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!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Taking distance

I can see that some of my recent readers are more interested in painting than politics – and that my blog masthead does clearly state that, unlike most blogs, this one doesn’t “give instant opinions on current events”.
So let me explain why, in the past week, I have been commenting on the ongoing crisis in this country where I have residence and a mountain home.
Simply that I decided in 2007 – after 8 years in Central Asia – that it was time to return to Central/Eastern Europe and to see -
  • how its governance system was developing – ie both the administrative system which has been the focus of my work in various countries over the past 20 years  and the wider political system
  •  what lessons this held for the various tools international bodies have been trying to develop over this period for other “transition” countries eg in “neighbourhood countries”
I was lucky on my return from Central Asia in that, within a few months, I became Team Leader of a project in Bulgaria focused on training local actors in the implementation of the European Acquis. It proved to be a challenging reinsertion to Europe – not least because of the combination of Bulgarian and Italian cultures (the latter being the main contractor). But I survived – and enjoyed the experience – and Bulgaria. That allowed me to refine the critique I had been working up for some time about EC Technical Assistance.
My next project in 2009 was a not dissimilar one in Romania – but I could sustain the controlling and internecine Romanian bureaucratic culture for only a month before I resigned in disgust and protest. I was happy to have another Bulgarian project for the past 18 months and to divide my time between Sofia and the house in the Carpathian mountains as I pursued more of a cultural agenda.
Frankly the political antics in both countries didn’t interest me – a political animal if ever there was one as I had given 20 years of my life to regional politics in Scotland. But both countries have been pursuing a neo-liberal agenda – whatever their political rhetoric and labels may occasionally say. And, having spent some time with younger political aspirants in the mid 1990s in Romania, it was very clear they were being groomed (by American advisers) simply in the skills of political marketing – not of policy substance. Here is one of the best takes on the situation.  

One technical question I now have is the extent to which the semi-Presidential system of Romania is now contributing to the Romanian problems. They are a highly argumentative race – and such a system is doomed to impasse (let alone highly emotional conflict) in the absence of a powerful leader (such as Iliescu) who can informally control everything – despite the minimal powers the role actually gives. Basescu managed (with a sick psyche) to do this for some years but, in the end, political forces and public patience just ran out. 
What, I wonder, are the implications for the country’s future constitutional settlement? 
Sadly the country lacks the civil society to organise the sort of constitutional process Scotland developed in the 1980s and 1990s.
I’m driving tomorrow to the heat of Bucharest – and then on to Sofia for a week. Bulgaria is now performing much more positively than Romania - reflected in its financial ratings.

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