It’s time for real change in Bucharest


How lucky we are to live in the People’s Republic of Sector 3. After a quiet autumn so far our enlightened mayor Robert Negoita (one of just three of the seven Bucharest mayors not to have been arrested*) this week recommenced work on one of the most important infrastructure projects the city has seen for decades. Yep, changing the street signs. Our street got its new livery yesterday morning.

We first wrote about this wonderful development a while ago. As we said then, beyond the pure waste of money, the Sector 3 signs are completely different from those seen throughout the rest of those in Bucharest. In a city which suffers badly from a lack of identity, every bit of unified branding helps. The Paris-inspired blue and green signs are not the best, but they were ubiquitous and readily recognisable. When one sector goes rogue any effort to create a Bucharest brand goes straight out of the window.

Our frustration with Negoita, with Bucharest in its current state and with Romania in general – new government or not – is the main driver behind our decision to actually get off our arses and do something. That and a moral conscience telling us it’s time to give something back to Bucharest. So on Monday – after meeting him and some of his team – we took a leap and decided to throw our bag in with Nicusor Dan.

You may remember Dan from the 2012 Bucharest local election. Standing as an independent, and despite having a minimal budget and facing both incumbent Sorin Oprescu and the USL’s Silviu Prigoana, Dan took almost nine per cent of the vote (three times the votes Gigi Becali got).

If independents had been allowed to stand candidates for the local council, Dan’s group would have taken five of the 55 seats on the city council. As this is Romania – where electoral law is designed to prevent new parties from getting a foot in the door, and to prevent local parties from forming – Dan was not allowed to take even one seat on the council.

This time, Dan is better prepared. Still short of funds – donations are welcome – he is close to completing the formation of an actual party, the Uniunea Salvati Bucurestiul (USB), an extension of the association he founded and still runs, the Asociatia Salvati Bucurestiul (ASB). The USB should officially be registered next Friday. The party can then raise funds and sign up members. We will be amongst the first.


First and foremost, Dan is clean and incorruptible. His current campaign (you may have seen his tents around the city) is based on bringing total transparency to council affairs. He wants the city and sectors’ accounts independently audited, and details of how every penny is spent made available for everyone to inspect online. Who could possibly object to that? (Answers on the usual postcard).

Secondly, he’s already done a lot for Bucharest, going right back to 2008 when the ASB was founded, and prevented the construction of four tower blocks in Piata George Enescu, directly in front of the Ateneu. Since then hundreds of such projects have been nipped in the bud by the association, which is currently involved in hundreds of others. The ASB’s staff – often just Dan and an assistant or two – are in court daily.

Thirdly, he represents the kind of Bucharest, and Romania, we want to live in: one which is well run. Dan is an apolitical politician, neither left nor right but simply committed to honest, transparent, European best-practice administration. At this stage in its development, that’s what Bucharest and Romania needs.

You can read more about Dan’s ideas in this interview he did with Michael Bird a couple of weeks ago. (We still think he is too soft on dogs by the way, but in the grand scheme of things that is now a relatively minor issue. Not least as there are so few left in Bucharest).

Finally, can he win the Bucharest mayor’s office next year? Given the current feeling towards the zombie political parties, there is no reason why not (although this article that claims he starts as favourite is pushing it a touch). A two-round contest would also help. In a one-off, winner takes all election the candidate backed by the PSD is likely to win, given the vast numbers of mindless drones who vote for whoever the PSD tells them.

So, who’s in? Remember: EU residents can vote in local elections. If you have registered at the immigration office you should automatically be on the electoral roll.

PS On the subject of street signs we have always liked the way Warsaw does it: the signs in the city’s various districts are the same size, use the same font and are in the same style, but each district has a different colour. Warsaw’s signs also helpfully tell you which way the streets are numbered. This is rather cool. It would be incredibly useful to have this in Bucharest, and while far from being a priority, if money simply has to be spent on street signs, this is the way to do it.


Well that didn’t last long

Update: Ciolos has published a new version of the government’s programme. The part about mayoral elections being held over two, and not one round of voting is missing. In better news, Mihai Selegean is not now the proposed Justice Minister. The far more worthy Raluca Pruna – erstwhile of the European Commission – is set to take the job.

New dawn fades. This time, faster than ever.

We should have known it was too good to be true. Having waxed partially lyrical yesterday about the proposed new Romanian government, it’s all gone a bit wrong overnight.

Most importantly (and most disastrously) the prime-minister designate Dacian Ciolos has withdrawn the nomination of Cristina Guseth as Minister of Justice. Although Guseth was given a hard time at her parliamentary approval hearing yesterday, she was, reluctantly, given the green light to become a minister. It appears that Ciolos – understandably rather worried about getting his government passed by parliament – ditched Guseth after fierce criticism from lawyers that she did not have a law degree. A prime minister who runs scared at the first sign of trouble is really not what we need right now. Ciolos has instead reportedly nominated Mihai Selegean as Justice Minister. Selegean is best known as being an adviser to Rodica Stanoiu, a securitate collaborator who held the justice portfolio from 2000-2004 (during the government of convicted criminal Adrian Nastase). So that’s a great move.

Secondly, Ciolos has alas not withdrawn the nomination of Marius Bostan as Communications Minster. Bostan is the owner of a notorious website,, an extreme right-wing online rag that regularly publishes outwardly racist and homophobic articles.

All very disappointing.

The new government’s programme

Is here (in Romanian) for anyone who wants to read it. We have read the edited highlights and have to say that if they deliver on even half of the policies listed in this document, then the future’s bright.

As it is, they face a hostile parliament and have given themselves only a year, so forgive us for being a little sceptical that they will achieve anything. Still, for what it’s worth, here our our own edited highlights:

1. Getting all political parties and future governments to sign up to a ten-year plan to develop the country’s infrastructure
2. Mayoral elections to be held over two, and not one round of voting
3. Removal of the electoral threshold and reduction of the number of signatures needed for independent candidacies
4. Allowing citizens groups and NGOs to propose legislation
5. Digitalisation of the electoral roll
6. Unequivocal support for the independence of the justice system
7. Promoting inclusive, progressive education via a new culture of tolerance and acceptance
8. Support for rural communities via the development and encouragement of collective action in agriculture
9. Introduction of performance-related-pay in the public sector
10. CAS reductions for those taking out private health insurance

Photo Opportunity

Dear Bucharest Life

I read with interest earlier today on your esteemed organ how a proposed member of the new Romanian government had been forced out of his new post (before he had even taken office) after it was revealed that he had modelled underwear in his youth.

As is my wont and training, I couldn’t help thinking that this might not be the first time a Romanian minister had been photographed in unsuitable attire. Perhaps you have a photograph on file that could confirm my suspicions?


Ron Ionescu


Romania’s new government: Not all bad

Not bad.

Romania’s new government was announced yesterday by prime minister-designate Dacian Ciolos, and is at first glance a decent enough team of largely independent experts, untainted (as far as we know) by corruption or by association with Romania’s zombie political parties. There are exceptions (the government must face a vote of confidence in parliament before it can be sworn in, hence the presence of the odd party stalwart) but make no mistake: this is a pro-European bunch that looks west and represents at least a small step in the right direction.

The proposed new cabinet of 22 ministers features eight women, a nod towards full recognition of the important role women must now play in Romanian public life. Men have by and large failed Romania: much of the country’s woes can be directly linked to its medieval attitudes towards women, assigned for far too long the role of baby machines and little else, ignoring the vast potential of millions. This new cabinet succeeds in partly redressing these wrongs, placing women – all of whom have bags of experience either in Brussels, at the IMF or at various progressive NGOs in Romania (including Freedom House) – in some of the most crucial and important portfolios including finance (Anca Dragu) and justice (Cristina Guseth).

It’s not all good news though. Initially nominated as Minister of Health, 28-year old Andrei Baciu was un-nominated just hours later after it was revealed that he had, ahem, revealed too much in some modelling photos a few years ago. (In fact, it was Baciu’s lack of experience which saw his name withdrawn. At least we hope so: if it’s true that earning honest cash by posing in your underwear is unacceptable behaviour in Romania then perhaps we are already living in some Sharia state).

PS As an added bonus, this cabinet is going to piss off lots of people (nationalists, misogynists, scumbag Legionnaire-apologists, pan-Slavists and pro-Russians especially). Wonderful.

PPS (Added later) It appears that the proposed Minister of Justice (Cristina Guseth) is not a lawyer. This has pissed off Romania’s lawyers. Another massive bonus.