September 23, 2012
My regular readers might have been left with the impression that, whilst displaying a keen interest in global geopolitics, I tend to shy away from Romania’s problems. These, to be sure, have recently boiled over into a fully fledged conflict between members of Parliament and the President. Nor is this a new development. For the second time in five years, the Parliament has impeached the President, who got his job back only via two referenda, the latter of which has had to involve 50 percent plus one of the Romanian electorate.
In 1995 I have attended a Roundtable with the Romanian Government conference organised by The Economist in Bucharest. On that occasion, I have circulated a geopolitical essay, “A Vision of Romania in the Third Millennium”, dealing with the country’s most pressing concerns and their possible solutions. Unfortunately, although it had gathered a following in far-flung places like Kazakhstan, the arguments fell on deaf ears in Bucharest. One of the main points I was making was that Romania’s 1991 constitution did not respect the principle of the separation of powers, which in fact was found to be at the root of the country’s institutional blockage today.
In 2003, some recommendations from my essay were incorporated via referendum into the Romanian constitution by the social-democrats, whilst others – notably the restitution of the former king’s properties – were adopted after 2004 by the liberal administration that governed the country for four years.
This time around (2012), the President has fallen victim to his own, ill-inspired, austerity measures. In truth, the immediate cause of the 1989 popular uprising in Romania was the savage austerity program adopted throughout the 1980’s by the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, aimed at reducing Romania’s foreign debt. The methods were different. The popular discontent provoked was very similar.
In a place like Romania, today’s austerity measures have come on top of a 20-year-long liberalisation drive deemed by specialists as misguided:
“The various tentatives of imposing, by forceps, economic liberalism on peoples who were ill-prepared for it, have contributed to a large extent to the unravelling of their social fabric, and have proved disastruous from this point of view. These gave way to an explosive cocktail of nationalism and populism […] and favoured separatisms, the dismemberment of Yugoslavia remaining in this respect the most striking example.” (Pascal Lorot, A qui profite la guerre ?, Paris, 2003, p.50 ; translation of quotation by FP)
Romanians’ anti-Western misgivings of late (or those of Hungarians, for that matter), are a logical reaction to the beastly way in which the principles of the Washington consensus have affected their living standards – a point I was trying to make as early as 1998 in one of my articles in Curentul (“The Privatisation Policies of Central and Eastern Europe”) and again in a more comprehensive study of 1999-2000, “Romania’s Lost Decade”.
Any serious effort of tackling Romania’s institutional, economic and political problems should start with the adoption of a new fundamental law, to replace the 1991 constitution whose flaws led to the 2007 and 2012 deadlock (for details, see my e-book “Reconstructia Constitutionala in Romania”, link on my Romanian language blog).
Moreover, Romania’s politicians should pay much closer attention than in the past to the country’s geopolitical position within its region and within the European Union as a whole *. In practice, this means that the polity can no longer avoid subjects such as territorial organisation on a regional basis, as well as the rest of the geopolitical solutions treated in my 1995 essay.
* Alas, because of Stalin’s aversion to it, after initially falling for McKinder’s “pivot of history” theory which led to the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact and to Romania’s loss of Bessarabia (nowadays the former province is the Republic of Moldova), geopolitics became taboo in Romanian academic and political circles, to this day.Florian Pantazi