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March 27, 2023

A sterile rhetoric

The EU has once again ended up being the subject of disputes in Romania. If before the accession there was a pro-European consensus in general, the rhetoric of “national dignity,” one that was insisting on the disadvantages of “losing state sovereignty,” on the virtues of “our own path” or on the prestige of an internationale of nationalists, which was paradoxically closer to an acceptable model of European federalism, was not absent. Let’s not forget the “little Le Pen,” the leader of PRM who reached the presidential runoff in 2000 and that built his prestige on criticizing the pro-European “servilism” too. Such a discourse is surprisingly reemerging today in local political families that have nothing serious to reproach themselves for in the European accession effort. Nor would they have resorted to its ambivalent arsenal were they not constrained by unforeseen circumstances.

The Social-Democrats and Liberals did not want the current dispute with European leaders and with prestigious Western media institutions. They want power in Bucharest and they see in the EU a decisive support for their own political survival. In fact, their political strategy for taking over the entire power by impeaching the hostile president did not take into account a firm reaction from the Europeans. Lacking decisive support in the country, President Basescu and his men called on an external instance. Which became to a great extent the arbiter of an otherwise purely internal dispute. Let’s admit that the suspended president found himself almost politically isolated and powerless. PDL is adrift, he is at the disposal of the parliamentary majority, the season of betrayals is just beginning and cohabitation is difficult. But not only did he ask for European support, he also found a generous campaign theme: Europeanism. “Do you want Moscow or do you want Brussels?” PDL First Vice President Cristian Preda asked almost rhetorically several days ago in Cluj. That is how linking the left-wing with Russian sympathies, which was in vogue during the term of former President Ion Iliescu, has reappeared. In the other camp, cramped arrogances that denounce the “Phanariote” servilism of some local leaders have reappeared. Let’s point out from the start that in Romania there was no aggressive position in relation to the EU of the Polish type or, in a different context, of the Hungarian type. From none of the governments of recent years. Here is how the politician that lacked a cause – Traian Basescu – has become the new champion of local Europeanism. However, only rhetoric is at stake. Which, in case the impeachment is rejected at the referendum, will strengthen his political dependence on European circumstances. Romania can become an even more conformist member than it was until now in the dynamic of EU policies. In what concerns his opponents, they will learn to be more careful about a subject that is nevertheless sensitive. Romanians cannot be convinced so easily, not as the Hungarians for example, to possibly give up the European benefits. USL also stepped on a slippery slope: popular suspicion concerning the independence of the judiciary. Especially since the old burden of “corrupt party” can reappear in the public imagery so as to worry the Social-Democrats. In conclusion, we can state that irrespective of the referendum’s results, USL has taken a half-mistaken step, since it mobilized an opposition that was otherwise difficult to coagulate. In the sense that a part of the electorate has developed a latent antipathy that can have electoral weight in the future. At the same time it gave Traian Basescu and even PDL an unexpected chance to get over a dry discourse and a decrepit vitality. And has compromised Romania’s chances of having a more creative status in an EU that is conscious of its serious political vulnerabilities. It has also allowed Europeanist rhetoric devoid of content to take the place of the necessary focus on real electoral offers.

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