By Dean Edgar
Well, in December there was sad news and bad news and then some more bad news. First the sad news, King Mihai I died this month at his home in Switzerland at the ripe old age of 96. He was king twice in his lifetime, the first time at the age of 5 after his father King Carol was forced to abdicate due to a frowned upon liaison with Magda Lupescu. A council was created to assist the King in making the royal decisions, but after 3 years this proved to be chaotic at best and Carol returned to reassume the throne. 10 years later Carol was deposed and Michael took over again for the second time (a right royal soap opera). The leader of the government at the time, Ion Antonescu joined sides with the Nazis, and in 1944 Mihai joined a coup to overthrow Antonescu, ripped up the deal with Hitler and joined the Allies. Well we all know what happened after World War II and the communist takeover of Eastern Europe, Mihai was forced to abdicate by the Communists, his title, and citizenship were taken away and he was forced into exile. Finally, in 1997 he was given back his citizenship, but for me that was too little too late. He was a true Romanian, loved his country and the people, worked tirelessly on behalf of the post revolution country, a great shame that this statesman wasn’t given the recognition he deserved when he was alive.
Tributes have been flooding in since his death, his funeral was attended by members of the remaining European royal families and, whilst many do not agree with royalty, it seems that Romanians have been missing it. Over 5 millions viewers watched his funeral on television, part of Herăstrău park and part of Kiseleff park will be renamed in his honour.
But this is the start of the bad news. There has been a call for a referendum to see if the public would accept going back to a constitutional monarchy, rather than remain a republic. I, for one, like that idea, that governments should be voted in and a cabinet formed and then this cabinet runs the country, as with the UK. But the people calling for the referendum are the PSD/ALDE coalition and this is a transparent move to remove the role of president, and therefore getting rid of their nemesis, Klaus Iohannis.
It seems that the incumbent government don’t know when to stop – last month it was the introduction of new salary taxation, this month two new statutes have been passed by the ruling party using questionable practices.
There has been a lot of comment and pressure from various ambassadors in Bucharest for Romania to become more open to eradicate those accusations of cover ups and corruption. The previous technocratic government lead by Dacian Cioloş managed to keep Romania on an even keel, and it seemed that Romania was heading in the right direction, but since the PSD came to power – with the help of Tăriceanu, ALDE and the USMR Hungarian party – Romania seems headed in a rather different direction.
The first statute, voted in by 50 to 0, was to bring the independent judiciary under government control. There are claims that this is merely to protect those members of the party who have committed crimes including fraud and misappropriation of funds. Indeed, the party president himself has been charged with electoral fraud, awarding government contracts to family members and misappropriating EU funds. One significant factor in the 50 to 0 vote was that the PSD ignored the published timetable for parliamentary process and held the vote when the opposition went out to debate another topic and certain USR deputies were also stopped from entering the chamber by security staff. The law has been passed despite magistrates holding a silent demonstration outside the Supreme court, the DNA anti corruption agency saying it will be effectively toothless, the EU expressing major concerns… the list goes on.
The next debacle is the passing of a law that states that video evidence is not permissible, and, I quote: “no other recordings will represent evidence in a trial except for the ones that refer to the defendant’s’ own talks with third parties”! Any further prosecutions relating to the Revolution could now be severely hindered. The Police Chief, Radu Gavriş, has reacted strongly stating quite unequivocally that it will now be much more difficult to prosecute criminals. Not only has video evidence been stopped, accused suspects can attend the victim’s hearing. No chance, the rapist is there, the child molester is there, the victims have no chance. Allegedly when this law change was being debated the opposition parties’ microphones were switched off. Iohannis is being urged by several organisations and opposition parties to step in and try and sort out this mess, but there seems little he can do. All I can hope for is that the opposition parties, including the new one that has been created by Cioloş and along with the electorate, open their eyes and see what is happening to their country…1989-2017 degeaba?!
Driven to Distraction
In other news, UBER has just been declared a transport company by the European Court of Justice and we will see how that affects their operations across Europe and in particular here. UBER themselves don’t see any problem, but I am sure that things won’t be quite the same. Along with that, the beloved Queen of Kitsch, the Mayor of Bucharest, Gabriela Firea has introduced new rules for Bucharest taxi drivers, these being that taxi drivers won’t be allowed to “refuse rides or charge more than the legal fare and will have to offer clients the possibility to pay by card. They will also have to dress decently, keep their cars clean, and won’t be allowed to talk on the phone or send text messages while driving.” Well, good luck with that one, who on earth is going to police that?
Dean Edgar has been living the expat dream here in Romania for 11 years. He is General Manager of Moorcroft Services, a company dedicated to assisting foreigners to settle in Romania. They can help with visas, permits, company set-ups, car registration, house hunting, insurance, orientation tours and basically anything that a newcomer to Romania might need see www.moorcroft.ro for further details.
The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the writer, Dean Edgar, and not related to those of the publisher, OZB.