Watching from Across the Border as Romania Awakens

The ongoing street protests in Romania fill this political journalist from neighboring Moldova with pride.

Romanians protest against corruption in Bucharest, February 4
Romanians protest against corruption in Bucharest, February 4 (Albert Dobrin)

As an active political journalist in the Republic of Moldova, I have been closely following the street protests in neighboring Romania, which are the largest of its kind since the fall of communism.

I was born after the Revolution of 1989, so I can’t know what that movement must have felt like. What I do know is that Romanians united then to bring down the totalitarian regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu and they are rallying now to rid themselves of another “red plague”, namely the Social Democratic Party.

The largest in the country, the party currently rules in coalition with the center-right liberals. One of the first acts of this new government when it came to power in January was to pardon non-violent offenders and decriminalize low-level abuses of office in cases where the damages were less than 200,000 leu, or €44,000.

The measures would have made a mockery of anti-corruption efforts in the EU member state.

Mass movement

Some 5,000 Romanians initially took to the streets of Bucharest to protest the ordinance, which the government meant to enact without input from parliament and despite negative opinions from judges and the prosecutors. Their ranks quickly swelled to the tens and then hundreds of thousands.

In early February, the government backed down and said it would repeal the measures. The responsible justice minister, Florin Iordache, stepped down. Yet Romanians continue to brave freezings colds to demonstrate against corruption generally.

New chapter

There have also been protests in the Romanian diaspora, including in Austria, Italy and Spain.

As a dual Romanian citizen, I watch these protests with enormous pride. The people of Romania are tired of being led by corrupt politicians and needing to leave their country for a better life. They deserve better.

Let these protests be the start of a new chapter in Romanian history: the beginning of a civic and truly European Romania, in which the people can create a better future for themselves and their children.

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