The Romanian Revolution of 1989. That’s pretty much when it all started. It, the change. Because in my mind it is a change, but not the one people might expect it to be.
I consider myself still one of the lucky ones who remember what happened in those days… at least at the level of what happened around me and in my home town. I remember hearing distant gun shots, I remember the Christmas tree that year, I remember us gathered in the hallway, as it was the only room with no windows.
I remember the night spent at candlelight. No, it wasn’t because we had no power… we did that so that the dim lighting wouldn’t cast shadows on the curtains… you know, there were snipers out there. A couple of days later, after the entire incident passed, I even noticed some odd holes in the house’s wall. I didn’t remember them being there before… and I think they’re still there today. Well, investing in the facade of a building is rather expensive, and usually not worth doing. I know that one of the tallest building in Arad, a hotel, is still wearing the signs of those days… last time I counted over 30 bullet holes in the wall near the roof.
I remember how one morning I got woken up by a siren. Immediately we had to go to the basement… I remember thinking how weird that was, but I don’t remember being scared. Some neighbors and even my father didn’t stay long in the “shelter” and went out to see what’s happening downtown.
Oh well. Details. Now after 20 years, it’s around a handful of ex-army generals who have been convicted for part of the crimes that happened back then. But this is not the topic of my post… somehow I’m even surprised anyone got convicted. But I’m sure it wasn’t the people who deserved it.
Why am I writing now? Because 20 years have passed, and things are happening in Romania again. Or, better said, nothing happened for 20 years in Romania. And I want to write this to the western world, for example… not to all the people, but at least to the ones that would be interested, but that don’t get any information from the western news agencies about the climate in Romania. Such an example in my case would be Iceland: I was not actively searching for information about Iceland, until I found out in some obscure documentary about how deeply they’ve been hit by the crisis and how they managed it.
So, let’s talk about Romania and the facts that most people in the West don’t know about it. I’m not sure if this topic came to my mind due to the upcoming presidentioal elections, but that is marginally important right now.
First of all, today in Romania the political power is almost completely owned by people who where part of the communist regime. Think about it… this is 20 years later. One would expect that some of them would… well, sorry, but pass on. Apparently though most of them are still exactly where they started. And not only that. The economical and financial power in Romania today is almost completely guided by foreign elements (OK, this might be the case in many other countries too).
Of course, one question would be the source and validity of this information and the ones I’m going to write down further. Well, I must admit, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact source when it all has been gathered in years and years of experience (as a concerned citizen), news investigation and logical deductions.
So, let’s split the problem into a couple of areas and see what happened in the last 20 years.
Corruption – nothing. No, I’m serious. NOTHING! Before Romania adhered to the EU, the Union used to send a periodical summary of the progress being done. In the justice department it usually was something like “major legislative improvements have been detected, but there are still problems to be solved in corruption and… (whatever else)”. Well, the translation for this is “good job – you have passed some important laws that you require to enter the EU”. No one ever asked if there’s the juridical will and power to enforce these laws. And, as I will explain further on, there isn’t.
The result is that in 20 years, to my knowledge, no major political or economical “player” has EVER been convicted of corruption. Oh sure, there have been many cases reported and trials started, but they took years, and by the end when the person was found innocent, only a handful of people still remembered the case. I mean seriously, I don’t even know where to start the enumeration… Anything from Adrian Nastase to Gigi Becali would do… I’m not saying that all of them would have been guilty, but I am saying that it’s mathematically impossible that all of them were innocent.
This was the result that EU was only happy to put up an act, to hear about processes being started or small fish who stole around 500-5000€ were convicted. And trust me, the Union was strongly interested in remaining ignorant.
Health – decay. Complete and utter decay of the entire medical system due to heavy underfunding. Well, it is hard for the money to reach its destination, when already half of it doesn’t leave the government, and another half gets lost on the way.
An example from a similar field: some month ago, the government purchased over 300 new police cars to be distributed in the country. The cars? Modified Dacia Logans. OK, and what is the problem? Well, the price for a medium range Logan is 9.000€. Guess how expensive a police Logan was? 60.000€. Sorry, but unless you put gold rims on that car, I can’t see how you get to this price, especially as the difference was theoretically only equipment. So the car, the brakes, the engine and so on, are exactly the same. I might be slightly ignorant, but 50.000€ equipment? I doubt that each car had a mobile lab inside.
Back to the medical department. The system is extremely underfunded, as such treatment options are poor. To this comes that since 1990, the number of detected cancer cases for every year has doubled. Can you already see how all these elements come together? Ah, and, in my humble opinion, the explosion of the cancer cases is connected to the complete lack of interest in the environmental issues, as well as the lack of any governmental control for food products… I know of various substances that are still being used in Romania as additives, that have long ago been outlawed in EU and US.
The best doctors are either old or leaving the country in search for a job that pays them more than 4-500€ a month. So the Western European countries shouldn’t complain that much about Romanian doctors anymore. They are getting our best, with some exceptions obviously.
Currently there are tens of ambulance departments in the country without any doctors. Can you imagine calling 112 and only an ambulance coming, maybe with a nurse? Aham… and this is because as a doctor on an ambulance you’re one of the worst payed doctors… 2-300€, if you’re lucky.
So, this is the perfect occasion to send a short message to a couple of nations – Italy, Spain, partially the French and England – suggesting that… well, better said, explaining the presence of Romanians in a rather high number on their territory. This is what happens when you’re being slowly extinguished by your own people… Of course there are rotten apples, as always, but I sincerely believe and know that most people who left the country since the 70’s and until now were only searching for a decent life. That is it.
Education – poor. I must say first, that I believe that the remaining doctors and teachers are one of the most dedicated social groups still in the country. I mean the pay and the conditions are poor. For example, a teacher with 24 years experience will receive 300€ monthly pay. Ok, to my knowledge it is even lower in other Eastern European countries, but I’m talking about Romania now.
Low wages are only part of the problem. When you have to go to work even on days your not being payed, it’s a completely different coup of tea. Not to mention that 90% of all schools are in a outrageous condition, with absolutely no heating over the winter. So the students have to choose between not learning and freezing. That’s simply the truth.
And now the cherry on the icing. Couple of months ago, the Romanian government passed a law stating the immediate increase of the teachers salaries with 50%. Well, this sounded weird at that time to me too, because to my knowledge increasing pay for a set of government employees doesn’t require a law. Still… even better. If it’s a law, it has to be followed, right? WRONG! Not in Romania. The law was passed and then completely disregarded. Nothing happened.
I hope that slowly, during the lecture of this post you start asking yourself more and more why Romania is in the EU. I’ll try to give you a hint in the end. I even found a nice sketch about the EU and the Balkan countries, suggesting that in 10-20 years the EU will be overwhelmed by the East and all western countries will leave the Union. When you look at the purely economical and diplomatic differences, it’s a sad truth that there’s a huge gap in average mentality.
Transportation network – none. Well, let me see… road. First of all, Romania has no highways. The roads that are considered highways there wouldn’t even pass for expressways in India (trust me, I know), not to mention Germany or UK. Ah, but we are building! The government has built 42km of highway in the last year, with a cost per km 4 times higher than any highway built in Western Europe. Where does the difference go to? You guess…
Seriously, I would wish at least for a half-assed level of decency in that country. Steal if you have to, but at least not that much that the work won’t get done at all.
Back to the main topic… with trains. The railway network is 40-50 years old. This means that over 50% of the network has serious speed restrictions. This in turn means that a) trans take an eternity to get from A to B and b) there are a lot of accidents. Recently, there have been 5 railway accidents in a week. 5!
And just as a comparison… 500km from my home town to the capital… 40 years ago, by train, 8 hours. Today, with the fastest IC train, 10 hours at best. I mean, what could I say more?
I had the luck to visit India last summer and I must say… from many points of view that country deserves more to be in the EU than Romania. I mean, it has infrastructure, it has good education system and high-ranking people are working on actually improving on it all. That makes all the difference.
Secret services – Romania has 7 of them. Really. And no one controls them in any way. Well, this might be probably true for other countries too. What is probably different is that the secret services have been recording anything they wanted and using these recording as they wished constantly since ’89. So, communism is gone, but the state is still listening…
Agriculture – basic. Most of the population rely on agriculture for they income, and still most of the production is obtained by non-industrial methods. Just good old Bio production… It might be an idea to sell this to the western world, where Bio costs more not less than mass produced food.
Culture – what culture? There used to be theater, cinema industry, music and whatever you want. While there’s still a strong market for pop music, but which is also mainly exported, cinematography is dying… no movies are being made and many cinemas have closed. Theaters, opera… all state-funded. So you can imagine… if you’re an artist in Romania, you really have to suffer for your passion. Again we are talking about salaries of 200€ or so for an orchestra player.
One year ago I heard of a famous singer, Dan Spataru, who died. This in itself wasn’t an unexpected news, as he was already over 70 I think. But the way he struggled financially in his last months was a news, at least to me. And keep in mind, this person was even included in the Guinness Book of Records after receiving the longest standing ovation in history, over 16 minutes of applause, in 1967.
Sports – same as culture. Underfunded, uninteresting, unimportant. Imagine this – world champions in various sporting events living of a monthly pay of 1-200€. Or even better, imagine you’re an athlete in Romania and you need medical help, financial support. No one will help you, and this AFTER you already became a champion. Then, you manage to gather the money and get the required treatment. After some time, you will the championship again… Can you guess what happens now? All the people who rejected you and didn’t offer you any support in a dark period – I don’t mean personal support, but governmental, organizational support – all of them want to appear in newspapers and TV shows along your side. I hate politics.
The army – outdated. Same as the previous story with the police cars… high ranking people build 40 years old equipment for the army, only so that they can get those 10% commission on the buy.
The church – too politicized. As I mentioned in a previous post, Romania has one of the highest numbers of believers in Europe. So, one would figure that if you control the religion, you control the country. And as the presidential elections are following in a couple of days, let me just mention – the political parties are able to buy some priest for their cause. Unofficial price as discovered with the hidden camera – 1000€.
Justice – jus-what? Sorry, I can’t even start to mention where this system doesn’t work. If you ever need a juridic decision, you can be kept in the courts for years and years with no conclusion. And even final conclusions can be attacked over and over again. I have no idea who devised this system, plus that it’s 99% politicized. Decisions are bought… you can’t buy them, you’ll loose. Counterdict me if you can… but I haven’t seen a wealthy man going to prison in Romania. Ever! (1 week doesn’t count).
Tourism – no idea. There might be foreign tourists coming to this country, but however many they are, it’s not nearly enough. And they aren’t many for all the good reasons described above. As a TV presenter said, the touristic slogan should be “No roads, just Romania”. I would add: Pure, essential, prehistoric.
So, why were we accepted then in the EU? Resources! I mentioned this in previous posts on this blog. One of the main resources that has been transfered into the hands of various EU elements is the oil. And not only the deposits and refineries, but the entire oil that is still unexploited under Romanian soil. Imagine that your country would sign such a secret contract, that would afterwards, under media pressure, be partially opened to public and you’d find out that you pretty much lost a vital resource.
What can I say? First step – get what you want by diplomacy (e.g. trade with EU – right to join for resource). Second step – no trade possible, use force (e.g. US-Irak war). But the interesting part is that all this was brought onto Romania by its own citizen, as it always has, in all major conflicts that I’ve studies in history in school.
Romania is mentally and morally not part of Europe… and it never will be.