The Nastase Government, One Step Away from Political Collapse

21 February 2004

Evenimentul Zilei, Romania
By Cornel Nistorescu

Incredible! As from Thursday, Romania is a country with a questioned democracy! It does no longer meet the Copenhagen political criteria - which are as necessary as air for Romania to be accepted as member of the European Union.

After Thursday's vote by the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament, everything has changed. The triumphal speech of the government led by Adrian Nastase, who announced with much fuss that negotiations for Romania's integration into EU would be completed by the end of this year, was contradicted by a shocking decision.

"The committee emphasizes the numerous failures of Romania regarding its progress towards EU integration". What does that mean? That all the promising statements by certain European officials, as well as the boasts of our government was but a smoke screen under which reservations, criticism, failures and even aberrations accumulated to shatter a trajectory which seemed the best chance for EU integration which Romania has ever had.

The readers who want to find details about the amendments, the statements in the report of the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament can consult our pages dedicated to this crucial moment for the Romanian politics. One thing is clear. Our country will be monitored as regards reform in justice system, the way in which corruption is fought, the way in which the freedom of the press is observed, international adoptions.

All these hot issues weren't at all in a rosy situation. But in 2000 when the Adrian Nastase government came to power, they weren't in such a dramatic situation either. On the contrary, the promises made by the Romanian government were indicative of some progress and some hopes.

But that image, un-backed with substantial progress in reality, didn't last long. The European MPs realized what is there behind the nice words. On the contrary, they interpreted the failed promises as offences.

Those impressed by the lures and nice words of the Nastase government turned against Romania when they realized that reality is actually different. For the first time in these years, our country is accused, more or less openly, that it has cheated the European Union.

The incrimination refers more to international adoptions, but it could have been said also in connection with the justice, the corruption or the public administration. The scandal of the 105 Romanian children adopted by Italians following persistent demands by high officials did but top it all.

Apart from the 105, some other children have been found as being adopted too. No agreement was asked for their adoption from the rapporteur for Romania. The adoptions weren't mentioned in a government resolution either. Adrian Nastase and Serban Mihailescu simply signed for those adoptions.

Such a negligence has brought us to the point where the European MPs said: "The child trade must be stopped by all means". The policy of the office arrangement conducted Serban Mihailescu, nicknamed Miki Spaga (bribe), this jack-in-the-box of the Nastase government, and is experiencing the most terrible failure now.

Even if this failure affects Romania, it is not strong enough to change Mihailescu's position as key man in the backstage arrangements inside the government, but also in the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD).

Didn't president Ion Iliescu and premier Adrian Nastase know about the European and international discontent about the situation of the justice system in Romania? If that wasn't to be noticed, then only an atomic bomb could have waken them up to reality from the indifference and the sleepy attitude that have had lately.

Despite evidence, despite numerous international signals, despite opinion polls, despite opinions generally shared by the people, they have deluded themselves with the promises of Rodica Stanoiu.

Ironically, before the scandal, Rodica Stanoiu tried to wash her hands of the whole thing, passing responsibility for the corruption in justice to the Superior Council of Magistrature. And that after she, like a hilarious character in a play mocking the shortcomings of society, played puppets.

All the important hierarchies in the justice system in Romania are filled with the wives, in-laws, cousins, nephews, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law of the political-financial clan represented by the ruling party. Instead of assuming responsibility for the difficult situation in the justice system and tendering a tardy resignation, justice minister Rodica Stanoiu staged a sort of operetta show.

The judicial figures of the Ceausescu regime, some who are very close tot he PSD now, magistrates of straw, naive professors, dedicated to a cause of Romania, have been pushed on the front stage to create a sort of patriotical festival Ode to Justice in Romania.

Obviously, disregarding the accusations in the press, by the citizens, and the international public opinion. And everything was one only to bury truths, which are obvious, and to fix the image of the very tarnished lady minister.
Romania will be monitored also in connection with the way in which the freedom of expression is observed.

This seems to me the most serious counter-performance of the Adrian Nastase government. Actually, behind it there is the attempt to generally manipulate information. Even this situation, which is very dramatic in point of our European integration, was presented yesterday as a success of the Nastase cabinet.

Both the public television and radio were Thursday part of a coarse scenario to misinform the population. The public radio broadcast the statement made by Liberal leader Theodor Stolojan who "hailed the decision of European rapporteur for Romania, Emma Nicholson, to request the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament to carry on EU entry talks based on different terms instead of suspending them".

That is the public radio, on the tax payers' money, achieves the performance to shorten Stolojan's statements so that to give the impression that he also acknowledges the great success of the Nastase government. Romania is a laughing stock in Brussels, (no other EU candidate state has even gone through such embarrassing situation!) and all the official Romanian media channels, supported with the citizens' money, hide the truth.

The private ones bought directly or indirectly, openly or secretly by the ruling party, have reported the same disaster as a success achieved by the Nastase government as well.

Threatened or beaten journalists, the county press taken over almost completely by the people close to power, the public television stations trapped in the screw vice of debt, flagrant cases of misinformation on TVR public television and radio lead us to the incredible situation to be questioned in a chapter considered the main gain after Ceausescu was overthrown: freedom of expression.

The overwhelming vote in the Brussels is the final end of the conceited mocking by the premier, the arrangement made by Miki Spaga, of the public administration looked at through the blinkers of general Oprea. The vote of the Brussels committee makes Victor Ciorbea, the leader of the PNTCD party, fall into ridicule, and all those who believed that they make a patriotical gesture if they try to sweeten the situation in Romania a bit.

But it has the greatest impact on Adrian Nastase. His mask of European player, who is shoulder to shoulder with all the potentates in Europe (Emil Constantinescu lived the awkward illusion of the regional leader too), is removed with firmness and distrust. In vain they had photos with Berlusconi and Tony Blair, in vain they approved international adoptions, in vain they went on hunting trips!

The European Parliament accepts or rejects Romania based on genuine progress it has achieved. However, the Nastase government and Miki Spaga can breathe with relief. The amendment according to which the European police should investigate into the international adoption cases was not voted!

President Ion Iliescu also knew about corruption. He knew of everything that was happening in the justice. He knew about the wasted European funds. He knew about the Mafia-type clans in the counties. He knew about the delays in completing certain negotiation chapters. What did he do?

Even now, in the eleventh hour, he acts as undetermined as before. He knows everything that is going on. He beats about the bush more or less elegantly. He doesn't have any idea where to head for. He is afraid not to lose the chance to return as the president of PSD, and that is why he keeps silent and waits, facing the risk to compromise Romania's European integration.

What is it to be done? The two-three days of shock for the Nastase government will go by. And we will see how the only two working hypotheses work out. Systematically lying the Romanians about the success achieved in the negotiations with the European Union might continue only after the PSD has won the elections. Or Adrian Nastase, aware of the complete responsibility for this critical situation, might launch a large-scale cleansing campaign.

In his apparatus, in the government, in the ministries, even in the party. That is, to try to escape from the net of power structures which tried to fake preoccupation for European integration, but actually wasted all the energy on arrangements, calculations, and games, and took advantage of opportunities to get rich.

It would be the eleventh hour to get fresh chances and to save what can still be saved in the calendar of the European integration!

All we can do is wait!