By Corneliu Pivariu
The Great Union of December 1st, 1919 was a ”stellar moment” for Romania, which was achieved by Romanian visionary and patriotic politicians with international support yet above all with the blood sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of Romanian soldiers, anonymous in their sacrifice yet eminents by sacrifying their lives on the sanctuary of imortality as a kin. It was a strictly national objective, not directed against any one of the world’s family of nations.
In fact, Romania paid in blood, probably more than other nations, for its achievements of unity and independence and for the strategic mistakes of the political class during different historical periods of the last 101 years as well.
War to the fore
After 1918, two essential moments marked in a dramatic way Romania’s contemporary history: The Second World War (where Romania lost around 800 thousand people, military and civilian) while the end of this universal scourge marked Romania’s fall into the USSR arch of influence (with the acceptance – it should be said and reiterated – of Moscow’s other allies during the war) – and the socialist (communist) political orientation. The second moment is represented by the events of December 1989, when, against the backgdrop of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s and the Communist Party’s removal from power, the orientation towards a democratic society and free market was resumed, ushering in a transition period, which, even the dead’s spirits and the aspirations of those who remained to achieve it wanted to be a very short one, yet proved to be longer than we wished. The greatest achievements of the almost 30 years of post-December 1989 period are Romania’s joining NATO (29th of March, 2004) and the European Union (1st of January, 2007).
During the almost 50 years of communist dictatorship, some hundreds of thousands more Romanians perished (the exact figure is difficult to quantify), great parts of the intellectual elite, generals, valuable politicians who could not survive a terror regime instituted in 44 penitenciaries, 72 forced labour camps, 63 deportation centers, compulsory domiciles, 10 psychiatric hospices with political natures. We can ask ourseves if Soljenitsin’s gulag was more terrifying than the gulags set up during communism in a space called Romania.
After The Second World War, Romania could not come back to its territorial configuration consecrated by the Great Union and, moreover, the Kremlin leadership took care that through arbitrary drawing up of the frontiers (and in 1952 by imposing the establishment of the Hungarian Autonomous Region, which changed its name in Mureș Autonomous Region in 1960, afterwards abolished in 1968 only by the administrative territorial division into counties). These borders left several possibilities for neighbours’ and minorities’ discontents and aspirations – especially regarding Hungary – for achieving political designs in Romania and the region.
During the socialist period we witnessed two important moments: the withdrawal of the Soviet troops (June-July, 1958), while they remained in the other socialist countries until 1990; and the 1968 moment – the invasion of Czechoslovakia, when Romania was the only socialist country that did not take part, followed by an independent policy from Moscow, by the development of relations with democratic Western countries, and by pervasive economic development (with great sacrifices and hardships for the population) promoted by Nicolae Ceaușescu.
After December 1989 events, when some outside forces sought Romania’s dismemberment as well – something that succeeded later on in the cases of former Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia – we went through the Târgu Mureș events of March, 1990, another plot of tearing Transylvania away and of manipulating, through part of international media the reality of those events. In fact, a feature of the almost last 30 years is represented by the action of our Hungarian co-nationals to gain territorial autonomy on ethnic criteria, backed almost continuously by Budapest although, according to Brussels’ assessments, the rights the Hungarian minority enjoys in Romania exceed those applied in European states and, even more, the ethnic Romanian citizens in areas with Hungarian prevailing population are subject to numerous discriminations.
Hungary is preparing further actions to condemn the Treaty of Trianon (among others Budapest will organize a June 2020 conference on the issue). A treacherous declaration in favor of the Transylvanian Hungarians’ “cultural and territorial autonomy” was signed on October 12, 2018 in Cluj Napoca. Actions aimed at Romania’s dismemberment, especially by creating an independent Transylvania, will go on, as the separatist options gain ground in the European Union and Brussels proves unable to articulate a real management of the Union.
(Post-) December 1989 residual heat
The evolution of the Romanian political class after 1989 was greatly influenced by the socialist past and, thereafter, by political evolution in Europe and the USA. It would be mistaken not to mention the influence Moscow still exerts in Romania in many fields of political, economic and social life.
Unfortunately, most of the valuable Romanian intellectuals refrained and further avoid to be directly involved in political life. That resulted in a political class which, in general, is not able to meet the population’s expectations and the desired evolutions. As my dear colleague prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic often repeats: “Eastern Europe is probably the least influential region of the world – one of the very few underachievers. Obediently submissive, therefore rigid in the dynamic environment of the 21st century, Eastern Europeans are among last remaining passive downloaders and slow-receivers on the otherwise blossoming stage of the world’s creativity, politics and economy.”
The most illustrative example is represented by the four presidents who could not stand above the times, each of them due to different reasons: the first – as a result of the socialist-communist education he received especially in Moscow; the second – an university professor (lecturer) who declared himself defeated by the former Securitate; the third – conditional on his training as long-haul commercial navy officer, yet with a political instinct that kept him in power for two mandates and who knew how to maneuver abroad for support; the fourth – a mayor of a provincial town unexperienced in great politics who nevertheless gained in November 2019 a second mandate although in his first one, he shone internationally through obedience.
In Romania indeed, a semi-presidential state, the president has no decision-making competences of first importance, especially in the economic field, as he cannot either fire the prime minister or dissolve the parliament (except under very particular conditions), precisely for avoiding the emergence of a new dictatorship. Yet that does not mean the president cannot be a factor for crystallizing the people’s aspirations and to create, within the political class, a consensus for Romania’s future durable development. It is exactly this kind of project which is nowhere to be found now. Besides, for around 15 years, Romania hasn’t had any important national project and that proves the weak leadership capabilities of the entire political class, and especially the presidency’s, which is called on to crystallize the nation’s forces to that purpose.
The separation of powers is affected by the struggle of the four powers, although there are numerous cases when the magistrates’ powers (judges and prosecutors – the latter being included amongst the magistrates according to a model which is not to be found in other EU states) is used by forces and interests which are not beneficial to the Romanian state in achieving its specific objectives, sometimes under the pretext of fighting corruption (predominantly domestic, without touching any of the great corporations).
Several thousands of judges and prosecutors enjoy a special status in society as a result of the importance of their work and dispensing of a power they believe that many do not realize they have. Only in 2018 was a law on the magistrate’s accountability issued, at a time when judgements of the European Court of Human Rights against Romania placed the latter in first place for condemnations-per-capita, or third place after Turkey and Russia (which have much larger populations).
However, the governing political forces, the president included, called for abolishing the Department for Investigating the Criminal Offences Accountability in Justice in spite of the fact that the High Court of Cassation and Justice opposed the abolishment, securing thus a privileged position for the said social category. The much touted Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification on justice set up by the EU was, and still is, used more as a political instrument of Brussels (or some countries) against Romania, especially on economic grounds, and not for the initially declared purpose.
Romania’s accession to the Schengen Area is further postponed although the country met the technical requirements for more than five years, and it entails yearly economic losses of around 2 billion euro. The reasons stem from the particular interests of certain EU members, and especially the president’s lack of action who, although represents us in the European fora, has never presented a report on his activity at the EU.
The citizen still does not get the needed respect and the state, instead of being the citizen’s servant, retains the mentality of being above them.
The current situation in Romania is due first of all to us: some of us remained with a prejudicial obstinacy in the Byzantine reflex of “complaining to the Sublime (High) Porte,” which was later replaced by obsequious low-bow to Moscow’s, Brussels’, Washington’s Portes, or to other great European capitals. The forest could have not been cut if the axe had not the handle carved from the very wood of the forest, a proverb says, and we still have enough traitors, some of them in rather important positions, including abroad, of whom the magistrates have not yet the courage of dealing with.
Fit for defeat?
After 1990, unhappy with the general situation in the country and seeking a better life, more than 4 million Romanians left for the EU, USA, Canada, and other countries and in their greatest majority they are physicians, professors, engineers, researchers, technicians and highly qualified workers. It is the biggest contemporary population exodus from a country after the one provoked by the civil war in Syria. The danger of this situation was not correctly interpreted by the political class either, let alone countered by taking effective measures to prevent the weakening of the people’s national being.
The education situation is more than alarming. We had 26 ministers of Education during the last 29 years, most of them concerned with changing the education laws. According to public data, 42% of the pupils under 15 are functional (workable) illiterates. The relatively recent step of granting 6% of the GDP to education must be followed by decisive measures so that education becomes a top national priority. The latest 2019 budgetary adjustments cut 2 billion lei (around 500 million euros) from the education budget.
Romania – a country able to easily secure food for a population of 90 million people – continues to import in 2019 much more food products than it produces.
The situation of the development of infrastructure, roads, railways, energy is deplorable. During the almost 30 years since the fall of communism we were not able to build a highway crossing the Carpathians and our country is the laggard in Central and Eastern Europe with 783 km of highways. Romania has the same number of kilometers of railroads – approximately 11,000 km – as it had 100 years ago (in 1989 we had 24,000 km), and the average circulation speed for the passenger trains is 45km/h. On the other hand, we are well placed in terms of Internet speed, in fifth place worldwide.
The post-1989 period is characterized economically by foreign capital’s takeover of subsoil resources, the public utilities and banks, as Romanian capital was not supported in order to deal with the situation. In a special report, Ernst&Young research is quoted whereby the takeovers (mergers and acquisitions) in the economies of the former socialist countries are analyzed and classified in three categories: takeovers by foreign capital, takeovers where the buyer and the seller are indigenous and takeovers abroad. The report found that Romania is first place so far as takeovers by foreign capital is concerned: 67% of them, and by far in last place in takeovers abroad, with 3% only. No country in the region witnessed such a discrepancy, more than 22 times, between what the indigenous capital ceded to foreign capital on its own markets and what it managed to take over from foreign capital abroad.
A crime is perpetrated for many years against Romania’s forests, and implicitly against its citizens. In 2019 alone, 39 million cubic meters of timber will be disforested (of which 18 – 20 million cubic meters are unlawful). The president and the government are notorious for their non-involvement and their absolute lack of a position for addressing this situation and preventing unlawful deforestation.
So this is Romania’s real end-result at the anniversary of 101 years since the Great Union. We could be proud of the achievements of the past, yet at the same time we must be aware of the current problems and think of the future with solutions adapted to both the actual situation and to our historical perspective.
The current international situation is a complex one and important changes are taking place in the international order at a time when Romania, consumed with petty domestic disputes, is quite nonexistent on the world stage. No one but us will act for our sake except strictly within specific interests. Romania may have the future it deserves if it wants to act in this regard. Another 30-40 years will be probably needed for that.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Geopoliticalmonitor.com or any institutions with which the authors are associated.