On the day President Klaus Iohannis signed the decrees appointing the Heads of the Prosecutor General’s Office, DNA and DIICOT, US Ambassador Adrian Zuckerman gave a speech at the CEO Forum, organized by the Romanian-American Chamber of Commerce, chastising corruption in Romania. Surely, it was a coincidence. The CEO forum had long been scheduled, and the President certainly does not sign decrees having in mind the lists of speakers at conferences.
However, the overlapping of the confirmation of the new set of chief prosecutors with the most trenchant message of the representative of the most important strategic partner directed against the „intangibles” of politics, business and administration has a real significance.
Both events are from the same movie. And not of yesterday, but of today. Both aim at the same point. The one in which the Romanian and American interests converge: there will be no deep partnership between the two countries, which will provide long-term stability to the military alliance, if Romania does not become a developed country, with a strong rule of law, which should give it immunity to viruses of the „Dragnea” class, capable of weakening the common project.
How can this happen? Among other things, making sure that there is no „dome” of wealthy barons and businessmen, enriched by doing business with the state, able to tilt the balance of Romania’s strategic decisions in favor of another foreign power, such as Russia or China. As it happened in the three years of PSD – ALDE governance.
However, the dismantling of the „dome” is also the first step to rid the state of parasites, free the real economy and create the conditions for Romanians to fulfill their potential. The ultimate goal? The fewer the socially assisted or quasi-assisted citizens, the greater the chances that power will not end again in the hands of the corrupt, the incompetent and the traitors.
„President Trump, the American people, and I and everyone else at the Embassy are committed to work with President Iohannis, the government of Romania and with all of you, to make this the year of the Romanian Renaissance. This is the time for Romania to become a European and global leader in the arts, sciences, finance, healthcare, information technology, agricultural production, energy production, and industry. Romania is ready to unleash its true economic potential, but can do so only by enacting common sense business laws and regulations, and putting an end to endemic corruption(…)
The ability of politically-connected oligarchs and barons to control business interests and limit free market competition must end. (…)
President Iohannis, Prime Minister Orban and his ministers have committed to rebuild good government, to reverse legislative changes that weakened the rule of law, to put in place new legislation to curb corruption and to fully enforce all legislation so as protect all Romanians. (…)
The United States will continue to fully support the Romanian military in its undertakings to defend the country from all external threats. Romania’s crucial role in NATO, defending Europe’s eastern flank, cannot be understated. The United States will continue to be Romania’s, and NATO’s, staunch ally and fully ensure Romania’s safety.” Zuckerman said on Thursday.
But even if the US ambassador said it sharper than ever, it’s no news.
The first collision between the Washington administration and Romania’s intangibles took place shortly after the 2001 attacks. The Americans wanted an extended partnership at the level of intelligence services, especially on the anti-terrorism line, but they quickly realized that, exactly as in Afghanistan, it will not be enough for them to only negotiate with the state, with the president. They will also have to negotiate with the other capitals of Romania, with the heads of large tribes, who had a veto over the major decisions of the country, through the heads of institutions whom they were controlling. Their names were slightly less complicated than those of the Afghans, but nothing different in essence: Vantu, Voiculescu, Patriciu.
It has been clear since then that if the Americans and their allies in Bucharest fail to annihilate the influence of the above-mentioned in state decisions, there will be no real strategic partnership.
It was not by any chance that the first assault on Traian Basescu, the one which resulted in his being suspended in 2007, began after the prosecutors started to purge the affairs of Voiculescu’s and Patriciu’s people. And not even that the second assault, the one in 2012, started after Basescu gave his consent for the installation of the missile shield in Deveselu. As it was not a coincidence that Dragnea regime programmatically sought to weaken the partnership with the US, through numerous hostile gestures, such as blocking the exploitation of the Black Sea gases and conditioning some military procurement programs in order to obtain immunity.
Even if the PSD has lost the power, and Dragnea is in prison, the reserve of mobsters willing to derail the Romanian-American strategic partnership, for the right price, should they return to political control, is intact. As well as their influence in all major institutions. If no one touches them, their money and networks will eventually be put back into the service of a new strategic reorientation assault. It’s just a matter of time.
This is well known to Klaus Iohannis too. Everything the US ambassador said has also been said by the president, as trenchantly as possible, for a good deal of time. He repeated it obsessively during the election campaign. Too often to suspect him of a populist bluff. It’s not his style. He prefers to be silent when it comes to a sensitive topic, not to pedal to the full. In addition, for him there is a major political risk. If he does not resume the fight against corruption, all the mafia networks that have massively contributed to the PSD, in exchange for contracts on public money, will stick to PNL. Unless they already have done it!
Which means that no matter to what extent he might ask the liberals to carry out reforms, changes and abandon old practices, in the name of the partnership between them and for the good of the country, they will say yes, but they will do nothing. Which will completely deplete his second term of meaning and frustrate the Americans. Who, despite the comments of the skeptics, will not give up speeches like the one on Thursday, which are also based on concrete actions. Like that „roadmap” for justice that Zuckerman recently spoke of, following a meeting with Minister Cătălin Predoiu.
And those who do not see Donald Trump as an engine for re-launching the anti-corruption fight in Romania and rightly invoke the bad relationship that the US President has with the justice of his country, should not forget that when it comes to other countries the tone is not given by the White House, but by the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the State Department. In this order! And the priorities that the army sets, starting from the military calculations, become mandatory for all other US institutions.
Career officials from these institutions are, for example, behind the same type of offensive in Bulgaria, about which I have written in detail here (aici). And if things start to move in Bulgaria, and there are signs that they are starting, there is no doubt that they will move in Romania as well. Because in the field of anti-corruption, Romania has good years ahead of all its neighbors. We already have a success story ticked off, to which we must return.
The results obtained in the past would not have been possible if there had not been a real partnership between Romanians, Americans and Europeans. A partnership above even the most valuable magistrates. And ten years ago, when the engines began to spin, many journalists were doubting the ability of some chiefs of prosecutor’s offices to fulfill their mission. Even Laura Codruța Kovesi was criticized for certain decisions from the period when she led the General Prosecutor’s Office.
It is by no means guaranteed that the people the president confirmed on Thursday as Heads of the main Prosecutor’s Offices will perform and succeed in resuming the fight against the big criminals. All have either visible, ostentatious spots, or dark zones in their past. But they are not the first with such resumés to reach the top of these institutions.
However, as in the past, one thing is certain. The urgency of remedying the political class, the administration and the business environment connected to public money will not diminish. And the more the politicians in power and the magistrates will delay announcing the kickoff of the general cleansing, the greater the pressure on them. And finally, they will give up.
I repeat what I also wrote in 2013: The imperative of the fight against corruption goes far beyond the stature of the ones who were elected to temporarily fulfill it.