Wednesday, May 13, 2009

An offer too good to refuse

During the events of earlier April and subsequently, there has been a lot of talk of reunification with Romania. Some view this as an inevitability sometime in the next 10-20 years, others see it as a possible outcome of a deal cut between Putin & Basescu.

Personally, I think that successful reunification can only take place if both the people and political elite of the Republic of Moldova are given an offer by Romania which is sufficiently attractive.

There are obvious material advantages that would accompany reunification, and these need to be identified:
- access to the EU market
- access to EU structural funds
- EU citizenship
- equalisation of welfare benefits with Romania

BARRIERS TO REUNIFICATION

The thing is, the material benefits are insufficient in themselves. Reunification isn't that popular an idea in Moldova - it's only supported by 10 to 20% of the population. The reasons are mainly cultural. For starters, Moldova has a large slavonic minority which has little affinity with Romania. Second, even the majority ethnic Romanian population feels that Moldova has a distinct identity, culture, mentality and values. While they share the same origins as their brothers across the Prut, 200 years of Russian influence have left their mark.

Reunification is even more unpopular among Chisinau's political class, for a very simple reason. Today, the city is a national capital and financial centre. Reunified with Romania, Chisinau would be downgraded to a county town such as Iasi or Brasov. It would only have jurisdiction over the central part of the existing republic (as Balti, Cahul and Tiraspol would also become county centres), and hundreds of positions would be disestablished as the infrastructure of national government was dismantled. Lots of people would have lots to lose.

Remember also that Moldova's previous experience of reunification left a lot to be desired. When it initially broke away from the Russian empire in 1918, Moldova enjoyed a few brief months of independence. Then it agreed to reintegrate with Romania under a deal which saw it retain significant autonomy. In subsequent years, however, the promised autonomy was gradually whittled away to nothing. At the same time, Romania itself spiralled downwards from democracy to Antonescu's fascism.

REMAKING ROMANIA

The solution to the reunification problem lies not in Moldova, but in Romania. Reunification would present an unparalleled opportunity for that country not just to reintegrate Moldova, but also to deal with its own troubled political structures.

The fact is that Romania is over-governed. It has a 137-member senate and 315-member lower house. It has 42 counties, each with their own bureaucracy. It has an extensive government machinery, replete with counsellors of varying description and usefulness.

What I would propose is a complete remaking of Romania's government structure. Improve the efficiency of government by combining the counties into, say, seven larger entities (let's call them 'states'). For argument's sake these states could be Banat, Transylvania, Maramures, (Western) Moldova, Dobrogea, Tara Romaneasca and Bucuresti.

Each state would have a governor and a 15 member unicameral parliament overseeing its governmental structures. The same 15 deputies would occupy seats in the national parliament (which would have 105 members in total). The senate would be abolished.

The states would assume the powers of the existing counties as well as whatever power could be sensibly devolved from Bucharest. In particular the states would have control over cultural issues. Hungarian could be made a second official language, for example, but only within the borders of Transylvania.

Ministries and government agencies which don't need to be located in Bucharest would be relocated to the state capitals. The Ministry of Labour could be in Cluj, Iasi could get Health and Timisoara Education, for example.

THE REUNIFICATION PROCESS

With Romania organised in such a manner it becomes a lot easier to simply slot in the Republic of Moldova as an eighth state. Chisinau would retain its status as a significant capital city, having its own governmental infrastructure and substantial autonomy. Moldova could retain much of its cultural distinctiveness. The Russian language could safely become a second official language without threatening the renaissance of the Romanian language on its native soil. 'Cistigi' and 'ciine' could continue to be spelt with an 'i', not an 'a', and food (stored in a 'holodelnic') would continue to be 'ghine' rather than 'bine'...

Combined with the material advantages presented in the introduction above, this would be an offer too good for Moldova to refuse. Offered graciously by Romania, and accepted by national referendums in both countries, it could offer the path to a truly shining future.

3 comments:

  1. I could definitely get behind that entire vision you outlined there - it sounds like a brand new, federalised Romania with a slimmed down government - completely unlike the bloated and corrupt parasite government we have at the moment. The trouble is that you are many years ahead of your time, if not maybe ... living in a parallel universe. Sadly, I cannot imagine governmental reform on such a profound scale in Romania without another bloody revolution. The corruption and the oligarchy seem far to well entrenched to give up on their priveleges without the threat of jailtime or worse (much like the PCRM), and as far as reintegration or reunification with (east) Moldova is concerned, I cannot imagine such a gracious offer ever being made, because of a fundamental arrogance in some measure from the centre (which seems to be decreasing with time), widespread historical ignorance of the fundamental issues, as well as a lack of sincere understanding, empathy and constructive, dynamic activism in promoting new bridges with the people of (east) Moldova. Having said all that, Romania has always been a source of major surprises, so it's a vision worth promoting all the same.

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  3. Any such attempt at federalizing Romania must be kept clear of any additional obstacles it might create. If federalization means the creation of borders within Romania, that would be a no.

    Also, the federal system is entirely non-Romanian. We never had any experience with something like this whatsoever, and the country is too small to sustain a federation.

    Any ideas of a federation will fail from the start. It would be a good idea to have a federation IN GENERAL, but the complications that would ensue would outweight the benefits.
    Think of the fact that legislation would have to be enacted in each province, police and judicial systems as well, taxation policies, and all the chaos that would bring in maintaining a coherent, common policy.

    Third of all, we don't need a federation to accomplish the above. Downsizing the parliament would be OK. Moving the capital from Bucharest, every 10 years to another city is another good thing. I propose the capital of Romania to be Chisinau after the Reunification. If not, a neutral city like the beautiful Brasov will do.

    Having said the above, I'm against a federation, so are 99% of Romanian people (EVEN though I live in a federation - USA). The concept of a federation will never work in Romania. It should not be applied. It's not ours, and it doesn't suit the region either.

    It is a bad idea for Romania. It would work well elsewhere but never here.

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