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August 15, 2022

Romania, a masquerade ball?

John is on holiday to Romania for the first time. He has taken a week to travel the country and try to discover as much as possible of what Romania means. This is a country the only thing he knew about was that it got rid of communism at some point in the 1980s – 1990s, that it is the land of Dracula and that it has beautiful ladies. Eager to embark as soon as possible on the journey into the Romanian culture and civilisation, as soon as he walks into his Bucharest hotel room, John switches on the TV. He selects a news channel, of course, because this is where he can get the general idea about what’s going on. It’s something about some criminals who are being taken in by law enforcers wearing face masks. It’s not exactly what he was hoping to see, so he switches to a different channel. The same – or maybe different – masked special forces. This must be a major case – he thinks to himself.

Towards the evening, John goes out into the city. He starts talking to a bunch of young people who tell him that Romania is a beautiful country, but it’s a pity it is inhabited. John doesn’t really understand what they mean. He looks up to the TV set above the bar. Again, marked policemen. John becomes curious, so he asks what that is all about. ‘Thieves. They have stolen millions of euro’ – people answer him on a revolted tone. Romania doesn’t look like a rich country.

The second day, in the hotel lobby, he sees a new TV report on more arrests. Officers wearing cagoules push a few handcuffed people into a van. It looks like the Police are really busy in this country. John asks the hotel staff who the arrested people are. They sarcastically answer him: ‘Corrupt people’.

John wants to know details. He looks up on the Internet, but is soon flooded by loads of news on politicians and business people suspected of corruption. Arrests are being operated every day. It’s like some national campaign. He unwillingly ends up wondering if there will be anyone left at large. And yet, Romania looks like a poor country. How come that so many people are charged with the theft of millions of euro? Where is that money coming from?

Travelling through the country, John cannot help noticing the indigence. Whenever he asks about corruption and arrests, he gets the same answer, through one’s teeth: ‘Thieves. They’ve robbed the country’. The revolt and frustration spills out of every answer as if Romanians have just learnt that people have been with their hands up to their elbows into their pockets. They are the best performers in the EU in the area of anti-corruption fight, searches spread to all sectors, the billionaires’ solid gold bracelets turn into solid steel handcuffs and prosecutors are over head and ears into extensive criminal cases. Trains and railways, hundreds of tons of public transport fuel, ships, road and motorway budgets, residential developments, football teams, factories, whole forests, wage funds, investment money have been robbed. A lot has been stolen. Everything has been stolen. It was no coincidence that, when the 2015 budget was discussed, the only concern was the allocation to the National Anti-corruption Department. Nobody cared about money for health, education or infrastructure. They were all concerned about the budget of a small institution that makes even the most important politicians and businesspeople quiver. Romanians seem to have woken up at last and want to take their assets back. They want to take their county back from the accounts of those who have been stealing in the past 25 years. John is impressed and wonders if this country has enough prisons and what it would have looked like today if the parasite of corruption had not emasculated it as some insatiable leech. He remembers what Romanians told him about his country – that it is a beautiful country, but it is a pity that it is inhabited. By people who allowed themselves to be robbed.

At the airport, John has one last squint at a TV. It’s the first thing in the morning, and Romania relentlessly keeps partying. The masquerade ball is going on and everyone is invited. Especially the high society.



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