Romania, the country of problematic codes

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“Code” is without a doubt one of the most frequently used words in the Romanian public space, seemingly being a word predestined to lead to arguments and reasons for discord between the main actors of the Romanian political scene.

Reviewing the heated debates generated by the Fiscal Code, the Fiscal Procedure Code, the Forestry Code, the Electoral Code, the Penal Code, the Penal Procedure Code or even the Traffic Code, it seems Romania is “the country of problematic codes.” In other words, there is no context on the political scene in which the word “code” was used without it leading to bitter wars of statements, contradictions, jabs and crossfire of ironies between opposing camps, whichever they may be.

Either between the Ruling Power and the Opposition, or between the tenants of the two Palaces – the Cotroceni and Victoria Palaces, namely President Klaus Iohannis and Premier Victor Ponta respectively – if we are talking about the Fiscal Code. Or the Forestry Code. Or the Electoral Code.

As well as between the ruling coalition and the Liberals, with interventions here and there from the representatives of foreign embassies when it came to proposals to amend the Penal Code.

Since these “codes” are important for the regulatory legislative framework for key domains of society, irrespective whether we are talking about the Fiscal, Penal, Electoral or Forestry and Environment Protection codes, it is as normal as it can be for there to be debates, negotiations and consultations between the main protagonists of the public space, between political parties and specialists in those domains. But while also taking into account the recommendations of international partners such as the IMF and the European Commission. So that the stances would be harmonized and a consensus beneficial for society, for the proper functioning of the rule of law, of the judiciary, of economy and fiscality, of environment protection norms would be reached.

The “codes” listed above are crucial for Romania and are necessary for the regulation of the special juridical and legislative framework so that thorny problems that the country has faced so far would find their solutions in line with the national interest as well as with EU legislation.

The Forestry Code is essential for limiting the illegal logging that runs rampant. The Electoral Code would, among other things, clarify many aspects related to the functioning and financing of political parties and election campaigns, a domain that has been until now a black hole in Romania, completely lacking the transparency it has in other countries.

In what concerns the Penal Code, it is pointless to repeat how essential it is for a rule of law in which citizens would have confidence in it and would feel protected, which would feature a healthy and fair judiciary that is not blind.

But there is a long way from this normalcy to the vehement verbal and vainglory wars between opposing camps, wars that go as far as insults, threats and argumenta ad hominem.

We, the voters of those who argue daily over the “codes,” whichever those may be, sometimes using a language that would make even underworld members blush, sit daily and watch dumbfounded the seemingly endless grotesque spectacle that is increasingly pushing the political class into derision instead of leading to the drafting of “codes” beneficial for society, modern and in line with the national interest, the EU regulations in the domains concerned or the recommendations of other international bodies Romania is a member of.

When it comes to adopting or amending some “code,” the two or several opposing camps – whichever they may be – rather give off the impression that they can hardly wait to make a show of themselves, rather than proving that they are truly the defenders of the citizen’s interest.

The defence of the citizen’s interest often takes a back seat and party and group interests prevail in the “arena” of politics. Things go as far as exchanges of serious accusations of betrayal between the belligerent camps, or accusations of backing foreign interests at the expense of national interest. Just as it was in the case of the exchange between the Social Democrat Party (PSD) and Premier Victor Ponta on one hand and President Klaus Iohannis and the National Liberal Party (PNL) on the other hand, an exchange that started over the Forestry Code, when the intervention of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) was requested in order to confirm or dismiss PSD’s allegations that Iohannis and the Liberals are helping an Austrian company which is active in the wood processing sector in Romania.

The scandals erupting over the “codes” give off the impression that in Romania another kind of Pavlov experiment is taking place repetitively, with the word “code” invariably becoming a new stimulus that prompts the belligerent camps’ appetite and conditioned reflex for argument and discord.

Unfortunately, only for the sake of arguing and of boasting with the conviction that each of the bickerers is the owner of the absolute truth. Or, allowing themselves fooled into thinking that their constituents are dying to see them as warring princes or princesses on television or on Facebook. And ignoring the fact that the demagoguery and cheap politicking they display no longer works with the Romanian electorate as it once used to.

The only contexts in which the word “code” does not lead to polemics in Romania are the ones concerning meteorological forecasts concerning hot weather now during the summer or extreme blizzard and abundant snowfalls in the winter.

However, no matter whether the weather alert code is yellow, amber or red, one thing is certain: on the Romanian political scene the “alert code” remains constantly at the incandescent-red level, even now in the summer, the period of vacations.

And the Code of Honour and Morality but also the Code of Good Manners are simple forms without content in Romanian politics, whether it is vacation time or not…