Children walking to school (Photo credit: digi24.ro)
The sixth installment of my interview across cyberspace with Mircea Brenciu, famous author and editor, adamantly anti-communist, and the founder of many publications in Romania, is coming to a close. A few questions remained to explain the transformation that occurred in Romania since the “collapse” of Ceausescu’s socialist dictatorship in 1989 when the much-touted “workers’ paradise” crashed and burned on the ashes of millions of victims who died needlessly at the reckless hands of Bolsheviks who were experimenting with people’s lives as dreamed by Marx, Engels, and Lenin.
As I watched videos from remote villages where people still live and die without electricity, paved roads, gravel roads, running water and sewer systems, trudging through ankle deep mud during rains, I wondered what happened to their standard of living in the twenty-seven years since communism “fell.”
Even though Romania became an EU member in 2007, the journey to modernization and progress is still very slow in some regions as it was evident during my visits. Romanians are smart, enterprising, and hard-working people, often making do with so much less than the rest of the developed world, but their journey is hampered by decades of brutal socialist centralized planning and the endemic corruption born by such a system and the need to survive.
On the question of roads, Brenciu explained that highways under the care of the Transportation Ministry are usually well maintained but county roads are not paved or are often neglected because they don’t have the know-how or the funds necessary to fix them.
Interstate 1 or DN1 between the capital Bucharest and the northern ski resort city of Brasov, a distance of only 170 km, in Brenciu’s opinion, will never be an Autobahn in the near future. On the much sought route Sibiu-Pitesti, the government is just now taking public bids. And the Sibiu-Arad/Timisoara highway was built with “exaggerated efforts and mistakes which came to light as soon as it was inaugurated.”
Former president Traian Basescu raised eyebrows when he declared that “Romania does not need superhighways.” A 2012 referendum of 8 million Romanians indicated the opposite. As Romanians’ standard of living has improved, they bought hundreds of thousands of cars which now crowd the narrow roads. Parking is so inadequate, like in many other European cities, that people park everywhere, including sidewalks, sometimes blocking or slowing down traffic and endangering pedestrians.
The former Minister of Finance under President Emil Constantinescu, professor analyst Ilie Serbanescu, explained that both in Romania and in the European Union (EU), there is interest in only one route, Arad-Pitesti, to the exclusion of all others. It seems easier to drive to the capital of Hungary, Budapest, in the west, where the infrastructure provides ease of transportation, than to go south to the capital of Romania, Bucharest.
I also asked Brenciu about running water and sewer systems. Surely Romania could easily provide for its citizens! Their former colonizers, the Romans, had an elaborate sewer and water system almost two millennia ago! Using European Union grants and loans, there are now fewer areas without connection to water pipes except in distant and isolated villages.
The fact, that the government is still addressing problems with water and sewer service in the 21st century, is a direct reflection of the forced industrialization during the 20th century socialist regime at the expense of the minimal needs of the forgotten Romanian citizens. Such a centralized socialist economy produced one social catastrophe after another that regional and local governments are still trying to overcome and resolve today.
I asked Mircea Brenciu if he believed that political corruption, so endemic in Romania now, can be eradicated. He mentioned a “traffic of influence” called lobby that pushes issues to the limit of legality. The end of Ceausescu’s dictatorial regime encouraged and launched “the great national competition of personal financial gain” which led to today’s lobby-driven competition for political power and control.
Brenciu believes that the country is going in the direction of a police state again, of the socialist type he thought was dead and buried in 1989. Many Romanians are no longer placing their trust in political leadership or in people in general, but only in God. They realized that “it does not matter who votes, it only matters who counts the votes.”
Brenciu was referring to the shenanigans of the two presidential voting rounds that elected the current President Johannis over his competitor, Prime Minister Ponta, who had personal counsel and advice from Gen. Wesley Clark. The web of global politics is difficult to untangle.
On the Schengen Agreement, Brenciu explained that, even though he is a “chronic European, Russo-phobe, and anti-communist,” he is becoming a “Euro-skeptic” because of EU’s politics towards Romanians. Even though Romania fulfills all conditions to be integrated into the Schengen Agreement, some of the member-states are reluctant to accept it into their fold while throwing their borders wide-open to the Muslim invasion from Africa and the Middle East.
It appears that Europeans are offended by Romanian gypsies but turn a blind eye to the violence and rapes by Muslims, going to great lengths to cover their crimes. What do Romanian gypsies do in Europe that is so offensive? Apparently pick-pocketing and begging are “serious problems” for Europeans.
“Our gypsies are academicians compared to the savages coming from Africa and Asia,” stated Brenciu. What is the point of having the Schengen Agreement if “Europe will continue on such an enormous and irresponsible scale the policy of allowing into their countries the largest exodus of humanity in modern history?”
Paradoxically, the states that have the highest Muslim penetration in Europe are the ones that are refusing Romania’s entrance into the Schengen Agreement. There are currently 26 European countries, covering 400 million people, who can travel in the Schengen Area like a single state with external border controls for travelers entering and exiting the area, but with no internal border controls. Romanians have not been admitted to this agreement, and they feel, rightfully so, as the black sheep of the European Union.
Now that Romanians are members of the European Union, they are no longer in control of their fate and their future, Brenciu concluded.