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March 25, 2023

Regionalization, a hoax?

PSD Senator Mircea Geoana stated yesterday on Pro TV that although from his point of view he is “the most appropriate man to hold the office of Romanian President,” from PSD’s point of view Crin Antonescu is the official candidate and this political reality should be respected. “I am convinced that, from the point of view of what I know and what I can do, I am probably the most appropriate man to be Romania’s president. From the point of view of the party I am a member of and I led, Crin Antonescu is our official candidate and as long as the tensions within USL will be frozen in 2013 I will not be the one that blows up a political agreement with the Liberals,” Geoana said when asked by the anchor whether he will run for president in 2014. On the other hand, the former PSD president stated that he is willing to take over and support in Parliament a new law on political parties, a law that “would ensure the system’s democratization.” The PSD Senator referred to the fact that the law currently in force does not offer the possibility of financing candidates through SMS or click, as happens within the US.

In this sense, the EU is asking us not for administrative changes but for viable projects. The staunchest adepts of regionalization are precisely those incapable of drafting viable development projects based on European funds too. Moreover, these staunch adepts of regionalization are precisely from among those who hope that they and those politically close to them will end up being at the helm of those administrative regions. So that the authoritarian “regionalist” decision will no longer face the opposition of local, county factors. But why wouldn’t fruitful multi-county projects be possible too? Because an agreement between several decision-makers is impossible – some political factors assure us. If things are indeed like that then this is precisely the fault of these talkative politicians. Because of their appetite for the country to be regionalized into a kind of political fiefdoms, these talkative persons are incapable of engaging in creative cooperation. This is precisely how our national solidarity is being continuously diminished.

Viable development projects, demanded and accepted by the EU, are precisely those complex, multivalent projects not irreducible to clan interests, the latter being the primary source of corruption in Romania. And such complex multivalent development projects need national adhesion, not just regional or political adhesion. Unfortunately, this clan esprit transforms numerous debates on the issue of Romania’s regionalization into tragicomical realities. The multilateral development goals of a possible regionalization are sacrificed through the petty row over choosing a region’s seat and heads. Immediately after he ended up being the member of a ruling party’s leadership, a former mayor stated that his main political goal is for his city to be designated the seat of the future region. And such ambitions abound in the “debates” on the issue of Romania’s regionalization. The issue of regional seats and their heads is increasingly contradictory and overbearing, so that it chokes any attempt at a substantial debate. And that fuels the common political-organizational deficit which is also amplified by the fact that for many political factors the democratic spirit is compromised by limiting it to sterile discussions. Today the democratic attribute refuses the common self-definitions characterized by empty praise, it imperatively demands the effort of authentic, materially and spiritually durable creation. Authentic democracy is defined not just by freedom of speech and what it plans to achieve, but particularly by what it already produces value-wise. Authentic democracy is the projection of concrete action, of authentic, durable creation affecting the whole national, state community and that is precisely why it defies dry verbiage, the formal dispute, the antagonistic contradiction. In an authentic democracy the government and the opposition are not in a permanent “civil war,” they complete their efforts through a creative synthesis of national meaning. Lacking forecasting spirit, the adepts of Romania’s forced regionalization are not capable of learning from the mistakes of the past. Transforming the Romanian counties into incomparably fewer regions, like today, has a precedent in 1950. Back then, just like now, regionalization was “justified” through the fact that it would favor a better local administration and would tackle red tape.

But, paradoxically, today, just like then, the possible transformation of counties into regions would stand against administrative decentralization because massive administrative identities were and are inadequate for the Romanian way of life. Romanian statehood life is highly differentiated from one area to the next, from the point of view of economic-social development, featuring an acute but also a nuanced need for investments, but also geographically well-circumscribed agricultural, forestry, fruit-growing, wine-growing and also industrial regions. And each of these specific realities is asking for nuanced and perfectly adequate interventions. Hence the need for smaller administrative structures rather than large regions. And if the regions imposed on Romania in 1950 were unable to avoid significant regional discriminations, would the regions planned today be “luckier”? Will the amount of red tape be lowered? Any action against it is welcomed. On one condition: that it won’t provoke chaos. But chaotic decentralization is precisely the highest danger when it comes to administratively dividing the country into the 8-10 planned regions. In the 1950s the country’s industrialization started simultaneously with regionalization. That process took regional characteristics far too little into account and was centred within the regional seats. And that was the source of great economic differences within the same region. Being known that as an industrial unit grows in size its development tends to centre within insular spots, thus not favoring many localities that have economic and cultural traditions. This is precisely the explanation for the dissatisfactions, generating major imbalances, exhibited by the people of Braila towards the Galati “fiefdom,” by the people of Severin towards the Craiova “fiefdom,” by the people of Vaslui towards the Bacau “fiefdom” etc. What is there to say about the suffering of the Romanian minority in the former Autonomous Magyar Region, a region insistently supported by Stalin as the first step towards the federalization of Romania? Thus, let’s not forget that in 1968 Romania’s administrative re-arrangement into 40 counties and Bucharest represented an answer towards the pressures coming from outside and against Romania.

That Romania’s great regional economic disparities defy regional decentralization and call for a unitary, organic vision and national policy. That regional development can be done better, in a more nuanced fashion, more adequately, through the joining of county efforts, not through singular, authoritarian efforts. That the state of mind of the population angered by the current “moguls” who, blinded by their personal, selfish interests, lean increasingly towards federalization cannot be ignored. All these truths call for the future debates on the issue of Romania’s administrative reorganization to have a scientific character and to feature an appropriate timeframe without pressures of any kind. So that a possible painful Kosovo experience would be ruled out in Romania. And the good start of the debates on the issue of regionalization was recently made possible by the Romanian Academy’s involvement. The debates that took place within that supreme body of Romanian science and culture exemplified essential imperatives: Romania’s regionalization should lead to the strengthening of national state unity, not the reverse; it should concern Romania’s general interest, not the interest of a party. Hence, all the debates and decisions that will follow should take into account national strategic objectives, not local political egos.

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