly succeeded in killing, but only with very great difficulty, the allegedly Sick Man of Europe (Kemal later administered the coup de grace). Lloyd George then encouraged Greece in her ambitions to create a Greater Greece in Anatolia. This proved a fatal mistake for the Greeks who were driven out of their ancestral homes in Anatolia by Kemal bag and baggage, to use the phrase Gladstone, the Liberal leader, used a generation and a half earlier to describe his hope for the ethnic cleansing of the Turks (i.e. the Muslims) from Bulgaria and Macedonia. In the early 1920s, the Turks were driven out of Greece at the same time as the Greeks were expelled from Turkey. Interestingly, in view of later British history, the Conservative British Foreign Secretary, Sir Austen Chamberlain, took the view that ethnic minorities never lived happily side by side and were best separated by force.

Had we remained friendly to the Sublime Porte and avoided allying with France or getting drawn into war with Germany in 1914 the history of the world might have been very different and much happier.

How different nineteenth century diplomacy was from that of our day, made in secret and concerned with realpolitik and not principles or the interests of the common man. And yet was it so very different? I just finished reading Victor Sebestyen's book Revolution 1989. I read, though it was not news, how George H.W. Bush tried to shore up Jaruzelski, Gorbachev and the USSR against Solidarity and the reformers in Poland and Russia on the ground that Gorbachev provided stability. He also offered Gorbachev a free hand in Romania but, at least ostensibly, Gorbachev allowed Romania to go her own way.

Stability sounds a sell-out but it has its virtues. The last nine years in Iraq have taught us how valuable stability is, more valuable perhaps than almost anything else. 

For forms of government let fools contest
Whate'er is best administered is best.