June 16, 2015
Last week Romania was the scene of a bizarre and, luckily, aborted judicial coup d’état. This at least is what the efforts of the new Romanian president to depose the country’s premier have been labelled by veteran Bucharest journalists, such as Ion Cristoiu and Cornel Nistorescu.
Truth be told, the anti-corruption drive initiated by former president Basescu a few years ago and spearheaded by DNA (the national Department of Anti-Corruption) has gone off the rails lately. Leading politicians of the party in government and their families are especially targeted and dossiers are being manufactured on an industrial scale with little regard for due process. All this in order to make it possible for the presidential party PNL – a weak and ineffective entity which includes within its ranks enough corrupt members of its own – to change the parliamentary majority and form the next government without waiting for the 2016 elections, as it normally should.
Worse still, Romanian magistrates have recently complained that the country’s internal secret service SRI has infiltrated the justice system at all levels and recruited judges, prosecutors and lawyers as their agents, to do the bidding for three generals at the helm of the institution. An unheard-of development for a country that has become an EU member since 2007 and is trying hard to get to terms with the ugly legacy of Ceausescu’s hated Securitate.
Since 2012, under the current social-democrat administration Romania has nevertheless achieved a remarkable level of political stability. Its economy is also one of the fastest-growing among EU members and the budget deficit is low. Consequently, the government has recently been able to double the state’s allocations for children and to halve the VAT on food products.
Destabilizing Romania politically with the help of a handful of prosecutors in order to bring the presidential party to power is especially dangerous in the current geopolitical tensions that sweep through the region. To the north and east, NATO is engaged in a tug-of-war with Russia over Ukraine. To the south of the border, Greece is teetering on the brink of default. Further west, Macedonia is in turmoil and tens of thousands of Kosovars are fleeing their dysfunctional country. An oasis of stability until recently, Romania risks being dragged by its president into a partisan political war zone one year before the 2016 elections, with highly negative effects for the EU and the NATO alliance alike. The latest political crisis is therefore one both Romanians and the West can do without, an obvious truth that should deter any further action of this kind by the president and his party. In other words, preparing for elections and waiting for the verdict of the ballot box is not only democratic but – in the current geopolitical context – crucial.Florian Pantazi