Tag Archives: European Union

Romania – a revolution for evolution ?

It’s been a week already since the beginning of protests in Romania. Every day in Bucharest and in over 40 cities more Romanians go to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with the abuses of ruling regime and calling for the ouster of President Traian Basescu, as well as early elections. The explosion of discontent seems to have surprised the authorities. In fact, it is not surprising, but a crass lack of consideration for the citizens who elected them. We speak of a system with serious deviations from the laws of democracy (some amended by European Community institutions). It is a corrupt and arrogant regime. Proof – after week of protests the governments proves autistic to voice of people and have no relief solution to calm the thousands of protesters who are daily in the street in the cold with many minus degrees below zero. Proof – the main supporters of the system led by foreign minister of Romania, T. Baconschi, considered that the most intelligent way of social dialogue (so called by Prime Minister Boc) is to refer to the protesters with epithets such as «peripheral inept, worms, fanatics, ciumpalaci – I know that is untranslatable, a Romanian version of Lemmings».

A brief chronology of events

A bit over a year ago, Romanian watched peaceful to the people took to the streets in several countries across the ‘Arab world’ in what was later on called the ‘Arab Spring’. Then Romanians, apparently as impassive, watched on tv to Indignados and Ocuppy Wall Street movements in «mother» Europe and America. Nothing seemed to put the thoughts on the government while they imposed extreme austerity measures to the poorest populations of the European Union. President – Premier did not seem to notice that the cut of a pension of 1,000 euros (Greece) is a measure of austerity and cut a pension of 200 euros or below (Romania) is a crime. Aberrant measures had, however, and motivation: the IMF agreement. Motivations were found to suspend debate and dialogue between government and parliament. Then came the adoption of organic laws of vital importance by the government accountable without consulting parliament.

 Romania – faked democracy !

Before Christmas holiday appeared first discussions on a number of irregularities in Health Act which would be taken also without consulting parliament. Vigorous supporter of the existing project, President Basescu said on national television that the Deputy Health Ministry, Raed Arafat, is the main enemy of health system reform. Arafat, a Syrian Arab that has become a Romanian citizen, has distinguished himself by successfully founding the only professional emergency rescue service in Romania (SMURD), thereby embodying professionalism and moral standing in a healthcare system that is mostly regarded as book-example of corruption and oftentimes considered an expressway to the grave. Two weeks later, President Basescu with the usual habit to replace his Prime Minister and lead Romania as his own feud, intervened in the live TV debate vehemently criticized Arafat opinion and accused him of ‘leftist views’. The consequence of such a forceful televised intervention on behalf of President Basescu was that Arafat presented his resignation shortly afterwards. Next days discontent exploded. Initially the protests supporting of Raed Arafat and condemned the arrogance attitude and usual insolence of head of state. Facing public pressure, President Basescu decided to scrap the reforms Friday, saying he made the decision after realizing that a majority of those in the medical system and the population opposed to the change. It was certainly one new mistake of President Basescu. What head of state of the civilized world tells its people – who elected leader and those money he is paid – that is retrograde and unable to understand that governors wish him well when the people feel it’s becoming worse with every day ?

Tired of corruption systemic, theft unmasked and faked democracy, Romanians studded streets in over 60 cities in seven days of protest. They required the resignation of President Basescu and early elections. People chanted: Ultimate solution, once the revolution ! with reference to the revolution of 1989 when the communist regime was overthrown. Or, better, a revolution for evolution !  Or  ironic they say: Please excuse us, we do not produce how you steal ! Prime Minister Boc, Minister of Health and other government leaders have avoided for days to appear in public. Later they came just to throw invectives on the protesters or to mimic a dialogue with opposition forces. In an failed attempt to appease the spirits, PM said that he and the president have been misinformed on health law. But PM not said who is guilty of disinformation! Raed Arafat was reinstated in office. But useless. Although Romanians protest vehemently week, President Basescu (the same, which has usually the custom to intervene in all sorts of things that do not concern the duties of head of state) has avoided expressing an public opinion.

 The surgery was successful, the patient is in coma !

As protests intensified, the government tries to get cold while hoping that will deter the protesters and things will calm down. Next week will be a special session of Parliament. About the main demands of the population, Prime Minister Boc said that it is not justified. Noting that early elections would create a dangerous precedent and affect economic stability. In addition, he said that Romania would to become unattractive to investors. Romanian Prime Minister seems completely unrealistic. In which civilized and democratic countries early elections are a dangerous precedent ? What attractive business environment it is, if in 2011 the volume of foreign investments in Romania fell by 36% ? Oh, yes, the EU and IMF demanded austerity in Romania and government conformed – now there are riots and 18% of Romanian  live below the poverty line (compared to Czech – 2% Ireland – 4%​​), and austerity measures decreased purchasing power of Romanians with over 9% in a year – according to a survey of the Institute for Quality Research of life. Two million Romanian workers are at risk of poverty. To get a clearer view: in the UK an employee who lives in poverty earns 967 euros monthly, a Romanian poor employee earns 159 euros, achieving the lowest minimum wage in EU countries. Minimum wage in Bulgaria is 233 euros and 326 euros in Poland. In conclusion: the surgery was successful, the patient is in coma !

 Functional hypocrisy and dual attitude

“One year ago, President Ben Ali of Tunisia became the first casualty of the 2011 Arab Spring. Could we now be witnessing in Romania the first shoots of a European Spring?” asked editor Neil Clark from The Week – UK Edition. Although Romania is far from being a genuine democracy, I think such a comparison is inappropriate, however. We can speak rather an evolution than a revolution, if the “orange” regime in Bucharest would accept the democratic rules of the game. But if not? It seems that for evolution will be needed a new revolution. No matter how unpleasant it may sound.

Of course, the disturbances are undoubtedly embarrassing for the EU, the IMF and those western leaders for whom the Romanian government has been a staunch ally. Of course, hypocrisy and dual attitude of foreign partners are operating in this case. In contrast to neighboring Hungary, Romania accepted all that was dictated from abroad, whether we refer to U.S. strategic partner, the European partners or high finance world. Romanian Government had nothing to comment even when they have asked to implement abberant measures against  their own people. Thus it is easy to understand why European leaders immediately warned the government in Budapestat the recent protests of the population. But in respect of tandem Basescu – Boc, except for discrete requirement that Romanian head of state to express their opinion, European partners prove to be very “bashfully”. Although the deviations from the democracy line of leader in Bucharest are not far from those of Viktor Orban. Moreover, Europe has its own problems. Quite serious.

Neither the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest did not feel the need to say something, preferring only to follow the events. even if on his visit to the White House last September, President Basescu, a hard-core Atlanticist, was formally “congratulated” for signing up to the US-Romania Ballistic Missile Defence Agreement and the US-Romania Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership for the 21st Century. An important partnership for U.S. in the context of an increasingly tense international atmosphere not only with Iran and Syria, but also with Russia (became an open supporter of the two countries). Moreover, a partnership that need to be fully functional regardless of who will occupy the chair of president of the state. The attitude of expectation may be due to the fact that potential substitutes (at least at this time) of President Basescu have strong pro-American view, so there is little reason to concern of Western Partnership. Clearly, the Romanian citizens matters less in this equation.

      So, Western leaders will prefer to wait and will be hoping that the Romanian government can survive the current disturbances. They can not condemn a people who demand the right to decency and respect from his politicians. Also they can not condemn the authorities – because in the next minute President Basescu would not hesitate to accuse the EU because irrational austerity measures required government in Bucharest.

Analysts said the protests are a sign of revival of  Romania civil society. I would say that this is an example of national and social solidarity. A successful example after several years of silence in which complaints have steadily accumulated. It is hardly to predict how it all will end in Romania. However, as noted Swedish political expert Vilhelm Konnander: “What I can’t help seeing is the pattern of protest that is spreading globally, where attitudes of politicians, blaming external factors for crisis, lead to higher demands for accountability. To whom are political leaders responsible – the people of the IMF, EU, etc.? It will be interesting to see how this turns out in Romania, but the basic observation seems to be that far too many politicians have forgot whom they are answering to”. The bad news for PM Boc and his colleagues in the governing Democratic Liberal party is that the disturbances show no sign of abating. Moreover, they could increase in intensity during the weekend. Of course, flagrant violations of human rights were a lot to the protests. Numerous attempts to intimidate participants in the protests, police abuses, frame-ups of violence to discredit the protests. Without success! At the moment the regime in Bucharest is autistic. Political power has made a few steps back. What’s next? Whether they fail slowly, step by step. Whether they will tense the muscles of authoritarian, knowing that however they do not have to lose more. If the 20 years of democracy, even mimed, meant something for the political class, they will fail. Government will be dismissed, it will form a government of technocrats and elections will be held – early or on time – but not cumulative way of local and parliamentary elections, as hoped the current government. And perhaps the most important thing of those described above: Romanians are reminded about good moral principles and values ​​that prevails in its heritage as a nation. It’s a good sign.

UPDATE: January 19, 15 p.m. (Bucharest time)

Romanian President Traian Basescu has met with the ambassadors accredited in Bucharest. He reminded about the Arab Spring, but completely ignored the protests which demand his resignation.

PublishedEurasia Review

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Security Council’s powerless against the criminal regime of Al-Assad

4 October 2011 – According the United Nations press release: «China and Russia today vetoed a draft resolution in the Security Council that had strongly condemned Syrian authorities for their violent crackdown against pro-democracy protesters this year and called for an immediate end to human rights abuses. Nine of the Council’s 15 members voted in favour of the draft text, there were two vetoes, and four countries abstained. A veto by any one of the Council’s five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – means a resolution cannot be adopted.»

UN Security Council meeting

The AFP mentioned that the resolution received four abstentions from Lebanon, India, South Africa and Brazil. Russia’s UN Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said ” The Russian delegation has exerted all possible efforts since the beginning to reach a positive respond by the Security Council with regard to the events witnessed in Syria….we along with China forged a draft resolution in which we referred to the national sovereignty and the non-interference in Syria’s affairs including the military interference, in addition to calling for avoiding any confrontations and holding dialogue to achieve the civil peace and the national interest and to enhance the political and social life in Syria.” He added “The best way to get out of the crisis is to reject the provocations and to hold dialogue among all the Syrian parties…Russia continues its contacts with Damascus and it calls upon the Syrian authorities to be fast in making the changes and to release all the detainees who didn’t commit any criminal acts, in addition to holding dialogue with the opposition.”

In his speech at the UN Security Council, Syria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Bashar al-Ja’afari, said “The unprecedented hostile language used in the statements of some ambassadors against my country and its political leadership stressed that Syria is targeted by its enemies due to its principled stance and not due to any humanitarian reasons…This language also reveals the biased policy adopted by some Western countries and their leadership due to Syria’s independent political stances.” He added that the Syrian leadership has immediately responded to the just popular demands as President Bashar al-Assad announced the comprehensive reform program and the Government started to implement it through a package of laws that enhance the democratic process and expand the participation of the citizens in the political and the economic process regardless of the foreign stances.

For his part, China’s UN Ambassador, Li Baodong, said “We call on the Syrian parties to reject all forms of violence, and we hope that the Syrian Government will implement the reforms soonest possible…The international community should provide a constructive help to facilitate the accomplishment of these goals, and we expect the complete respect of Syria’s sovereignty and independence.”

For her part, U.S Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice expressed her disappointment regarding the Security Council’s failure in adopting a resolution against Syria. Behind the Russian and Chinese vetoes of a U.N. resolution on Syria were not only serious differences over President Bashar Assad’s crackdown against civilians but concerns that even threatening sanctions might lead to a repetition of the NATO bombing campaign in Libya. «The result is that nearly seven months after the uprising against Assad began, the U.N.’s most powerful body remains deeply divided and unable to adopt a legally binding resolution to address the violence in Syria that by U.N. estimates has claimed more than 2,700 lives» said the United Nations officials.

The four European nations that sponsored the Syria resolution — Britain, France, Germany and Portugal — tried to gain Russia and China’s support. They also specified that any sanctions could not be enforced by military action. But when the text was sent to Moscow for review, word came back that it was unacceptable, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because consultations were private. No one would speculate on what happened in the Kremlin that led to the rejection of the resolution. But the veto provoked strong rebukes from the U.S. and Western European countries and human rights groups. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice called claims that the resolution would be a pretext for military intervention “a cheap ruse by those who would rather sell arms to the Syrian regime than stand with the Syrian people.” Syrian allies Russia and China reportedly remain major arms suppliers to the Assad regime. In reply, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin strongly objected to the allegation, “especially coming from a country (The United States) which is pumping hundreds of billions of dollars of military hardware into the area.”

Remember: May 2001 – the United States imposed sanctions on Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, and six senior Syrian officials for human rights abuses over their brutal crackdown on anti-government protests. The White House announced the sanctions on Wednesday 18 May, a day before Barack Obama, the US president,  was to deliver a major speech on the uprisings throughout the Arab world with prominent mentions of Syria. The sanctions were part of “an effort to increase pressure on the government of Syria to end its violence against its people and begin transitioning to a democratic system,” a US official told the AFP news agency on the condition of anonymity. Also, the European Union put 13 Syrian officials on its sanctions list in what it described as a move to gradually increase pressure.
Meanwhile, Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, said his country would not support any UN resolutions on the use of force against the Syrian government. “As for a resolution on Syria, I will not support such a resolution even if my friends and acquaintances ask me about it” Medvedev told reporters during a rare news conference arguing that Syria must be allowed to settle its domestic affairs.

The European Diplomacy, Energy Security and Central Asian Stake

The events in Central Asian countries very rarely attract massive international media attention. It does not means that nothing happens here. In the last decade of May, the third annual meeting of deputy foreign ministers of Central Asian states (an event organized by the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy – UNRCCA and held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan) was focused on enhancing regional cooperation and sustainable development. In the same time, the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan Mahmudjon Sobirov received the U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Geoffrey Pyatt. Mr Pyatt expressed desire of the US side to facilitate trade between Central and South Asia. In his turn, M. Sobirov expressed hope that the US will also support the implementation of energy projects in Tajikistan that would contribute not only to the economic development of Tajikistan, but to the entire region, since these projects will allow Tajikistan to export energy to the countries of South Asia. In another part of the world, Europe – Germany announced that it will gradually close all nuclear reactors by 2020. Likewise, Switzerland. But until to this “green future”, existing energy alternatives cannot yet cover the energy needs of the European, American or Chinese. In this context, the fuel resources of the countries of Central Asia makes this space an issue for the diplomatic front where the battle is becoming increasingly fierce. Whether we speak of the European Union or China, the basic idea remains the same and was sound enough: diversify supplies in order to reduce structural dependence on Russia. In this discussion we will limit to the moves from the European side. Projects started, projects delayed and too few concrete results. Moreover, history seems again from Russia’s side. Unrest in North Africa and the Middle East increases the need of European Union to find new solutions to ensure energy needs. So no wonder there is a European Union diplomatic offensive on the all possible fronts.

Nabucco vs South Stream

When talking about the two major energy projects of European Southern Corridor, we mainly observed that Western European diplomacy has always tried, at least in public, a delicate balance by supporting both projects. Diplomats and officials from Austria, Germany or even Italy have defined open the option to support both projects. What mattered in the price of gas imported from Russia. In contrast, the countries of Eastern Europe, namely Bulgaria and Romania have tried without much success a dual approach. Berlin, for instance, was (and still is) interested in opening new pipeline routes out of Central Asia in order to diminish the European Union’s dependence on Russian energy. German diplomats also were on the lookout for ways to boost trade in ways that benefited German manufacturers. In addition, the German military was eager to retain access to a military base at Termez, near the Uzbek-Afghan border. More, the meltdown of Kazakhstan’s banking sector in early 2009 cost German firms an estimated 500 million euros in lost investments, 300 million euros of which will have to be borne by German taxpayers. But the economic debacle did nothing to diminish Merkel’s enthusiasm for engagement with Astana. But from Moscow the diplomatic offensive of Germany was overlooked, given the many economic and political projects common to both countries. In contrast, many of Romania’s diplomatic contacts in Central Asia (even though concrete results have minor) were born from the Kremlin a grumble; however, the relations between the two countries are not the happiest. Romanian diplomacy seems unable to adapt in real time to the dynamic changes in the international community. (Full text)

PublishedOriental Review, June 4, 2011