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September 30, 2022

Locomotive Udrea and the carriages of the budget

Mrs. Elena Udrea has been elected as president of the Bucharest Liberal-Democrats. It came as no surprise to anyone, all the more so as she was the only candidate for the position. It would have been sheer hilarity for her to be the only aspirant and still finish in the second place, wouldn’t it? But it wasn’t the case: she got 979 votes out of 999. Almost unanimity, like in the good old communist times. In fact, while watching the meeting of PDL Bucharest organization unfold, quite a few relived the nostalgia of the time passed with standing ovations on order and unending praising of ‘the beloved ruler’. We do not know where this love for Mrs. Udrea, openly expressed in words rolling as from a broken string of beads, comes from. But it’s sure thing this love exists, at least at a declarative level. The speakers did not refrain from superlative appreciations, from colourful impetus and colossal comparisons.

PDL Vice-President Ioan Oltean went as far as to compare Elena Udrea with the guiding sun of the party. ‘The sun rises from Bucharest, but the locomotive is you’, the gentleman said, reminding everyone of the popular 1990s slogan used in connection with Romania’s first president after 1989: ‘When Iliescu comes out, the sun rises!’

To another Democrat vice-president, Cristian Boureanu, Udrea is ‘the engine of an entire generation’ where women are called ‘to call the tune’ in Romanian politics. Bucharest Sector 6 Mayor Cristian Poteras, said that ‘led by Elena Udrea, political battles can and must be won’. To another vice-president of the party, Raluca Turcan, ‘Elena Udrea could be a genuine Kill Bill of Romanian politics’. (!)

Even the chief Romanian diplomat, Teodor Baconschi, overstepped the reserved manner of expression of his ‘guild’, tackling a style some would categorise as one more suited for variety theatre, said: ‘Elena, I am most happy to be working with you. As a colleague, I must make monumental efforts not to fall under the spell of your charm. You are smart, you are beautiful, you are tenacious, you are resilient to the generally disgusting environment of Romanian politics and you are not bothered by talented people being next to you, which means that you will be able to successfully team up with anyone and PDL probably needs that’.
Latest speculations have re-enabled as supposed rivalry between Vasile Blaga and Elena Udrea over supremacy in the party. Although Udrea decisively denied such thing, the message of the former interior minister on Sunday was rather distant, a bit out of place in considering the general encomiastic atmosphere of the event. Blaga warned her: ‘Elena, you should know that, if we win Bucharest, the success will be of the whole organisation. On the other hand if we lose, the defeat will be yours and yours alone’.

If anyone still had any doubts about it, things have been sorted in the Liberal-Democratic Party, at least in what regards the future candidate for mayor of Bucharest. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Udrea made it very clear that Traian Basescu’s manner of leadership as mayor should become a model and that the party would need to put all its efforts into overturning current General Mayor Sorin Oprescu because the people of Bucharest need someone who can work for them. However, just for the sake of suspense, Udrea told RFI on Monday that the chance was slim that she would be PDL’s candidate in the local election in Bucharest and that…’her being praised the way she had been at the weekend party gathering was not too much as far as she was concerned’.

We don’t know if Mrs. Udrea will call the tune in Romanian politics, but, what we can see is that she is beginning to take her role as a locomotive very seriously. The budget revision announced by PM Boc on Monday comes to reinforce the role reserved for Elena Udrea, by equipping her with the financial ‘carriages’ she will need in reaching her goals.

Not so long ago – in October, to me more specific, the Minister of Regional Development and Tourism, Elena Udrea was promising the MPs of her party that a total of 10,000 km of regional and rural roads would be built until 2013. The budget revision announced by the premier and enacted by emergency ordinance meets Mrs. Udrea halfway in her plans. While many ministries lost money, the Ministries of Labour (for social programmes), Interior, Agriculture, Health and Environment were given more funds. Some call it a poverty budget revision, but the Government has decided to proceed to the programme of asphalting 10,000 km of county and local roads, to finance a minimum of 800 overdue projects in the area of rural development and to complete a total of 100 water supply projects. All three programmes will be implemented from 2011 until 2015 and will receive total funds of EUR 4 bln, with payments scheduled up until 2020.

‘Because many municipalities have spent quite a lot on projects that could not be carried out with EU money because of the limited funding available, we have decided to finance ourselves those projects seeking to modernise Romanian villages’, said PM Emil Boc.

During her press briefing, the Minister of Regional Development, Elena Udrea, said a total of 566 contracts with a total value of EUR 1.5 bln had been signed under measure 322 for rural development, funded in the framework of the National Regional Development Programme, but that 1,121 infrastructure projects having the value of over EUR 2.5 bln had been left without funding.

Coincidently or not, Elena Udrea’s anticipations regarding the upgrading of 10,000 km of roads are probably going to happen. The revised budget seems to be meeting the needs expressed by the new PDL Bucharest leader. Issues such as the unemployment benefit or the pay for child rearing leave of absence are soft-pedalled. In fact, the draft 2011 budget aw has not even been tabled in Parliament, although it is long overdue. This is why the uncovering of the local roads’ programme sounds more like government propaganda until proven otherwise. After all, it is a programme that should be carried out from 2011 until 2020 (!) Prime-Minister Emil Boc says this programme will bring us closer to the rest of the world by modernising our rural communities and by building the motorway infrastructure along Pan-European Corridor IV. One interest fact about it is that works should start soon while payments would probably be made by the next government. Quite an interesting approach, wouldn’t you say?

For the time being, we have no complete motorway in this country and all political rhetoric seems to be referring to the future instead of drawing the line and counting what has been achieved all this time in the filed. It is all about what ‘we will do’ rather than what ‘we have done’. It would be anyway difficult, since there track-record is so poor. But it looks that things are about to change soon. With all this support in PDL, with money already at hand, Mrs. Elena Udrea has the power of redrawing the map of Romania. And of Bucharest, if she is elected mayor. She is willing, her party and the Government support her. One thing is missing: the vote of the public.

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