Sunday, March 17, 2013

A wake-up call (EN)

The shocking decision to impose a 'tax' on bank depositors in Cyprus will only reveal its full consequences in the coming days and weeks. The signs so far are ominous; bank runs and social unrest in the coming period cannot be ruled out.

But whatever happens, one thing is already clear: that the North/South, Centre/Periphery cleavage in the Eurozone and in the EU at large has become irreversible, a point of no return has been reached. It is no longer taboo to force periphery governments to bypass democracy, break their promises and even their countries' law, if the powerful creditors so desire. The existence of second-class countries in the EU, for long an unspoken reality, has been officially formalised. And, with it, the end of the EU as we once knew it.

Incidentally, the measure may be as stupid as it is abusive. But even if it works, by some miracle and against the evidence of EU-imposed policies so far in its Southern rim, the harm of breaking the promise of a united Europe made of equal citizens is already done.

Out of a sense of historical justice, I would be tempted to wish that countries who are now forcing Cyprus into this legalised theft of its citizens' savings would one day live through such an experience themselves. But no, this would be wrong in any circumstance, and two wrongs don't make a right. I don't wish any citizen of any country to face a situation of being robbed outright by his or her own government. As one who lived under a totalitarian regime, I know well the feeling of frustration and disempowerment that such arbitrariness can bring, and how big a blow it can be to citizenship and basic human dignity.

For Romania, a periphery country itself and chronically treated as second-class within the EU - largely due to a corrupt, self-interested political class - this should be a last-chance wake-up call.

There is a pressing urgency is to take all possible precautions to avoid getting in situations as humiliating as those faced these days by the bankrupt countries of the Eurozone. This objective should become the new national priority, one to unite all responsible individuals from all political camps.
Though it may look uninspiring in comparison with the earlier grand aspirations of post-communist transition, those of democracy-building and Euro-Atlantic integration, at a closer look it appears just as vital and challenging. It's not about the kind of strident, nationalistic and anti-European statements that have lately become common currency in Romanian politics. On the contrary, it's about stepping up dramatically the country's European and international game in order to build-up, in time, prestige and influence and acquire sufficient respect to no longer be the usual suspect or the default country to blame for all kinds of problems (as was again recently the case with the horse meat scandal). But most of all, it's about transforming the country itself for the better. This requires diligent and honest work for the public interest, cleaning up domestic affairs, treating Romanian citizens at home as we would like them to be treated abroad. In short, a thorough re-shaping, a vastly ambitious agenda for a new generation of leaders, one that goes beyond politics to encompass society at large.
Without it, we are in great danger. And - as the Eurozone's canibalisation of its weaker members shows - we are running out of time.

If, in a crisis, Romania will find itself to be the weakest of the herd, God help us, because there will not be many friends around.


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