what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Firm action from the EC

With the Danube and mid Balkan towns having hit 42 degrees on Sunday, we edged nervously out of the Bucharest suburbs at 07.30 Monday. But the forecasts had assured us of more acceptable temperatures - and the drive to Sofia was in fact a delight. The Bulgarian roads from Russe to Sofia are like the old RN French roads – narrow but straight – and offer very relaxed conditions (if you know where to watch for the cops). 
And Sofia welcomed us six hours later with a great rose wine and meal. Who can ask for more?
Every day since dawns coolly – with the narrow streets and trees offering great cycling conditions until mid afternoon when we disappear into the Rodina Hotel pool and exercises.

In our absence the EC has acted, as Tom Gallagher argues here, with commendable firmness toward its wayward child and issued yesterday an appropriate judgement, the technical detail of which can be seen here 

The Romanian President will still lose the 29 July vote – and it is highly unlikely that the complex package of nationalistic outrage (“we obey only Romanians”) and admissions of guilt and remorse by the Prime Minister and acting President will in fact translate into anything significant thereafter. 
Most of the western commentators have taken Basescu’s side – mainly because of the sheer crudity and stupidity of the tactics used in the Ponta power grab (Iliescu,  Nastase and even Basescu were so much more clever). Basescu is credited by Westerners with being the real reformer and certainly is the one person who has pursued judicial reform with real zeal. But to those who excuse Basescu’s breaches of constitutionality (he ruled for several years, for example, on emergency ordinances while having a parliamentary majority) I simply reply that I have still to see an article (in English) which can convince me (judicial reform apart) that he has in the past 8 years actually been pursuing a coherent reform agenda. 
He seems to me just a bull in a china shop – who loves the sound of his own bellow.  
A leftist website gives, amazingly, a more objective perspective
And an article in Der Spiegel gives some useful background on the political party set-up -
Ponta's three-party alliance, called the Social Liberal Union, is populated by a worrying number of prominent politicians and businesspeople who are suspected of corruption, abuse of office or crime. Interim President Antonescu's National Liberal Party, for example, provides a political home to the oil magnate and billionaire Dinu Patriciu, who has successfully withstood years of investigations into allegedly corrupt privatization deals. Head of the insignificant Conservative Party, Dan Voiculescu, is a former Securitate employee who was instrumental in helping ex-Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu acquire hard currency. Now one of the richest people in the country, he owns the influential television broadcasters Antena1 and Antena3.
And then there is the Social Democratic Party (PSD) of Prime Minister Victor Ponta. The party has its origins in the days following the toppling of Ceausescu in December 1989. It rapidly became a collection of former Securitate and communist party elites and is seen by many in Romania as the ultimate symbol of a corrupt oligarchy.
Ponta's political mentor, former Prime Minister and PSD head Adrian Nastase, for example, is an icon of political corruption. On June 20, he was sentenced to two years behind bars for illegal campaign and party financing practices. It was the first time in two decades that a politician of his caliber was sent to jail. In an attempt to avoid jail time, Nastase last month acted out an elaborate suicide attempt -- which merely delayed his sentence by a few days. He is now in jail.
A 'Duplicitous Scoundrel'Nastase's sentencing, however, was the ultimate warning shot fired across the bow of Romania's corrupt elite. If someone at the level of Nastase can be thrown in jail, then it can happen to anybody. Indeed, observers believe that his sentencing is the primary motivation for the power struggle currently engaged in by Ponta and Basescu. "They are doing all they can to resist an independent judiciary," says the lawyer Laura Stefan. "They would rather that Romania was in a kind of gray area outside of the European Union."

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