Politics & The World

          by Cristian Mihai Lazăr.

In the last year Romania has inarguably found itself in a most decisive period for its future as a state. The importance derives from the internal politics that are outlined especially after the last elections, the parliamentary elections on December 11. Roughly one year after the protests that followed the tragedy of the Colectiv club (which resulted in 64 deaths), the protests which swept down a political government and consequently led to the establishment of a technocratic government, both for the legislature and the executive, it was now imperative the regain the political and popular legitimacy. This could not have been achieved in any other way except through the prism of democratic elections.

The campaign for this year’s legislative election was dull, lifeless and did not generate any collective emotions. Of course, the candidates were mainly responsible for this situation, but also a new electoral law was among the reasons as well – a law that is very rigid regarding the operations and financial expenses that can be conducted during the campaign. In comparison, ‘on the other side of the coin’ are the campaigns that are conducted in the USA, which are characterized by huge campaign budgets and popular entertainment aspects. Besides the two traditional political parties PSD (Social Democratic Party) and PNL (National Liberal Party) in competition for the confidence of voters, not even the new political parties (most of them having old personalities) managed to attract a substantial number of Romanians to vote. Speaking about the categories of voters: on the 11th of December the young people, unlike in the presidential elections when there was a massive presence of the youth which made the difference in the final outcome, this time they remained indifferent and less willing to vote. With a lack of a collective emotion and surprises, the elections confirmed what was already outlined: a predictable victory for the left wing. Nevertheless, the proportions were surprising.

After the political left lost the power last year in consequence to the public revolt which swept down the social-democratic Prime Minister, the PSD and the left wing parties secured a crushing victory receiving 45.47% of the total votes. We can observe that the victory of the Romanian political left wing was in accordance with the trend that already had formed in the East and South of Romania (as well as in both the Republic of Moldavia and in Bulgaria the left wing parties have achieved victory in last month’s elections). We can speak about a remarkable comeback, after the consequences of last year’s protests when the confidence in the party has decreased incredibly and the former Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, became prosecuted for corruption (an accusation which he denied). Nonetheless, the withdrawal from the government a year ago and the appointment of a cabinet of technocrats were a political-saving solution. In this way, the PSD basically managed to be at the same time in opposition and in government, keeping the key positions in the state both at local and central levels. Permanently, the socialists showed themselves hostile to the technocratic government, blocking any measure or attempt to reform a politicized administration. The “triumphing march” of these elections was also assured by the demagogic voracity and populist irresponsibility seen in some parts of the promoted government program. In brief, if the PSD program becomes reality, Romania would witness salary and pension increases, the elimination of half of existing taxes, a gigantic hospital built in the capital of Romania, new regional hospitals and no less than five new highways (it was not said when will it happen though, we shall see).

Managing this election victory won´t be easy, especially because the problem of this party will be to nominate a Prime Minister who can carry out this political program. The first option seems to be the current leader of the party, Liviu Dragnea – who is now being sentenced to 2 years of suspended prison for electoral fraud. However, the Romanian law does not allow the appointment of a convicted person into the government. The most recent political movements are showing that Liviu Dragnea has succumbed to pressures of the law enforcement and Sevil Shhaideh will probably represent PSD`s nominee and thus the future Head of Romanian Government. About Sevil Shhaideh, it is known that she is one of the closes political friends of Liviu Dragnea. In any way, in confrontation between the popular will and the rule of law, Romania cannot afford another political crisis at this moment. In these outlined circumstances it remains to be seen how the political hegemony of the PSD will evolve.

At the opposite side of this triumph we can notice the great failure of the main opposition, the National Liberal Party. As a consequence to the election outcome, the president of the party resigned the day after the elections. The problems of the party were not acute, but rather chronic. The symptoms of the defeat were also visible at local elections, where the results were far below expectations. The failure was generated by a lack of vision, and the lack of vision was generated by a lack of leadership. It may even be said that the PNL has participated at these elections without leaders. The message they promoted lacked substance and was more focused on the possible damage of a PSD victory. However, there seemed to be a few positive signs as well as the party came up with new candidates, promoting many young people and a fresher elite in different policy areas. The reforming of the party is relevant not only for its own salvation as a political party but also to provide Romania with a powerful right-wing in its politics spectrum to assure a viable balance of the political powers. They need to get rid of the tired portraits and adopt a persuasive, combatant, and articulated speech. The National Liberal Party must become again liberal more than ever.

The astonishing item of the elections was the appointment in the Parliament of the USR (Save Romania Union) party with a redoubtable score of 8.87% of the votes for a party which is less than one year old. This party managed to win the confidence of Romanians that are unsatisfied with the “system” and with the current political class. Lacking experience and based on criticism so far, this young political party emerged as the third force in the new Parliament, despite limited resources and logistics. More than ever, they will need an offensive energy, strength, and most of all in order to assure their existence in politics, they must find an ideological identity.

The former president of Romania, Trăian Băsescu, has claimed himself to be the main opposition for the future left wing Cabinet along with the Popular Movement Party whose leader he is. This is a new party, participating in its first parliamentary elections and becoming part of the new legislature by passing the electoral threshold.  In order to ensure a sustainable coalition, PSD will also be supported by ALDE, a party which is led by the former liberal Prime Minister C. P. Tariceanu. The Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, a party of minorities, is the other party that managed to be appointed in the Parliament and it has great chances to form too a coalition with PSD and be in government together. As a positive item, unlike in many European cases, fortunately the current nationalist-xenophobic voices did not win the confidence of voters and failed to be appointed into Parliament these elections.

In the 11th of December the voters have expressed themselves in a categorical way. As in any democracy, the majority speaks and the manifested option cannot be contested. Its implications will be major. During this mandate, in 2019, Romania will be one of the countries to hold the presidency of the EU Council. Thus, another reason why the votes of Romanians given on the 11th of December will weigh a lot more, influencing both the national and European political spectrum.

Image by Janrito Karamazov, taken from photopin

Politics & The World


One year ago, I interviewed a recent Moldovan graduate from the College of Europe, Dinu Codreanu*, to talk about the trend of Moldovans applying for Romanian citizenship.

A 2013 study by the Soros Foundation Romania found that between 1991 and the end of 2012, 323,049 applications for Romanian citizenship from Moldova were granted. In 2011 and 2012, 100,845 and 87,015 applications were submitted respectively. The Brexit and the increasing internal polarisation of EU member states has not helped to reduce today’s EU criticism. However, taking an outsider perspective is helpful as it recalls the attractiveness of the European project

 Q: So far, more than 450,000 Moldovan citizens have applied for Romanian citizenship, How would you explain such a phenomenon?

This number can be explained by a series of reasons. First, it is how a part of Moldovans are seeing themselves ethnically. Indeed, an important part of the population considers itself as Romanian and sees Romanian citizenship as a rightful return to the “mother-nation” and historic country. The unofficial numbers of the last 2014 census in the Republic of Moldova (RM) confirm this trend: 23% of the RM‘s population considers itself Romanian. The second aspect is the practical interest of having a Romanian citizenship as it gives certain rights in Romania and, more importantly, in the EU.

Q: Could you describe in a few words what kind of benefits a Romanian passport would bring to you if you were to hold it?

If I was to have Romanian citizenship, I could benefit from the advantages conferred to the European citizens in the EU. In practical terms, it would be easier to find work, travel and live in EU member states. The administrative aspect is equally important as a lot of employers are reluctant to hire a person if they see the amount of bureaucratic work related to hiring a non-EU citizen. I wouldn’t have to apply for a residence permit to stay for longer periods of time in an EU member-state. Also, another very important point is the tuition fees for universities; as an EU citizen, they would be proportionate to my parents’ income, thus being considerably lower for me.

Q: Could you give me some personal examples of bureaucracy you faced with as a student?

While studying in France as a Moldovan student, I could see the difference between me and my friends having a Romanian citizenship. They were able to benefit from the social scholarship for students from the second year as EU citizens, a considerable financial help for this period.

Furthermore, they did not require the French “titre de séjour” (residence permit), a document I had to renew every year by bringing a long list of documents to the local prefecture.

I could travel freely in the Schengen area; however, the visa problem appeared when I tried to go to Ireland, a country outside Schengen. A simple tourist visa is extremely expensive and required an obnoxious amount of documents to bring to the embassy. A Romanian citizen does not even need a visa.

Q: A Bucharest-based prosecutor stated Moldovans were asking Romanian citizenship only because it gives the freedom to travel and work within the EU.  Beyond the Romanian affiliation, is it the freedom and rights of the EU that appeal to Moldovan citizens?

As mentioned before, being part of the EU is considered a crucial factor. Moldovan’s image of the EU is often as follows: an area of great prosperity and opportunity; a “civilized” area, where the rule of law and democracy have a real meaning in contrast to our dysfunctional government plagued by corruption. Of course, this image is to be nuanced: things are not so bright, however, this image persists. As the Moldovan process of European integration has a long and bumpy road ahead, lots of people are seeing Romanian citizenship as a way to individually integrate themselves in the EU.

Q: A few years ago, a dual citizenship controversy occurred in Moldova. Double citizenship was allowed and then banned; later on Moldova was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights forcing its reintroduction. How do Moldovan authorities react to this controversy?

Authorities have no problems with the trend of “Romanization” of the Moldovan population; indeed, it is considered as a right to come back to people’s ethnic roots and also a facilitation for many to find jobs abroad and send money back home.  However, the Romanization trend becomes more problematic when it concerns people who have high positions in the public sector and government. Indeed, it is sometimes seen by the pro-Russian or Moldovan nationalist parties as Romania interfering in our own internal affairs.

Q: A union with Romania is often debated. Does it threaten Moldova’s destiny as a nation state?

The question of uniting with Romania comes up in the public debate quite often and the majority of the population seems to be in favour. As for the idea of Moldova as a nation-state, this is a very new idea, which has never existed before our independence in 1991.

Furthermore, Moldova is often considered a state without a nation. The idea of a Moldovan nation and language is linked to the efforts to forge a new sense of belonging and solidarity between the inhabitants of Moldova but also to differentiate ourselves from Romania.

This rhetoric is for instance used by the pro-Russian political parties so to answer your question, I would say the idea of unification with Romania is present but not seen as a priority because of the bad shape of the economy and corruption. As for the threat aspect, it is perceived as a menace by the part of the population which does not see itself as Romanian.

Q: By signing the association agreement with the EU, Moldovan authorities conveyed a political message to its citizens: “Moldova’s future is in the EU” ; isn’t it again an evidence of EU soft power in Moldova?

In my opinion, it could be considered soft power by the EU. I would even go so far and call it a “model power” as it is attracting without having this objective clearly stated.

Indeed, only the perspective of being a “European state” is a considerable argument in the internal politics of Moldova.  The EU is maybe not capitalizing enough on its attractiveness because of the unclear objectives of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). The Eastern Partnership was created to tackle the EU’s internal enlargement fatigue. The latter is not an integration policy but at the same time, its methodology is founded on the enlargement procedure. This is a big cause of ambiguity regarding the integration question. Will the Eastern Partnership countries further integrate with the EU in the future? This absence of a clear integration objective is making the EU power more diffuse and its policy less consistent.

*Dinu is a Moldovan graduate from the College of Europe who finished the Master of Arts in European Union’s (EU) International Relations and Diplomacy. He holds a Bachelor in Social and Economic Administration and a Master in International Relations from Paris I University, France.


Adrian Mogos and Vitalie Calugarenau, “How to buy EU citizenship”, “https://euobserver.com/justice/117551“, accessed 15 August 2016

Romanian National News Agency, “http://www.agerpres.ro/english/2013/04/03/over-323-000-application-files-for-romanian-citizenship-solved-in-1991-2012-soros-foundation–19-45-19“, accessed on 12 August 2016

cover image from: http://www.pes.ro/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/moldova-01.jpg