Laws and lawlessness

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After more than a month of well-deserved holiday, Parliament has resumed its activity. The balance sheet of the parliamentary activity in 2017 shows that the people’s representatives worked an average of approximately 59 days for those who voted them. May 2017 held the record in this sense, with 12 days of intense labour.

We could say without any reservation that the job of parliamentarian, in fact the job of Romanian politician, is one of the most wanted and envied in the world. For a salary of RON 16,000, to which are added money for gas, lodging and countless other bonuses and benefits, you must work 59 days per year.

And if this work also boils down to doing what your party dictates, without any kind of intellectual or physical effort, and without any other care apart from that of behaving like a true and mediocre party foot soldier and employee, then the job of Romanian politician can definitely become one of the most sought-after.

That is why I sometimes tell myself it is so good we are not living in Sweden. How would a Romanian political class have looked like without privileges and luxury, secretaries and advisors, drivers and take-home cars, special indemnities, with homes of just 18 square metres, in which the parliamentarian or dignitary did his/her own laundry, ironed his/her own shirts and cooked his/her modest meal after a whole day of work dedicated to the citizens that elected him/her and toward which he/she has a constitutionally-established total transparency?

However, we are living in Romania. And, consequently, politicians, parliamentarians of any level and nature, are Romanians in their turn.

No parliamentary formula seen so far has outdone itself working diligently and with dedication for those that voted for it. And the current legislative formula is by far the most accurate picture of a party-owned factory whose diligent and excellently-paid workers sit at the conveyer belt during each ordinary or extraordinary parliamentary session, their sole purpose being to fully please their owners.

Hence, as I was saying, here we are in 2018, at the start of another parliamentary session and the start of a new Government.

The political stakes are huge this year. I am referring to the stakes and interests of the PSD-ALDE coalition.

That is why this start is heralded to be an incendiary one, provoker of new tensions and scandals.

Consequently, the Dancila Government, just confirmed by Parliament and sworn in, has already generated a strong seismic movement within the state’s structural system.

Prime Minister Viorica Dancila has announced that the Government is giving up the SPP’s protection services. The SPP’s responsibilities in what concerns the protection of dignitaries have been transferred to the National Gendarmerie. The reason for this shocking decision taken by Prime Minister Dancila remains completely obscure and somehow situated in the area of conspiracy theory rumours.

However, the mysterious aspects of the latest political decisions aside…

After the two episodes of great governmental adventures and after the biannual ousting and reappointment of new Prime Ministers, we would all have expected the ruling coalition to pounce, with unprecedented impetus, on the final anchoring and the point-by-point and efficient implementation of the long-discussed and modified governance programme that Romanians have been expecting with bated breath and tension for two years.

So far, from the avalanche of electoral promises made by PSD, most turned out to be not just baseless and impossible to implement, but especially damaging and generators of huge social, economic, and fiscal anarchy.

And, in the meantime, Parliament is training on the side lines in order to get back into the game with a new round of legislative bills, initiatives and debates that are most interesting and pressing for the political power and less interesting, important and pressing for the wide public.

Thus, at the start of the new parliamentary session, Liviu Dragnea announced that one of the biggest priorities for the country’s Legislature during this new session is the tabling of the various modifications to the national security laws, which concern the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE).

In a perfect duo with the head of the PSD, Calin Popescu Tariceanu announced in his own turn, on the same occasion, that in the shortest of times his political party will finalise certain bills on the functioning of parliamentary inquiry committees and on the setting up of the Public Authority on Wiretapping. Mentioning and emphasising that in his opinion the SPP should be subordinated to the Interior Ministry, not to the country’s President as has been the case so far.

So far, there is nothing to argue against the special care that the two political leaders are showing toward state security.

But there is a dilemma that, unfortunately, has taken the proportions of a national psychosis. Namely, who or what threatens the Romanian state from within and precisely from the area of those institutions that – paradoxically! – have the express and essential role of dealing with state security and with the security of all its citizens? Whether they are politicians of the highest rank or regular people.

I would dare say, considering the rhetorical question above, that at the heart of the current ruling coalition there is a strange and compulsive obsession with a “great and incalculable evil” coming from the area of the state’s security services. A gimmick that has received the Erdogan-like name of “deep state” and which the ruling leaders have transformed into the public enemy number one of politics and, implicitly, of the proper course of state affairs.

So, besides the poisoned apple of the controversial and unsolved modifications to the Judicial Laws and the Criminal Code, now another Gordian knot has been added to the list of national and legislative challenges, to be untied or cut by Parliament. And this bears the title of priority and “national objective of maximum importance.” One that, in Liviu Dragnea’s view, outranks and stands apart – in terms of national strategic importance – from all the other legislative bills or packages left to gather dust for months on end or given a secondary, tertiary, or undefined order of importance on Parliament’s endless waiting list.

Issues such as the modifications to the Pension Law, the setting up of the Sovereign Investment Fund, the modification of the public administration law, hiking the VAT waiver threshold, eliminating several bank charges, modifying the Fiscal Code, capping the special pensions, capping child-rearing indemnities at RON 8,500, hiking policemen’s salaries by 10 percent, hiking by 15 percent the salaries of the civilian personnel of national security institutions, are fading away and becoming derisory in the face of the great dilemma and huge concern that Liviu Dragnea has in what concerns the toxicity and aggressiveness of the “deep state,” which does not leave him be and does not allow him to carry out the greatest national plan that ever existed.

To be honest, I must confess that out of the extremely important laws-galore that Parliament has been already working on for years, and which directly concern the true proper progress of the country’s affairs, I do not know whether precisely the one that puts under political control the potentially “evil forces” that make up a mind-boggling deep state should become one of the top objectives of a new parliamentary session and a new reason to put Romanians on hold.

Consequently, salaries are not rising but falling. Taxes and fees are not falling but rising. Red tape is not cut but fuelled and pushed to the limits of what is bearable. And what Mr Liviu Dragnea states today – via one of the biannual Prime Ministers or via various bullhorn-ministers –, tomorrow becomes another riddle and a new reason for national stress and desperation.

In other words, Mr Dragnea throws a stone and the entire nation jumps after it to remove it from the legislative swamp, from the focus of the press or from the mysterious underground of the deep state.

Today’s Romania is a state that is not parallel to itself but only to its citizens. In today’s Romania, those who engage in politics and generate power and influence are increasingly parallel to the state and to Romanians.