By Paul Ciocoiu
Critics say Romania’s revised lustration law, approved on February 28th by the Chamber of Deputies, is far from answering all of society’s questions.
The law, which has to be promulgated by President Traian Basescu, was finally passed by deputies of the ruling tripartite coalition only after the opposition started a parliamentary strike several weeks ago, and two years after an initial draft was rejected by Romania’s highest court.
“This law would have produced its full effects 20 years ago; now it only has a symbolic effect,” Ioan Stanomir, executive director of the Romanian Institute for Investigation of Communist Crimes and Memory of Romanian Exile (IICMER), told SETimes. “But the law marks an attempt to break with the past and a consolidation of the democratic elites of this country.”
The reasons are found in Romania’s post-communist politics. “There was not enough lucidity and determination on the part of the political class over the last 20 years to push for the adoption of this law earlier,” he said.
The law forbids any former communist dignitary or public servant at any level of the administration, central or local, from holding a public position for five years after the law goes into force. Within 30 days of its enforcement, any current official has to declare whether he was part of the former communist nomenclature between 1945 and 1989.
Still, the law does not prevent a former communist dignitary from being elected to a public position, while a provision that targeted former members of the Union of the Young Communists (UTC) was finally dropped.
“Theoretically, it is not too late for truth, even if the truth is partial,” historian Marius Oprea, president of the Association for the Memory of Communism Victims and former head of IICMER, told SETimes. “There is a big difference between the title and the content of the law: the former is generous, while the latter is maimed by the interest to still protect some persons and the political bickering.”
Oprea says the law will have minimal effect. “This law will mainly strike at a lower level, such as the local administrations,” he said. “Still, this law is not entirely inoperative because it is better to amend a law in a new parliamentary majority than to start from scratch.”
The new law has already been attacked by magistrates who filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court. About 60 prosecutors who held such positions during Ceausescu’s regime are considered still professionally active today, according to some statistics. In June 2010, the Constitutional Court declared the initial lustration law as unconstitutional and sent the bill back to parliament for amendment.
Teodor Maries, the president of the Association 21 December, which groups former participants in the anti-communist 1989 revolution, sees the benefits of the law. “This law was necessary, even if its necessity was more acute in the ‘90s. It is a law which once again condemns the communist regime, is welcomed morally and in spite of the minimal impact on the former nomenclature, in the end it makes the Romanian society healthier,” he told SETimes.
Cristea Dumitrascu, a 67-year-old pensioner from Bucharest, is not so sure. “I do not believe in symbolic laws which talk volumes of how fast we make progress as a democratic society. The only way former communist dignitaries and servants will be removed from public life will be through natural extinction and not by means of an artificial law, which is merely meant to leave the impressions we made peace with the past,” Dumitrascu told SETimes.