Romania’s intelligence chief says the former Communist country has dragged its feet on facing up to the harm done by the Securitate secret police, and today’s agents should learn about the errors of the past.
More than three decades after communism ended, Romania has not reconciled with that era or fully opened the old archives.
Opening the files
Eduard Hellvig, who heads the Romanian Intelligence Service, made his remarks on Monday at an event called “Democracy and Totalitarianism” at the “Michael the Brave” National Intelligence Academy.
He said the agency he heads had delayed “perhaps the most important stage” of recognizing the errors of the past. It has neither properly opened the archives nor recognized „the errors of totalitarianism,” Digi24 reported.
The infamous secret police kept tabs on millions of Romanians under Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu with an army of spies. Thirty years later, it has left a legacy of mistrust and even trauma.
Still, ordinary people can apply to see their Securitate files. Officials are vetted for some high-level jobs in the public sector, but there is no lustration law.
The Securitate planted its informers in every walk of life: in offices, on factory floors, among friends, in all-day queues for milk and bread, even in families.
After 1989, the past was swept under the carpet or at best, only partly acknowledged. It has taken decades for Romanians to find out that former President Traian Basescu and central bank governor Mugur Isarescu were part of the Securitate.
„After 1989, the intelligence sector should have undergone a total overhaul… such as putting it under parliamentary control,”Mr Hellwig said. It should have been legally obliged to „be politically neutral and balanced.”
“These measures, and others, which were very necessary, came late.”
“Perhaps the most important stage was… assuming the past, opening the archives, and recognizing the errors of totalitarianism,” he said.
Germany and Poland opened their archives in the years after communism fell. Romania only set up a similar institute to house and publish the archives in 1998. It began operating two years later.
He said the agency he heads had handed over one million items, including files, audio cassettes and video tapes in the past few years to the National Council
He spoke after formally opening a course aimed at new officers on totalitarianism and democracy “so the young generation can learn the harm the former Securitate did and how we can defend democracy.”
This is the place where “current and future officers can learn the basic principles that underpin our mission, principles we can’t do without.”
There needs to be “responsibility, neutrality and transparency in things of public interest.”