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June 28, 2022

The exigencies of regionalisation

The government took responsibility over the planned regionalisation of the country. The whole parliamentary opposition disavowed the procedure, asking for a preliminary debate in Parliament. The only opposition politicians that agreed with the government’s decision on regionalisation were the representatives of UDMR, but this only after the acceptance of some of their amendments, all of them in favour of regions inhabited mostly by ethnic Hungarian population. This speaks a lot about the nature of this regionalisation. It risks repeating the political situation of the 1950’s, when Romania was divided into regions, at the order of Stalin. One of these regions – and an important one – was the Autonomous Magyar Region, with the toughest policy of discriminating the Romanian population, which was a minority in this region. Education in the Hungarian language was predominant, which led to the present-day situation in which many aging people from the area consider themselves Romanians, but frequently speak Hungarian.
An acting deputy prime minister, along with a number of local moguls, claims that the regionalisation of the Romanian territory will cancel the last consequences of communism. Totally wrong! The present division of the Romanian soil into counties dates back hundreds of years, while regionalisation bears the mark of Stalinism. This is why the return to the division of the Romanian territory into counties occurred only after 1964, when the Romanian leaders of those times proclaimed the national independence, and Romania’s multiple relations with capitalist countries experienced an outstanding development without par in the former socialist block and in the Warsaw Pact, formed of all socialist states. The state visits paid to Romania by prominent leaders of those years, from French General Charles de Gaulle and US President Nixon to China’s Chu En Lai took place precisely in this climate of Romania returning to its historic traditions.
I evoke these historic events not because of nostalgia, but with the conviction that each fundamental decision made by the government must take into consideration the experience of the past, for their action to produce the necessary positive effects. If adopted outside the historic perspective, a governmental decision – no matter how well-meant – risks turning into its opposite. Thus, any ruling authority, as educated in other fields as it may be, risks a painful fiasco without taking into account this historic perspective. Alas, the “thought” of recent Romanian dignitary about “history being unable to satiate” infiltrated deep into the conscience of our politicians, who are totally ignorant of past experiences, hence their paradoxical behaviour.
One of these paradoxes is generated precisely by the political “argumentation” of the recent regionalisation document. Wishing to give a heroic aura to their action of decentralising the Romanian territory, our ruling politicians invoke their combat with the “fierce resistance” of the civil servants working in the centralised state structures. The majority of these people – we are told – opposes the regionalisation, which would make many of them lose their jobs. Actually, there also are other reasons for the opposition of these employees, as it is known that a future regional school inspectorate will employ fewer specialists than those existing today in the 3-4-5 counties which will merge to form a region. This merger will thus result in a much reduced support for the control and guidance of education units throughout the region.
Because of this, each school risks having a different quality level of the education it provides. At country scale, we risk having as many quality levels of school education as the number of regions in Romania. Which would be catastrophic, given the crucial role played by the spiritual unity of citizens for every state, as the basis of a national strategy. Furthermore, any regional authority, which will exert its influence over a much larger territory without a frequent state control, risks evolving toward the condition of a mogul, a satrap. These are the conditions that engender local mafias which infringe the laws by adopting abusive, discriminating practices, which are already present today in some counties.
Another argument for the regionalisation policy refers to the fact that the government no longer has to pay for so many operations than until now. But this is a way of losing the financial control upon regions, thus allowing local leaders to increasingly act for their own benefit and for the local political clientele. This means more injustice and discrimination for us, the regular taxpayers. Can this reality be a reason of joy for the rulers, a way of making them less “tense”? If the answer is yes, then it means that at least the moral conduct of such rulers leaves much to be desired.
I resort to all these considerations not as a criticism of the recent decision of regionalisation, but in order to inform everybody, starting with the members of the government, about the possible negative states that may appear by ignoring the national strategy. The planned regionalisation must be operated to the benefit of all Romanians, not just of some parties and local groups. It must result in strengthening the unity of the state, instead of a chaotic decentralisation. This is why the regionalisation process should begin with a consultation of the Romanian Academy, which has substantial studies regarding many processes, including regionalisation and decentralisation.
The supreme purpose of regionalisation should not be exempting the government from duties and responsibilities. On the contrary, the responsibility of the government should increase when the regionalisation and decentralisation become effective, so the state organism fortifies its national-unitary character, instead of attenuating it. In order to achieve this strategic goal, the governments of all political colours must concentrate their attention on education and public health, which are most affected by the traumas of decentralisation. With these sectors having a particular importance for the population, maybe a referendum on the decentralisation through regionalisation of the country would have been very useful. Our politicians repeatedly invoked it as necessary and possible. Why they renounced the idea? Only they can explain. The cost of such a referendum would be much inferior to the social value of this plebiscite.

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