I have just received the following info by e-mail. Please read and act as you consider fit, noting that there are petitions HERE and HERE should you wish to join this call and sign (I would strongly urge you to do so). There is a great deal going on in Romania right now with laws and legislations being changed and scuppered willy-nilly. It's difficult to keep up, particularly if one canoot read in Romanian (and even if one can that doesn't always clarify much!!). The info below, I hope, will help.
As Oana Suciu says, please do distribute the following appeal to whomever you think appropriate (particularly anyone you may known in the media):
As probably some of you are aware of the most recent developments in Romania, that have drastically affected the status and image of the Romanian Cultural Institute (ICR) among other public bodies, we would be grateful if you could distribute this appeal (see below) that was put forward by the Romania Curata platform, the anti-corruption NGO alliance in Romania.
Please feel free to distribute to whomever you think appropriate (including media channels) and to ask me any questions.
Oana-Valentina Suciu, PhD
Head of the Domestic Programmes Department
38 Aleea Alexandru sector 1,
Alert from the Romanian civil society, issued by:
- Freedom House Romania
- Expert Forum (EFOR)
- Romanian Center for European Policies (CRPE)
- Group for Social Dialogue (GDS)
- Center for Independent Journalism (CJI)
- Timisoara Society
- Resource Center for Public Participation (CeRe)
Bucharest, June 16th 2012
Politicization of administration by the new Romanian government continues
The new center-left coalition led by Prime Minister Victor Ponta continues to take revenge on independent voices, apply pressure on the public TV and independent agencies, in total contrast with what they were preaching just three months ago, when in opposition.
After losing three cabinet members over integrity issues in its first month in office; adopting a first-pass-the-post electoral system that risks creating artificial super-majorities after the November 2012 elections; and replacing all prefects and heads of territorial agencies (formally civil servants) in just a few weeks, the new center-left coalition led by prime minister Ponta has continued unabated with its pressures exerted on institutions which should be nominally independent, judiciary included.
In the first half of June, the following developments took place:
- The President and Board of the public TV were dismissed and a low-key columnist with no media management experience and a penchant for adulatory commentary was appointed as interim director.
- State institutions which are nominally independent have awkwardly intervened in the high-profile corruption court case of former Prime Minister Adrian Năstase, in which a final decision is expected this month. Mr Năstase was convicted to two years in jail in the first instance. In late May the Civil Construction Inspectorate, taken under the direct subordination by the new PM, attempted to help the defendant by dropping its claims. This tactic failed among public uproar, as Mr Năstase was proved to have spoken on the phone with the head of the Inspectorate at 5.00 am in the day when this institution suddenly realized they had no reason to be part in this case, after all. Then, in mid-June, the Ombudsman office intervened with a procedural complaint the very day when the final hearings were held before the Supreme Court, claiming that one of the judges was not properly appointed on her job. All these happen after eight long years of trial in which these institutions have raised no objection – but just one-and-a-half month after mr Năstase political protégées, Victor Ponta and Titus Corlăţean, have become Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, respectively.
- The status of the Romanian Cultural Institute (ICR), independent agency promoting the Romanian culture abroad (similar to British Council) was shifted overnight from one of relative independence under the Presidency, to subordination to the Senate. The lesser objection to this change is that it was done through emergency ordinance of the government, and it is not clear what was the emergency here. The frequent use of emergency ordinances was exactly what the current coalition leaders were criticizing while in opposition, only a few months ago. The more important objection is that the move is a transparent attempt to eliminate Horia Roman Patapievici, a respected writer and philosopher, who has successfully led ICR in the last years, raising it from its post-communist mediocrity to an international profile. The committee of culture in the Romanian Senate, which is now to control ICR, is known as a rock bed of backward-looking nationalism and has repeatedly criticized the cosmopolitan direction of ICR under Patapievici. Writers and intellectuals with both rightist and leftist leanings have issued protests against the government, pointing out that under this leadership ICR has for the first time promoted cultural products based on objective criteria, not personal whims of its bosses.
The fact that such things occurred in the first months of the new mandate betrays, if not a carefully orchestrated plan, then at least an irrepressible desire of the new power to silence critical voices, interfere in court cases and colonize the independent state agencies, before and after the November 2012 parliamentary elections, at an unprecedented speed. This is a dramatic U-turn from the position expressed by the same people until two months ago.
The independent civil society is determined to continue unabated its watchdog efforts. We count on the support of PSE and ALDE groups in the European Parliament, who may help by persuading their Romanian colleagues to stop such excesses unworthy of a modern, European center-left administration. We believe that the difficult responsibility to steer the country through the economic crisis and safeguard Romania’s macro balances do not justify the politicization of public bodies and stifling of the societal voices.
Cristina Guseth, Freedom House Romania
Sorin Ioniţă, Expert Forum (EFOR)
Cristian Ghinea, Romanian Center for European Policies (CRPE)
Magda Cârneci, Grupul pentru Dialog Social (GDS)
Ioana Avădani, Center for Independent Journalism (CJI)
Florian Mihalcea, Societatea Timisoara
Roxana Wring, ProDoMo
Oana Preda, CeRe
For those of us who have not understood exactly what happened on June 13th leading to a law being passed although it skipped right over parliament, THIS is an excellent explanation written as a Facebook note by Peca Stefan, a Communication Co-ordinator at the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York, entitled "This is not Kafka, it's real Romanian politics - which currently disintegrates the Romanian Cultural Institute":
This is not Kafka, it's real Romanian politics - which currently disintegrates the Romanian Cultural Institute.
by Peca Stefan on Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 10:18am · .
'On June 13 the new Romanian Government issued an urgent ordinance (a law that skips parliament through government responsibility, because of national urgency) in the name of de-politising the Romanian Cultural Institute. The urgency? The feeling of national belonging within Romanian communities abroad is permanentely threatened by the current organization of the RCI.
The law changes the mission of the Institute from representing Romanian culture abroad to serving the Romanian communities abroad. So it's not bringing Romanian culture to foreign audiences anymore, it's about bringing Romanian culture to the Romanian diaspora, in Romanian. The law also changes current management and submits the Institute to the Senate. Until now the Institute has been under the authority of the President of Romania, who only appointed the President of the Institute but couldn't interfere in the programming or structure. This was considered "political control" by the government, an urgent matter which couldn't be delayed. So it decided to make it all political by appointing the board by vote of senate. The majority of Senate present, that is. Vice presidents of RCI can't be affiliated to political parties, according to the new law, but there is no mention about the RCI president's status - therefore the president could be a member of a political party.
What follows is not a fragment from Kafka, but the full text of the new law which organizes the Romanian Cultural Institute, which will dissolve RCI as it is in less than 15 days.'
Ordinance No. 27 of 13.06.2012
regarding some measures in the cultural field
Document issued by: the Government of Romania
Document Published in the Official State Monitor. 400 of June 14, 2012
Given the need to enhance and amplify different forms of cultural relations with Romanian communities abroad, in order to preserve and perpetuate national identity, a goal of particular importance in the context of globalization, including cultural globalization,
- taking into consideration the fact that reaching this goal requires parliamentary control in the organization and functioning of the Romanian Cultural Institute through the Romanian Senate, in its quality of decisional chamber for adopting draft laws and legislative proposals on foreign policy, and which has permanent commissions specialized in this area such as the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the European Affairs Committee and the Commission for Romanians Everywhere,
- taking into account the need for spending public money by the Romanian Cultural Institute, in complete legality, by avoiding any financial accounting irregularities, such as those identified, in time, by the reports of the Romanian Court of Accounts,
- considering the dispositions of art. 116 of the Romanian Constitution, republished, which governs the structure of central government, respectively ministries organized in subordination to the Government and other bodies which may be organized in subordination to the Government or Ministries, or as autonomous administrative authorities,
- given the general disposition of art. 111. Paragraph 1 of the Constitution, which states government and the other organs of public administration are subject to parliamentary control, taking into consideration the need to respect the constitutional framework through reorganization of the Romanian Cultural Institute as an autonomous administrative authority, with legal personality, submitted to parliamentary control,
- taking into account that not adopting the measures proposed in this law will lead, on one hand, to the extension of the highly negative effects of some state of affairs that tend to affect, permanently, the sense of belonging to the Romanian nation of those who are already settled, temporarily, in other states, and on the other hand, to maintaining of some dysfunctionalities referring to the organization and functioning of the Romanian Cultural Institute,
- considering that all evidence presented above concerns the public interest, so by this it consists as an emergency and extraordinary situation, the ruling of which cannot be postponed,
according to art. Article 115. (4) of the Romanian Constitution, republished,
the Government of Romania adopts this law.
The Romanian Cultural Institute, the national public institution with legal personality under the authority of the President of Romania, is reorganized as an autonomous administrative authority, with legal personality, under parliamentary control.
Law no. 356/2003 on the establishment, organization and functioning of the Romanian Cultural Institute, published in the Official Gazette, Part I, no. 529 of July 23, 2003, as amended and supplemented, is hereby amended as follows:
A. In Article 1 (1) reads as follows:
(1) The Romanian Cultural Institute, hereinafter the Institute, is organized and operates as an autonomous administrative authority, with legal personality, under parliamentary control.
Two. Article 6 (2) read as follows:
(2) The governing board is chaired by the President of the Institute and has the following composition:
- the President Institute;
- One member appointed by the President;
- One member appointed by the Prime Minister;
- A Secretary of State appointed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, by order;
- A Secretary of State appointed by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, by order;
- A Secretary of State appointed by the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, by order;
- the President of the Romanian Academy or a Vice President designated by him;
- 14 members appointed by the Senate, by the vote of majority of the Senators present at the time of vote, from which 7 members proposed by the creators’ associations and unions and 7 members appointed by the Permanent Bureau of the Senate.
Three. Article 6 (4) is abolished.
Four. Article 8 (3) reads as follows:
(3) Extraordinary Council meetings of the Institute can be called at the request of the Permanent Bureau of the Senate, Senate Standing Bureau, the President of the Institute or a quarter of all members. The meetings shall be called through any means of communication, stating the agenda, date, time and place.
Five. Article 12 (1) reads as follows:
(1) The operative management of the Institute is provided by a president with the rank of Secretary of State, assisted by two vice presidents, with the rank of Secretaries of State, who are appointed to or removed from office by the Senate, through the majority of votes of those present, and at the proposal of the Permanent Bureau of the Senate. The Vice President mandate is four years, with possibility of renewal. The position of Vice-President of the Institute is incompatible with membership of a political party.
6. Article 14 reads as follows:
The maximum number of positions at the Institute is 184, excepting dignitaries.
In term of 15 days after the effective date of this ordinance, the Senate will appoint the operative management of the Institute and its Board members whose appointment to office is the Senate’s responsibility, in accordance to Art. Article 6. (2) of Law no. 356/2003 on the establishment, organization and functioning of the Romanian Cultural Institute, with subsequent amendments and the amendments made by this law.
Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Mircea Diaconu
Secretary General of the Government, Ion Moraru
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andrei Marga
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Florin Georgescu
My thanks to Stefan Peca for the time and dedication he gave to translating the above so that those who do not read or speak Romanian can understand the very serious changes taking place today, particularly concerning the country's culture. Thank you very much indeed.
My God.... if we thought the previous minister of culture was incapable, Diaconu has overtaken him in a dash for the 'dangerously useless' prize... How could a government DO this to the culture of its country??? How could it try to cut it off like this? How could it isolate its artists in such a way? No shame. Unbelievable and with the most terrible feeling that we've heard or felt this somewhere before....
For yet more on this subject, see the following posts/articles that have hit the social networks over the last day or two and caused a bit of a scene in one way or another:
Cristina Bazavan's blogpost HERE,