Books on Romania
Update No: 137 - (27/10/08)
In the maelstrom
Romania is robustly free from the new Cold War. It is not adjacent to the
pipeline routes of oil and gas from East to West.
It is not of course immune to world developments. There is no doubt that the
world economy is in profound crisis, the worst since the 1930s. This is likely
to have a big impact on the major event in the country, looming elections to
parliament on November 30. They will decide who is to steer the ship of state at
this perilous time.
They will come after the US presidential election on November 4. The outcome of
the latter could well have a big impact on the former. An Obama victory would
give a boost to the opposition in Romania, a left-wing or at least leftish
affair. The Romanians, unlike most West Europeans, are pro-American and an Obama
win would be most welcome.
Romania, however, is one place where being on the right is no disgrace. In times
past the left in the shape of Communism and Caeucescu did not exactly cover
themselves in glory.
Indeed the infamous dictator was a public menace of the first order, who
destroyed the centre of one of the most beautiful capital cities in Europe,
Bucharest, and kept a whole nation in bondage to his madcap schemes.
Actually, Romania had a spell of fascism before and during the war, under a
dismal dictator, Antonescu, who sided with Hitler, despite the Nazi-Soviet Pact
of August 1939 ceding Bessarabia and Bukovina to the USSR. The Romanians were
involved in anti-semitic outrages and the regime, with its fascist Iron Guard
thugs, sent many Jews to their deaths in the Holocaust.
The relevance of all this today is that Romania still has a problem of race, not
with Jews, but with Gypsies, two million of whom perished in the Shoah too.
Racist taunts and discrimination against Gypsies are rife in the countryside. An
Obama victory might just counter racism somewhat in the US and by example in
Romania too – although there will be those who would regard this as wishful
The righteous right-wingers
Representatives of the governing National Liberal Party (PNL) convened in
Bucharest on September 23 for a ceremony to launch the candidates of the party
for the parliamentary elections on November 30. Party leader and prime minister
Calin Popescu Tariceanu made the opening speech, saying that Romania will report
the highest economic growth in its modern history this year, under the PNL
government, over 8 %.
Rarely can a politician have been so out of synch with the zeitgeist. The very
next month saw the world financial crash, which led to economists downgrading
their assessments for economic growth in Romania for this year and very much so
for next year. The opposition are having a field day with this mishap of an
assertion. It is unwise to give hostages to fortune in politics, although Tony
Blair in the UK managed to get away with it for years.
Tariceanu used the occasion to point out that the Liberals are the only
right-wing party in Romania, where, as we have seen, being on the right is held
a virtue. While lauding the merits of his government, he said a leftist
government would ruin Romania.
He said that by Left he meant the Social Democratic Party (PSD). He did not name
in the context the Democratic Liberals (PD-L), the main party backing President
Traian Basescu, Tariceanu's arch-rival.
The number one problem
But what is politics about in Romania now? The following news item is highly
indicative of its number one political problem. Tariceanu is nominating the
country's state pension chief as the new Labour Minister.
The nomination comes after Romania's President Traian Basescu had suspended the
previous labour minister, Paul Pacuraru, who is under investigation for
The nomination of Mariana Campeanu, announced on September 19, was approved by
the president. He is right to think that women are less likely to be corrupt
than men. They are generally lacking their gangster ties and mores; even the
process of bringing up the next generation does involve instilling public
morality in them – and in the process in oneself!
This was shown in a big way in Romanian politics a year and a half ago. In April
2007 Tariceanu, reshuffled his cabinet for no apparent reason. Actually there
certainly was one all right. He had a woman Justice Minister on his hands,
Monica Macovei, who was showing pertinacity in probing for corruption in high
places. She was making the fight against corruption her mission and had
appointed tough investigators and prosecutors to carry it out. She was showing
distinct signs of meaning real business. She and her assistants were
investigating and indicting lawmakers, ministers and even a former prime
Clearly this sort of thing could not be allowed to go on in a country like
Romania. Where might it end?
He fired her, and as a cover, some ministers from the Democratic Party, which is
close to Basescu. His own party, the Liberal Party, and the Democratic Union of
Hungarians then soldiered on alone, with the opposition Social Democratic Party
having promised its support.
The premier's opponents regard his party as the Liberal Kleptocratic Party. He
replaced Macovei with a stalwart of his own, the head of the anti-fraud squad in
his own office. Then things were brought under proper control!
International report: Romania and Bulgaria remain most corrupt EU countries
Bulgaria has fallen sharply in the corruption perception index published by
Transparency International on September 17, while Romania comes second among the
most corrupt countries in the EU, followed by Poland, Lithuania, Greece and
A regional analysis of how corruption is perceived says that EU accession is not
an automatic remedy for corruption, as shown by the sharp fall of Bulgaria from
a 4.1 index in 2007 to 3.6 in 2008.
Romania's index is 3.8. From 2004 to 2007, Romania was named the most corrupted
EU candidate/member country.
The world index covers 180 countries and puts Romania 70th, with Bulgaria on
72nd place. The EU through its parliament and the European Commission have
Romania and Bulgaria at the top of its members hit list because of their
shocking performance and have frozen EU funds, otherwise due to them because of
their government’s poor performance in getting on top of the situation.