By Douglas Williams, Publisher
My goodness Romania is gorgeous. Like really, heart-stoppingly, breath-takingly gorgeous. I’ve just been fortunate enough to spend some time out amongst the forests that are currently a symphony of colour, an explosion of fiery hues writ large across the landscape. It’s as if each tree is endeavouring to outdo its neighbour and it makes the heart sing. But it’s fleeting, and by the time you are reading this mag those colours will have changed. Time marches on.
With this issue, we celebrate two years of publishing OZB. How did that happen! It’s now a year since I interviewed the newly installed UK Ambassador to Romania, the eminently personable and sagacious Andrew Noble. My friend and colleague David Shoup spoke with him last month, this time purely about the debacle that is Brexit. We’re grateful to the Ambassador for his time. You can read David’s piece inside.
Being British and a Europhile and living in the EU, as do most of my immediate family, Brexit is something of a concern, to put it mildly. In advance of our meeting with the ambassador, we reached out to the OZB community to gauge the water, to take soundings from UK citizens living here. Unsurprisingly, most are upset and stressed about Brexit. Sleepless nights, an inability to consider the future, a burning anger and a growing hopelessness were all mentioned. If, dear reader, you are not from the UK, but have UK friends and colleagues who are, then I ask that you please be patient with them. It’s difficult to watch your country undergo what can best be described as a nervous breakdown; where there is no light at the end of what is proving to be a very dark tunnel. What was only an issue with a small, barmy clique on the far right of the right wing Conservative party 10 years ago, has, in one fell swoop, consumed the country. Quite how membership of the EU negatively impacted the lives of the UK electorate remains a mystery. It’s like a disease. Somewhat chillingly those afflicted with it, the “leavers” are referred to by the “remoaners” as “gammon”. It’s “Gulliver’s Travels” but horribly real and scorched of humour.
Meantime, and not mentioned in the Brexit-consumed news, the UK is crumbling with school kids having to take their own loo rolls to school because the schools have no funds for such luxuries and this entirely as a result of the savage cuts imposed by the government. Train stations are full of homeless people and rural roads are barely navigable in the country with the fifth largest economy in the world. And yes, this crippling austerity has been imposed by the same government that triggered this disastrous referendum in the first place… and the same government, suspend disbelief now, is ahead in the polls and predicted to win the upcoming general election… you couldn’t make this up! Tensions are running high, civil unrest is a racing certainty, and suddenly you start looking for historical precedents and 1930s Germany and ‘90s Yugoslavia rear up. It’s a pandora’s box and it’s scary. A People’s Vote could thwart “the will of the people” and “leavers” will never accept a result that does that. Equally, “remoaners” will never accept leaving the EU under any circumstances and they are generally the younger generations with more to lose and who are more likely to protest.
Permanent Residence of Romania is highly appealing, you need to have been living here for 5 years with no break of greater than 6 months. There was, however, a proposal put forward back in 2016 by Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief negotiator, that would allow UK citizens “associate citizenship”, a “workaround” that would continue to allow freedom fof movement etc. Whether this might be possible seems to depend on how EU citizens living in the UK are treated if Brexit happens. I hope it’s possible.
Ok, so rant over. So this is our two year anniversary magazine – I really hope you enjoy the stories and pictures within.
O zi buna