The mimes

It seems Romanians are good mimes. They mimed being dedicated communists for decades, while dreaming the Americans would come to help them get around. They mimed the ‘90s reforms, while trying to live in an economic structure where the state had the first say. They mime to be good capitalists, while using their businesses not to promote products or services, but their own welfare. Others mime extreme poverty in order to get state support. Have you heard of registered blind people that were in fact working as taxi drivers? They also mime capitalism, while some 40 per cent are regretting the ‘good old days of Ceausescu’. They mime being good Europeans to get jobs abroad, while considering Romania’s EU accession a failure in terms of personal benefits. Then why shouldn’t we accept that our politicians are mimes as well, mimicking democracy, preoccupation for the people’s interest and dedication for the country’s wellbeing?

The first part of January was deceiving. It seemed political conflicts have reached a standstill and disputes have been forgotten. The USL leaders announced truce recently and vowed to strengthen their cooperation, while aiming at common goals: ousting the Basescu regime, stimulating the economy and supporting liberal Crin Antonescu for presidency. The referendum on constitutional amendments will be held concomitantly with the elections for the European Parliament in May, they said.
The calm on the political scene was only an impression. USL co-presidents Victor Ponta and Crin Antonescu, making hasty decisions and performing their parts on the political scene, have ignored the fact that their political enemy is mimicking passivity.
President Traian Basescu’s half month of silence has come to an end. The meeting with the foreign envoys in Bucharest yesterday would have been too specific or too general to draw the attention of the public. A message that Romania is holding to its positions in regard to the foreign and security policy, to elements of stability, democracy, to the development of the strategic partnership with the US, maintaining the NATO role in the region, carrying on the integration with the EU, wouldn’t have been enough to have a heavy impact on the general public.
So President Traian Basescu decided to lash on Tuesday evening at the USL alliance for failing to serve Romanians’ interest in relation with the US, EU and bringing the country on the edge of the precipice, on the brink of international isolation due to their attempts against the rule of law. Mainly for trying to influence justice and for statements regarding the justice system. Not a single theme against the political foes missed: the Penal Code, the amendment of the constitution, the excise on fuel, the parliament’s structure.
The president’s statements were meant to bring the USL ruling coalition at disadvantage. Their recent offensive needed to be drawn back. If they mime democracy, the president is miming the defender of the rule of law.
For the head of state, it works. Just yesterday the Constitutional Court rejected the amendments to the Penal Code promoted by the Parliament in December as unconstitutional. And the court is expected to give the nod for another accusation coming from Traian Basescu: the constitutional amendments proposed by USL cannot be given the go-ahead because they do not take into consideration the 2009 referendum that pointed at a 300 MPs unicameral parliament. “This will not get approval from the Constitutional Court,” President Basescu said. As an official claiming no involvement with justice, his statement may be odd, as he had already given the ruling on constitutional amendments. On Wednesday, CC President Augustin Zegrean found himself in a difficult situation. ‘I won’t answer these questions, not today,’ Zegrean said when asked about the president’s statements. However, Zegrean stressed nobody can ignore the decisions of the people through referendum.
But is Romania on the brink of international isolation? Some support the president’s stand, others say it is an overstatement. Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean says such statements are grave and do much harm to Romania. The critical situation needed to be expressed by the head of state, presidential adviser Cristian Diaconescu says on the other hand.
The core of the problem comes from the recent visit of Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the US Department of State. Apart from the fact that there are 10 years of NATO membership for Romania, that on the agenda were issues related to the strategic partnership or the Deveselu base, Victoria Nuland delivered a message regarding the need to observe the rule of law. Each of the political camps has got the meaning in their own way. Doubled by the fact that the Superior Council of Magistracy head, together with the Justice Minister, have paid visits to the US Embassy in Bucharest, concern has grown as to the US preoccupation regarding the respect for justice independence in Romania.
To all this it added the inability of PM Victor Ponta, who seems to have avoided a meeting with the US official, while paying a private visit to Italy the very days when the envoy was in Bucharest. A good reason for further speculations.
Furthermore, coincidence or not, the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament voted on Monday  a resolution  for tackling the human rights flaws in the EU, including the issue of observing the rule of law, resolution to be voted upon during the EP’s session of February 24-27.
In this context, the presidential statements could be a normal warning. Nevertheless, one may put at doubt several issues. Washington and Brussels are not at all reluctant when it comes to criticising Bucharest on various issues, although Romania is a NATO and EU member. What would have stopped US officials and EU ones to send tough straight critical messages to Bucharest in regard to the rule of law? The US investments are stalling, the EU is postponing repeatedly Romania’s accession to the Schengen space, the freedom of movement has raised tensions for Romanians in several EU states, while the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) report from the EC is expected to be restrained with or without the above mentioned issues.
As 2014 is an election year, one should take alarming messages with reluctance. Politicians mime reform or concern, according to their short and long term interests. The USL leaders aim at outliving the current head of state, while President Basescu aims at destroying USL so that one of the parties which support him stands chances to join governance. Too much is at stake in 2014 and the mimes are getting ready for even tougher attacks. The electorate is ready to watch the show. Will it mime being interested?

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