The Week in Bucharest Life

Piata Universitatii, Wednesday. Click for cource
Piata Universitatii, Wednesday. Click for source

This week in Bucharest has unquestionably been one of the more eventful of our time in the Romanian capital, one which – with impeccable timing – in fact caught us in London until late on Thursday evening. As such, as much as we’d like to say that we were out there on the streets of Bucharest trying to turn the world upside down we weren’t. We were watching Chelsea rather fortunately beat Dynamo Kyiv, amongst other things. We shall not be penning a book entitled Victor Ponta: Our Role in his Downfall anytime soon.

Last Friday, a fire at a club, Colectiv, killed 27 people. Six have since died of their injuries in hospital and tens remain – a week on – in a critical condition. The death toll may rise even further.

After three days of national mourning and inaction on the part of the government, tens of thousands of Romanians – mainly young people – took to the streets of Bucharest on Tuesday night to demand the resignation of prime minister Victor Ponta, interior minister Gabriel Oprea and the mayor of Bucharest’s Sector 4 (in which the club is located) Cristian Popescu Piedone. Arguably the largest demonstration since 1990, its sheer size, and the level of public anger that went with it, meant that this time, finally, Ponta could not hang on. He resigned on Wednesday morning. As is the protocol in Romania, when a prime minister resigns, the government follows.

The education minister, Sorin Campeanu, will serve as interim PM until a new, permanent prime minister is named.

Not satisfied that the government had fallen, even more people took to the streets of Bucharest on Wednesday night, joined by others in a number of cities around the country. At the peak of the protests, around 10pm, at least 75,000 were out on the streets in city or another, roughly half of them in the capital.

On Thursday, Romania’s dithering president Klaus Iohannis began formal consultations with the parliamentary parties regarding the future. Of the two main parties, the PSD are most keen to try and keep their majority intact, while the opposition PNL wants parliament dissolved and new elections held.

Those who have been protesting want neither a new PSD-dominated government nor a general election (which would in all likeliness see a PNL-dominated government elected). As such, further demonstrations were held on Thursday night: while smaller than the previous two evenings at least 10,000 were out in Bucharest’s Piata Universitatii.

On Friday, Iohannis met with representatives of various NGOs. Some – Sorin Ionita, Dan Nicusor – were more representative of what is termed ‘civil society’ than others (who we shan’t bother to name). Indeed, at least five of the major civil society NGOs (including Ionita’s Export Forum) have come up with a ten-point plan for the immediate future (until the end of this year), one we broadly agree with.

It includes naming a credible (read: non-political) prime minister, a return to the two-stage voting system for mayors, the immediate revocation of mandates for mayors and local councillors who have changed party since election, more power for the anti-corruption agency, the DNA, and sacking the bosses of all state-owned companies currently under investigation (more or less all of them).

Beyond that, there is of course much else that needs to be done. It should now be clear to anyone except the most stubborn ostrich that the fire at Colectiv was the final straw for most Romanians who, after decades of corruption have finally, belatedly had enough. The demonstrations which began on Tuesday night are not merely about changing government, but changing the country. For the time being, Iohannis (and only Iohannis – even the usually sacred church has come under attack) has been spared the wrath of the mob. If he gets his next move wrong however, he will be the next target.

Meantime, the demonstrations go on. We will join them this evening.

PS Who would we choose as the credible prime minister? Easy: Laura Codruta Kovesi, boss of the DNA.

PPS If you read just one article about what’s currently happening in Romania, make sure you read this one. Twice.

  • FV

    From the Guardian article:

    “Others have questioned the political motivations of prosecutors at DNA, though the agency has successfully gone after plenty of politicians on both sides of the parliamentary aisle”.

    It’s hard not to question Kovesi’s political motivations when corrupt politicians such as Traian Basescu (as well as his brother Mircea), Boc, Blaga and many others from the former PDL are still running around free.

    I’m pretty sure Ms Kovesi is a very intelligent lady and she can see the writing on the wall in the wake of the recent demonstrations. She may fool some lazy journalists from the Guardian and the NY Times but she won’t be able to fool “the street” for much longer. It’s fairly clear Romanians have had it with corrupt politicians of all stripes.

    If the above named politicians (and especially T. Basescu) will not be on their way to jail by the end of Iohannis presidential term, I very much doubt that the Romanian public will keep holding her in such high esteem as they do today (even if she sends all the corrupt PSD politicians behind bars). And, most likely, Iohannis could kiss his second term goodbye. Just my .02$

  • Why is the director of emergency response in Romania Syrian? No Romanians had the idea for SMURD?! Without outside help like Arafat and the EU, Romania would be a joke.

  • Amazing Klaus took the risk to go to Universitate tonight. Obama could never walk into a crowd of protesters. Some guy from Idaho would open fire with automatic weapons fire and the like.

  • Yes, and all the good places aren’t in Lipscani anyways:

  • “18 of the victims were sent by plane to clinics in Belgium, The Netherlands and Austria on Saturday, November 7. Prior to this, two others were sent to Israel: Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. On Sunday, four more people are scheduled to be sent to Norway and Finland. Next week, hospitals in France, UK and Germany will also welcome patients from Romania. The Romanian Government will cover the costs for all patients treated abroad.”

    There are two European Unions and Romania is in the second one. . . Why doesn’t Romania as an EU member have adequate medical care for these people? Why are they having to be sent to Western Europe?

    • Mr Rearguard

      Give it a rest it’s boring!

    • Root-of-Vexation

      Why does a modern day European country need to be part of a undemocratic political union at all. I’d much rather see the UK be in full control of its affairs and be allowed to control its borders.

      Naturally it’s not a popular concept with those who benefit from ever closer political union, the lunatic left, one agenda greens and general deluded, and carpet bagging EU mep’s and civil servants, to name but a few – however Davina has a point, in as such Romania in 2015, should have the ability to cope and house the tragic survivors from the disaster … But if specialists in burns, plastic surgery is sourced from outside (ie surgeons) that’s not a problem, of course not, but it’s Ponta and his ilk, who’ve allowed the health service in Romania to stagnate, and the answer is democracy and progress.

      • Just imagine for a few moments what Romania would be like without the EU.

        • CommonSense-Less

          Probably like Ukraine or Moldova at the moment. Romania’s aspiration to join the EU, and now the Eurozone has at least driven change; the DNA wouldn’t be doing half the stuff they are if it wasn’t for EU pressure.

        • Everything would be cheaper, people would be free, resources would belong to the nation…

          • CommonSense-Less

            The Romanian politicians did a good job of getting the country into debt and stripping public assets before EU membership. Shame considering what the country went through to clear it’s debt under Ceausescu.

            • Our best year was 2006… just before we made our entrance in the EU. Ever since 2007 we’ve been going down on all chapters.

          • Root-of-Vexation

            Parmo some countries benefit significantly from being in a political union and some don’t – thankfully the UK will have a referendum soon on our membership of this undemocratic political union (but most likely to vote to stay in it)

            However hopefully the EU fanatics will give NO concessions to Dodgy Dave at all, and he’ll be forced to spout evermore of his sceptical EU ramblings and ultimately be forced to campaign to leave !!! We can only dream can’t we 🙂


            So many interesting facts coming out to quell the many former angry rants of the pro EU fanatics on here 🙂

            Love the ones about how a higher percentage than ever of EU migrants are claiming benefits and how we’d be better off on day one from leaving the EU !

            Happily post the links if anyone gets angry enough that they demand proof or can’t use google properly 🙂

        • Root-of-Vexation

          Craig it’s the Romanians politicians which is the main problem, plenty of countries are thriving without being a EU member state – and some not, granted, but again they’ve internal political problems and corruption etc … The point is a well run country doesn’t need the EU to survive, but I fully understand why the greedy politicians of Romania were all too eager to sign up to the EU.

        • Mr Rearguard

          It would be just like the good old days of late 1990’s.

        • What do Romanian hospitals not have that all these Western European ones do? Is it lack of technology or lack of doctor expertise, or both?

          • Space. They don’t have enough beds, they’re overcrowded. Other than that – hospitals in Bucharest have mostly everything. I don’t know what the situation looks like outside Bucharest.

            • I see. I guess I am thinking from an American perspective. Every state in the USA has the medical capacity for such an incident like Colectiv at its capital city’s hospital or university hospital. The down side is that in America, the government is never going to pay to fly you anywhere for advanced care–that would be up to you.

    • The same would have happened in any number of EU countries to be fair. Burns units are usually small, few and far between as fires of this scale are – thankfully – not common. What is common is a using empty capacity in other EU states. It’s kind of what the EU is for.

      • Root-of-Vexation

        Empty capacity in the EU

        Fair point, so when’s Romania taking its fair share of economic migrants in or handing out millions in benefits ?

        • Mr Rearguard

          Hold up sunshine; when is fookin Israehell and fookin peado paradise Vatican City gonna take their fookin fair share in eh?

      • ??? The money used on the new church behind Ceausescu’s palace should have been used on hospitals here. Romania really is illogical. You can pray all you want but it isn’t going to keep you from dying. Only EU level medical care will.

    • random

      because no european country has capacities for almost 100 burnt victims.hospitals for the burnt are usually special units separate from the rest.Romania…actually has a hospital for burns only(spitalul de arsi)
      This is one of the toughest challenges for a doctor..a burnt victim.
      get ur facts right before posting…u feeble brain.still strugglin with the language davina? not havin a clue of what is happ around you? your brain can only recognize gorgeous chicks and mercs? Intelligence starts when you know more than your own language.

      • Root-of-Vexation

        I’m no

        • CommonSense-Less

          There’s a certain amount of irony in you taking the piss out of the quality of English coming from a non-native speaker Roger, when you can barely communicate in your mother tongue…

          • Root-of-Vexation

            Look, I’m doing my best to ignore your stalking and childish attempts at ruining the forum … But if you’re going to stalk, I can’t stop you – only Craig with an IP ban of some description would halt you for a short time – but all I will ask is this … If you’re going to stalk me, and you haven’t got anything better to do with your life, then at least do everyone the courtesy of stating factual remarks, when carrying out your angry, childish stalking posts.

            I’ve neve one taken the ‘micky’ out of anyone’s language on here, who’s not a native speaker … You’re the only one with form for that kind of thing.

            Now, please take your stalking elsewhere – it seems you’ve allowed Davina to anger you, so why don’t you either carry on stalking him, or better still – take your unpleasant posting style to somewhere more suited, like you tube or something similar.

            As much as I was equally to blame as you, in the past – for all you throw at me (much of it bizarre angry ranting lies) … It’s actually you whose the one looking rather childish and silly, especially as you don’t appear to have the humility to show any remorse or acceptance that you’re a bit of tragic Internet troll/stalker.

            Having said all of that – I’m 99.9% sure you’ll claim some kind of meltdown or abusive rant or quip to this statement of fact – but you never know, maybe you have it in you to be nice, but I seriously doubt it – the abusive manner in which you often posts and the disgraceful bullying of he lady who posted as Prisoner of your eyes … Tells me you’ll carry on regardless!

            Although when I say bully – prisoner of your eyes ran rings around you 🙂

            And it’s funny the ones who do that – are the ones who seem to anger you the most :)))

            Av a nise dey an dont allow mee to angar u so mutch – I thort your two intellagent for that 🙂

      • Root-of-Vexation

        I can’t speak for Romania, but I’d expect there to be the beds to cope with 100 victims of a disaster though – although I appreciate the specialist expertise and care may be lacking, possibly? This could be source from within the EU I imagine and of course often countries are only too willing to send experts or house people who’ve been victim of such a tragic event.

        My only query with the random anonymous comment, is that I’d like to think the UK has the expertise and ability to cope with 100 people with burn injuries – but I’m not an expert on what the NHS can cope with, but surely in this day and age we would be able to cope.

        So on that basis I’d question the claims that no European country could cope – I reckon Germany, France and the U.K. could cope with 100 people, but if anyone has divinitive proof to the contrary – I’d like to hear it ?

        When it come to people’s health, and such an incident – it’s NO shame on seeking help though, lets be clear on that.

    • Crae

      Why isn’t the US more like Finland? Why isn’t Romania more like Sweden? Why don’t girls like it when I point my camera up their skirts? Why don’t Romanians do what I think they should do? Why do I always I ask rhetorical questions that can’t really be answered?

      • CommonSense-Less


      • Root-of-Vexation

        Crae I’ve got to agree on the sense that some of what Davina calls “Street photography” borders on something a little bit uneasy or dare I say pervy.

        Also it looks kind of intrusive, almost as if he likes the fact people in Romania have perhaps one extreme of wealth to the other – and yet he constantly moans about the problems and infrastructure etc etc etc … But then states he’d hate to see it change ?

        His constant contradictions don’t make any sense at all.

        • Crae

          He is fascinated and repelled by Romania’s problems, but too lazy/clueless to try to really understand them. Following girls around in their halter tops is probably easier….

          • CommonSense-Less

            Don’t forget he likes to photograph minors too.

          • Root-of-Vexation

            Crae you’re quite possibly not far off the mark, his constant contradictions don’t make any sense at all … Moaning about the so called backwardness and then on the other hand, “hoping it doesn’t change too much” – it’s hypocritical at best!

            I did have a browse of his “street photography” on his blog, or whatever people call it nowadays and I have to say, there’s a worrying amount of pictures of women and very young girls – which is a little bit disturbing to be honest.

            I wonder if Davina has an explanation for this and his stance on Romania?

  • CommonSense-Less

    ‘At the same time, it is clear that considerable resistance from the Romanian political elite will remain. Despite the protests and calls for reform, on 4 November a collection of politicians from different parties launched an appeal to the Constitutional Court to challenge the recently passed law allowing the diaspora to vote by post. The diaspora, which is seen as a major force demanding change and supporting the reformists, is seen as an enemy to the political elite.

    The timing of the move was deliberate: the cut off for changes to the electoral law is 15 November, and, by waiting until now, the challengers ensured that the Constitutional Court will not be able to make a decision until 18 November. Hence, even if the appeal ends up being rejected, the diaspora will still not be able to vote, and the Romanian political elite will more easily achieve its goal of keeping the rule. ‘

  • Laura Codruta Kovesi is doing a great job, we need her where she is. The idea of moving her to another job is absurd.

  • Mr Rearguard

    Some more of Craig’ new lovely neighbours.

  • Most of the people who took the streets are superficial, don’t understand the system and don’t know what they want. Back in 1989 they all wanted to see Ceausescu gone and Communism abolished. Nowadays the target is so diffuse (“corruption”, “political class”, “jobs” etc…) that it can’t even be named a target.

    Apart from most people, we can also find in the street various groups of interests: anti-national NGOs, budget-financed NGOs, young PNL activists who want their patroning thieves to take over the government, agents from the Romanian Securitate and foreign secret service agents belonging to foreign embassies.

    As such – nothing is gonna change. The street have already lost the fight.

    Unless they pass through the petrol stations tomorrow evening…

    • Mr Rearguard

      Isn’t it cheaper to buy petrol at the weekends?

      • Imagine that we could actually get a revolution for the price of a Dacia Logan fill-up…

  • So Romanians wait 26 years after the fall of Ceausescu to get out and protest corruption?! More than a quarter of a century to finally begin confronting the country’s communist legacy? What took everyone so long? The rest of the former Eastern Bloc got things taken care of in the 1990s.

  • Crae

    Davin is hoping that Romania remains a shadowy, corrupt backwater so that he can continue to complain about its being shadowy and corrupt.

    Hope Iohannis wakes up a bit, he seems a bit caught off balance by events. But I guess a lot of people are.

    • No, I’m just hoping that the recent events don’t make the girls in 20 cm heels go away along with their men in 100,000 euro Mercedes AMGs. . . Bucharest could fast become a normal city with women wearing baggy jeans and unkept hair and men driving compact cars.

    • We obviously can’t expect a peasant with little to no political experience to rise up to the challenge of leading the country through such difficult times. I always said Basescu had been gone too soon, he was supposed to stay for another 2 years or so…

  • Root-of-Vexation

    Let’s hope the EUssr don’t see this as an opportunity to wade in with non elected non entities.

    Surely a transparent and democratic process is what’s required – with more than one candidate to vote for!

    But alas this is politics – so I’d be very sceptical that anything fair or democratic will be the order of the day 🙁

    • Yes, because Romania’s elected entities have done such a smashing job.

      • Root-of-Vexation

        Craig I’m not saying they’ve done a good job, far from it – but who elected them and is it proportional representation (as the UK should be) but sadly isn’t.

        If they were elected democratically by Romanians or residents eligible to vote – then that’s fair enough.

        Why doesn’t Romania then grasp the next opportunity to elect a non corrupt entity, or at least one which appears to be non corrupt!

        Nation state democracy is what most normal people strive for – it’s why thousands are on the streets (including yourself) so why on earth would you want to support the EUssr – which appears to loathe the mere concept of nation states and democracy!

        Surely Romania as a country, would want in the majority, a fair and non corrupt set of individuals to take the country forward?

        • The current Romanian electoral system mixes the worst of the UK system with the worst of PR. It also has a five per cent electoral threshold which prevents new, small parties entering parliament.

          • Root-of-Vexation

            Sounds like it needs serious reform, as does the parliament … But my question remains – in the next election (whenever that may be) is there a likelihood of viable candidates and will Romania elect the best man or women for the job?

            Given the current feeling and changes at the top, will the people elect the right people this time?

            Or isn’t there enough ill feeling and apathy reigns?

            Could this be the start of a ‘revolution’ in terms of voters mindset and numbers who actually vote – or is it a public outpouring of anger … Which sadly may not carry the weight for a significant period of time – to enable genuine change.

            Interesting times – but by the mother of God, you don’t seriously want the EUssr to get involved and remove any semblance of nation state democracy !!!

  • CommonSense-Less

    What about Arafat? Keep the head of DNA doing her thing chasing down bastards?

    • Arafat is not credible.

      • Johan Bouman

        Why is Arafat not credible? Just curious. By the way i read on Hotnews that mr. Ciolos is rumoured to be asked. Seems like a credible guy

        • Johan Bouman

          this one is just so i could check the box for notifying me of new comments:)

        • Smurd is mired in corruption, not least the (allegedly) abusive way it sells its services to the state funded county health insurance funds.

          • CommonSense-Less

            Meh, even the ‘good guys’ are wankers…

      • There isn’t a single name in this country to be considered credible for taking over the government from now-on.

        As far as administration is concerned, Ponta managed to put in a more than decent performance, with many broad spectrum reforms.

        Even if Jesus Christ lands at Victoria Palace, in this political context, he will have a hard time to prove himself and he will always be compared to Ponta.

        On the other hand, “the street” wants some kind of a new figure which nobody can produce. Not even Isarescu or Tiriac would satisfy the street at this moment, they’re all considered to be from the old guard.

        There is no solution, anyone who takes over the government at this point will end up digested by politicians, tv stations and street protests. His credibility would be gone forever, in less than 6 months.

        We might even have 2 different governments next year… one “technical” government in spring and a PSD-UNPR-ALDE government in autumn.

        2016 is a lost year for Romania. Nothing will be done next year.

      • And I might add that Ponta outclassed the entire Opposition (Johannis, PNL, “civil society”, secret services) by stepping down the way he did.

        That was the move of a political grand-master.

        • CommonSense-Less

          Oh I agree on that, since he had no direct connection to the fire, him stepping down allowed him to quit on his own terms and avoid admitting guilt for his many many scandals.

        • What? If he had had any ‘class’ he would have resigned the moment it was revealed he had plagiarised his doctoral thesis. Or when he lost the presidential election, or when he was formally charged for corruption…

          • CommonSense-Less

            And as sickening as it is, he survived all of those incidents.

          • Politics is about getting power, hanging on to power… or regaining power. That’s what a politician has to do.

            With this resignation Ponta planted the seeds for the PSD to regain power after next years elections and also for clearing his name. Had he resigned after one of those scandals, it would have been much worse for him and for the party,