The Centennial

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“The Great Union of 1918… is the historical action on the part of the entire Romanian nation, accomplished in an impetus that powerfully gushed out of the depths of the consciousness of the unity of the nation, an impetus controlled by the political leaders, to channel it with remarkable political intelligence toward the desired goal.” – Petre Constantinescu, historian

 

It seems that, after 100 years, things have changed fundamentally in Romanian politics. The patriotic upsurge and the love for one’s country and people have pretty much left today’s political class. As for national goals… what’s there left to say?

This year, Romania is theoretically getting ready to celebrate the Centennial of the Great Union. Preparations that started since the time of Victor Ponta’s government, and which turn out to be more difficult to implement than the Union was one century ago.

The Centennial Department was established in 2016 by the Ciolos Government, as a structure within its working apparatus. Namely the Government’s. The role and purpose of the Centennial Department is (or should be, I repeat) to coordinate at national level the preparation, organising and unfolding of the events, actions and projects meant to mark the Centennial of Great Romania (1918-2018). Lacking juridical personality, the Department was subordinated to the Prime Minister and is financed from the state budget through the General Secretariat of the Government.

All is nice. It’s just that, in the meantime, and after several governments – Ciolos, Grindeanu, Tudose, Dancila – this Department has been taken from under the authority of the Government and placed under the authority of the Culture Ministry.

And, also in the meantime, things not only did not improve and progress, but they seem to grow knottier and increasingly chaotic and more impossible to accomplish as time goes by and we are approaching the D-day of the great celebration.

Mr George Ivascu, the 28th Culture Minister since 1989, stated shortly after taking over his mandate: “The Centennial Department’s activity has so far lacked a unitary concept with well-defined principles, topic, actions, selection criteria, coherent or representative objectives, so that, so far, a final list of financeable projects cannot be finalised. Following this analysis, I was able to note the inexistence of a strategic concept in connection with the activity of the Ministry of Culture and National Identity’s Department in what concerns the celebration of the Centennial of the Great Union. Likewise, on taking over the current mandate, it was noted that the substantiation of the proposed ideas and projects was not made based on specification sheets and proper documentation, these being now demanded from the beneficiaries, precisely to make possible and legal the assessment of the projects and their financing.”

What George Ivascu said throws us into a deep state of confusion because his predecessor, Mr Lucian Romascanu, had just stated at the press conference organised to mark the end of his mandate: “The day before the end of the mandate, the Culture Ministry has finalised the list of 2,048 projects dedicated to the Centennial of the Great Union, projects that will benefit from government funding.”

Hence, so far, the conclusions from the two Culture Ministers’ statements are the following:

Things are not all right at all when it comes to the degree of progress made in organising the Centennial.

And there are various reasons for that.

Reasons that, most of them, have to do with the “technical” part of the political connections, fighting and interests.

Or if by chance it so happens that things did take shape and direction, well, they are not as they should be!

But how should they be?

This seems to be the big and unfathomable question! And not just regarding the Centennial. But regarding Romanian politics and governance.

Maybe an answer could have been given if George Ivascu, the incumbent Culture Minister, had seen fit to honour the promise of going before the House Culture Committee on March 13, where he had been invited to discuss the topic of the Centennial.

The Committee convened. The minister did not show up.

On that occasion, PNL lawmaker Gigel Stirbu, Chairman of the Culture Committee, stated the following: “The incumbent minister has taken the decision to cancel the former Culture Minister’s decision to validate the 2,048 Centennial projects filed by Romanian local authorities and NGOs, and decided that he himself will decide, in the following period, which are the viable projects. (…) I’m asking PSD’s representatives to consider withdrawing their political support for this gentleman or dismissing him. If this doesn’t happen, I’ll ask the PNL’s political group to table a simple motion against this minister.”

As can be effortlessly seen from these statements, the celebration of the Centennial has become yet another reason for quarrel and a political battleground for the nation’s representatives.

Who is setting up more committees, departments, who issues more bellicose press statements, who is nit-picking more and who throws the hot potato faster and more skilfully represents, in fact, the only real preoccupations of those who should organise the great national event.

After all, just like the same Culture Minister George Ivascu was saying in a television show, we should not make such a big fuss about the celebration of the Centennial.

The political Romania of 2018 clearly and obviously has to solve many other problems, conflicts and national dilemmas that seem much more significant than what happened a century ago.

Not to mention that it also has to celebrate on a weekly, monthly, annual basis, orthodoxly or unorthodoxly, all kinds of events that incumbent Bucharest Mayor Gabriela Firea but also the rest of the PSD mayors offer with great generosity, on a conveyor belt, to all Romanian partygoers.

An event such as the Centennial of the Great Union automatically becomes obsolete in the face of so many fairs, foreign statues, Christmas and Easter float parades, ad-hoc folk festivals and other stories and national reasons taking place in an unending saraband financed with huge sums of money earmarked from the local budgets.

I believe the most correct solution, but also the simplest one for this moment, would be to carry over the entire budget earmarked for the celebration of the Centennial (the EUR 23 million at the disposal of the Culture Ministry for this event), or to conduct simulations for another 100 years so that, on the occasion of the Bicentennial, the future political class, as well as the Romania that will exist then, would be fully prepared for the memorable national event.