Monday, 27 July 2009

Reality switch

After three weeks in Romania, in some ways good to be back from the 35+ degrees heat to the typical English grey rainy mess. Also, it is again a heck of a reality switch for me... from old to new home.

On a small scale, it is still a breathtakingly corrupt country.

The Mayor of my town of birth has built a children's playground for 1 million euros... if you'd see it, you'd estimate its cost to about 5% of this sum, even in your most generous moments. Where 95% of the public funds went, nobody knows... but this is similar to what at least led to the resignation and criminal investigation of the Youth & Sports Secretary in Romania, who spent obscene amounts of euros on some rock concerts... and it turned out only less than 10% of the money was actually needed & used... Within days of her successor having been appointed, the new person also hit the news with her tax evasion scandals and 'omissions' of not declaring properties she owns in Switzerland...

So at Government level, too the corruption is simply astonishing, despite any national anti-corruption agency that only catches the smaller fish. The typically Balkan Mafia also has attitude... after all, the mentioned Mayor actually sued a city council member because latter said that he has (and he does have) evidence that the mentioned playground was built by a mate of the Mayor, without any public bidding and contracts were handed out 'under the desk'.

The nostalgia about the Ceausescu regime is still quite amazing... once again, had several taxi drivers wax lyrical about how great it was during the dictator, how traffic was much better and parking was easier... It is simply breathtaking that such things can outweigh in the people's memory the atrocities of the regime... but vox populi was and is always based on short-term memory.

What about ethnic minority rights? Well, nothing changed. Things prescribed in the Constitution are barely respected and when bi-lingual street signs go up somewhere, it is a sensational thing.

Steaua, a Romanian football team had a match with Ujpest, a Hungarian team - the match held in Bucharest led to major incidents between supporters, the Romanian media with very very few exceptions only presented the issues caused by Hungarian supporters.

The small fact that the Romanian supporters displayed in Hungarian a racist and chauvinist banner with such text that no media dared to even repeat it, was kept quiet. It only came to light when UEFA handed out to Steaua the largest fine it ever handed out to any Romanian club. The scandal was then big enough to have the Romanian paper Adevarul finally publish an apology in Hungarian (!) about the behaviour of the Romanian extremists.

Not that the Hungarian supporters were angels after their fuse was lit, but it is remarkable how the oh-so-familiar manipulation tactics employing partial truths and magic video editing (very familiar from the days of the ethnic pogrom in 1990, organised by Romanian fascists) is still very much alive and well.

So yes, not much changed in that country. Old patterns just got stronger and perfected on many levels. The fact that THE largest University called Spiru Haret was discredited by the Minister for Education and the diplomas nullified was just tragicomic... this University was founded by one of the Governmental Mafia clans and was the largest money printing business, handing out immense number of diplomas for money. 350 000 thousand students it had around the world, and wasn't even accredited in recent times.. but it lied about it on its website, and the money kept pouring into the pockets of the senators and MPs that were involved in this.

Many innocent students got hit by this, but eventually, as a calculated pre-Presidential election stunt, the Minister reversed the decision... already handed out diplomas will stay valid, but the fate of the so-called University is still in doubt.

In the meantime, the motorway being built in Transylvania is still not progressing, all EU funds are going into Mafia pockets, and it now turns out that 'accidentally' the route was designed to go right across an oil extraction facility - moving it or the motorway would cost up to 50 million euros...

So Romania does make one laugh, cry, but above all, made at least me as angry as I ever was during any of my visits to my homeland... I simply can not imagine to what heights will this corruption go, as it already operates at levels that no everyday mind can imagine.