The Week in Bucharest Life

'I am smoking a fag'
‘I am smoking a fag’

It’s been a bad year for Alina Gorghiu, leader of the Romanian Liberal Party (PNL). A shoo-in to be the country’s first female prime minister this time last year she has spent the past 12 months showing just why she is utterly unfit for the job. Leaving aside accusations that her law firm did business with the state she turned out to be an atrociously poor leader of the opposition, her stance on certain issues at times indistinguishable from that of the hated prime minister Victor Ponta and his infinitely corrupt PSD. She did little to convince ordinary Romanians that the PNL is cut from different cloth to the PSD (albeit a difficult task, given that it isn’t) and as a result her party, once certain of a clear victory in next year’s parliamentary elections, is now as much of a busted flush as the PSD itself. A belated effort to clean up the party over the past month or so (she plans to prevent anyone under investigation for corruption standing on the PNL’s ticket) has so far fooled very few. It’s all far too little, far too late.

Anyway, in the same way that a broken clock is right twice a day, Gorghiu did get something right this week: ‘Bucharest is in a shocking state,’ she said ‘and whoever becomes mayor next year has one hell of a job to do.’ (She then went on to say, using a rather unfortunate turn of phrase, that the city council needed a ‘bomb’ placing underneath it. You can insert your own jokes about certain areas of the city being vastly improved by heavy bombing).

Bomb or not, nobody can dispute Gorghiu’s claim that Bucharest is falling apart at the seams. Four of the seven mayors elected in 2012 have been arrested (Sorin Oprescu, Andrei Chiliman, Marean Vanghelie and Cristian Popescu Piedone) for corruption. More overcrowded than ever the city’s long suffering infrastructure is struggling to cope with the sheer number of people who need to use it. Public transport – once merely bad – is now shockingly awful, and traffic worse than ever. The amount of time people spend getting from one place to another must surely be having a negative impact on the city’s output. Billions of euros must be lost every year due to people being stuck in traffic. And yet given the Byzantine way in which Bucharest is run, it is difficult to see how even a mayor with the very best of intentions could achieve a great deal. Like the bloated Romanian state itself, Bucharest’s endless layers of administration need annihilating. Doing away with the six sectors and handing all power to a single mayor and a single council would be a good start.

So who wants the job? Well, the first confirmed nomination is Cristian Busoi of the PNL. Currently an MEP, Busoi is a former head of the Romanian State Health Insurance Company (CNAS), which he ran from 2007-14. One of the most bureaucratic and inefficient government agencies in existence, Busoi’s inability to reform CNAS does not suggest that he is cut out to radically change Bucharest.

The PSD meantime have yet to formally announce their candidate, although they did this week float the name of Gabriela Firea-Pandele, one of the nastiest shits in Romanian politics. (Given how crowded a field that is – up against some tough competition – that’s an impressive achievement). You may remember that during last year’s presidential election campaign – in which she served as Ponta’s spokesperson – Firea claimed that Klaus Iohannis did not have a ‘complete family’, as he had no children. A total bitch, married to Florentin Pandele (mayor of one of Bucharest’s least salubrious suburbs, Voluntari) we can’t imagine the PSD would be that stupid to put her forward as a candidate. Then again, this is the PSD we’re talking about.

As we have said before, it is Nicusor Dan who will be getting our vote, more for his commitment to transparency and the fight against corruption than anything else. We also like Dan because he really, really pisses off nationalists. More here.

The joker in the Bucharest pack is Traian Basescu. He has yet to formally state that he is not interested in once again becoming mayor of the city he ran – not entirely without success – from 2000 to 2004. His candidacy would blow the race wide apart, not least as the electoral system being used will, in all likeliness, be first past the post. (The government of Dacian Ciolos appears to have entirely forgotten its early promise to reintroduce two rounds of voting for mayoral elections). Even with the current level of anger at the zombie parties, it is all but impossible that Basescu would win, however. The most likely outcome of a Basescu candidacy is a split in the anti-PSD vote, which would hand the mayor’s office to Firea-Pandele (or whichever talking gorilla the PSD stands for election).

Next year’s Romanian budget was drafted last weekend, and at first glance it’s a decent enough document that marks a subtle yet distinct move away from the populism of Ponta’s administration. Although the budget incorporates the 10 per cent increase in public sector pay that was Ponta’s final act of government – as well as a reduction in VAT to 20 per cent – a proposed increase in the minimum wage (from 1050 lei per month to 1200 lei) has been ditched. Pensions, however, will be increased by five per cent from January 1, 2016.

Most controversially, the budget has reduced to zero (from 170 million lei – €37 million – in 2015) the government’s contribution to the construction of new churches (in particular the mammoth cathedral being built next to Casa Poporului in Bucharest). Having initially appeared to backtrack on that part of the budget after criticism from certain parts (although certainly not all) of the Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR), Ciolos stated quite clearly on Wednesday that there would indeed be no money for new churches. ‘Given the state of the country’s finances, we can’t afford to allocate any money for the building of churches,’ he said. ‘The government will only step in with finance when it has the means to do so.’

It’s worth noting at this point that the government has allocated the BOR 315 million lei (€70 million) in the budget, the vast majority of which will be spent on the salaries of the clergy. The BOR is also – like any charity in Romania, and indeed most countries – exempt from income and wealth taxes. We have no problem with that, by the way (no charity or NGO should pay tax) although we would expect the church – like any charity – to make public full details of its spending, down to the last leu. Indeed, were it to voluntarily do so, it might get some of its fiercer critics off its back. As somebody far wittier than us (Jim Hacker) once said: ‘The ways of the Lord may be mysterious, but I see no need for the church accounts to be the same.’

As an example of what can be done, here is the Church of England’s annual report for 2014. If the BOR were to publish something similar, it would be doing itself a huge favour.

Excellent news from Brussels this week where Romania’s European Commissioner, Corina Cretu of the PSD (pictured at the top of the page) is doing the country proud. Not all that keen on work, Cretu allegedly has a tendency to ‘combine official trips with leisure travel and to ask staff to perform personal tasks, such as doing laundry, shopping for groceries and chauffeuring family members.’ No wonder eight have her 19 staff have resigned over the past 12 months. Cretu also has one of the worst attendance records of all 28 commissioners and reportedly avoids meetings on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. Still, at least she is available for two days a week. Oh, and on those rare occasions she does turn up at work, Cretu apparently likes to smoke in her office, despite an institution-wide ban. When she was first told she couldn’t smoke in the commission building, Cretu allegedly replied: ‘In Romania, ministers can do whatever they want.’

The full case against Cretu is here. It’s well worth reading the whole piece. You will be delightfully appalled. A protege of Ion Iliescu, Cretu has been touted as a possible PSD presidential candidate in 2019.

Staying with the subject of smoking, those of us who long to go out in Bucharest for a drink or a meal and not smell like an ashtray at the end of the night will have to wait a little longer to get our wish.

A law which bans smoking just about everywhere (including restaurants, bars, clubs and cafes) was held up in Romania’s parliament again this week after the head of the lower houses’s health commission, Florin Buicu (PSD of course) failed to turn up for a meeting of the commission he chairs. Why is this a big deal? Well, an amendment to the law needs to be OK-ed by the commission before parliament can vote on it. Having kept the other members of the commission (as well as a number of representatives of clean air NGOs) waiting for over two hours, Buicu announced that he would not be coming by SMS. ‘Next week’, he texted. The chances of the law being passed before the Christmas break are now as slim as a Virginia.

It is in cases such as this that the government should use emergency ordinances to push through crucial legislation, bypassing what is becoming an increasingly despicable parliament altogether.

Romania’s heroic anti-corruption agency, the DNA, made a number of arrests this week as part of an investigation into illegal land and property dealings which have defrauded the tax authorities of as much as €140 million. Amongst those arrested are: Dan Andronic, the owner of one of Romania’s few remaining newspapers, Evenimentul Zilei; Remus Truica, corrupt former prime minister Adrian Nastase’s chief of staff; and Marius Marcovici, once an adviser to another former prime minister, Calin Popescu Tariceanu. Also wanted by the DNA for questioning is the comical Prince Paul. Paul (real name Paul Lambrino) was conveniently taken ill however while travelling to the DNA’s offices and later admitted to hospital.

In other DNA news, its boss, the amazingly wonderful Laura Codruta Kovesi, expressed concern on Thursday at the manner in which convicted criminals can substantially reduce their sentences by writing scientific books. ‘The law needs to be changed,’ Kovesi said. ‘Those with scientific leanings can just as well write their books outside of prison.’

Romania’s National Institute of Statistics (INS) announced this week that the country’s population continues to fall, and is now at around 19 million, its lowest level for 50 years. The INS estimates that Romania’s will be home to around 14 million by 2050, which is probably not far off its optimal population.

Finally, for those who may have forgotten about the terrible fire at Colectiv in October, it is worth remembering that 52 people remain in hospital suffering from burns sustained in the blaze.

  • Mr Rearguard
    • random



    After supporting the nominalisation of Corina Cretu, in the hope that she will approve some big regional European contracts (which probably didn’t happen), Soros had recently withdrawn his support for the commissioner, having his minions infiltrated in the Romanian press and NGOs to discredit her.

    The original article about Cretu was written by former EU Observer journalist Carmen Paun – a well known minion of Soros.

    Just look at that intestinal worm how he laughs, knowing that he dictates the politics of Europe…

  • And since we’re talking about Gabriela Firea… this is a one of a kind offer, people, make reservations while they’re still open!!

    (Firea is so damn sexy, I’d take her to a gangbang every evening!)

    • Mr Rearguard

      I bet it’s only just blokes that attend?

      • Yeah, there’s this risk… the club doesn’t guarantee any sex after all =))

        • Mr Rearguard

          Maybe Iulian the party supervisor should consider offering his arse to any geezers who ask for their money back due to not being any women present? He could do an offer of say “two’s up for the price of one” I’m not gay but I would do it just to see that look on his face.

      • Look Mr Rearguard, she’s got 365.000 likes. She’s so damn hot!

  • We have to admit one thing:

    the PNL score will be heavily influenced by the way conservative electorate (brought in by the PDL) will vote. They may call themselves a single party, but the electorate is heavily divided, consisting of both leftist liberals and right-wing conservatives.

    This paradox can’t last too long. The break came in September, together with the refugee crisis: the leaders of the PNL positioned themselves to the left (saying that it’s ok to receive refugees – Predoiu or not saying anything at all – Gorghiu, Blaga), while the conservative right-wing side was taken by Traian Basescu.

    At the time being, PNL is leaking electorate: they lost at least 4% to Traian Basescu in 3 months according to recent polls. They will probably lose another 5-7% next year.

    The only thing Alina Gorghiu is missing as a political leader is courage. The courage to go against the NGOs backed by Soros who are attempting to dictate the politics of PNL (and to a large extent – succeeding).

    There is nothing to be won in Romania with backing by Soros. Romania is not liberal, Romania is conservative. The liberals disguised themselves as right-wingers for 25 years, but that’s over. It was made clear in September that their affiliation is left-wing (Soros-backed left wing, even).

    That’s why I say Traian Basescu’s biggest political reform was made after his two terms as a President: in September he started the separation of conservatives from liberals and social-democrats.

    This is the biggest step towards normality that Romanian politics has taken in 25 years.

    My votes in 2016 go to Traian Basescu.

    • ‘the PNL score will be heavily influenced by the way conservative electorate (brought in by the PDL) will vote. They may call themselves a single party, but the electorate is heavily divided, consisting of both leftist liberals and right-wing conservatives.

      This paradox can’t last too long. The break came in September, together with the refugee crisis: the leaders of the PNL positioned themselves to the left (saying that it’s ok to receive refugees – Predoiu or not saying anything at all – Gorghiu, Blaga), while the conservative right-wing side was taken by Traian Basescu.

      At the time being, PNL is leaking electorate: they lost at least 4% to Traian Basescu in 3 months according to recent polls. They will probably lose another 5-7% next year.’

      It’s these rare moments of lucidity – not that I entirely agree with you – that make you tolerable.

      • If Gorghiu had the courage to tell Mungiu-Pippidi (and other Soros agents) to f*ck off, the PNL would have probably deluded the electorate for another round next year.

        But now it’s too late: Basescu is rolling, former PDL members are routed inside the PNL (they don’t even appear on tv anymore) and waters are separating, as they should. Their loss is our gain.

        The PSD will also leak electorate to Traian Basescu, but not yet.
        I know many voices inside the PSD who started autumn in the paradigm “look at those children… we should receive as many refugees as we can” and after Paris they turned radical against refugees and against islam.

        But they’ve been hating Basescu so hard that it’s difficult to switch sides right now (as I did in a second at the beginning of

        It is only now that we are heading for normality in this country. Now we know what we’re voting for.

  • Thanks Craig. I really love the weekly updates!

  • Phil

    One stop shop for all your Romanian news. Thanks!

  • Geronimo

    What makes you say 14 million is optimal?

    • I think 14-15 million would be optimal if the median age was low, as in Turkey. 14-15 million pensioners are not that interesting…

    • Nothing at all, beyond the fact that the current population is unsustainable without a sharp climb in output. Current working population in Romania is around eight million, supporting 11 million not in work. I’m no Malthusian, far from it: I look forward to the day the earth is home to 10 billion, but to make it work we need to promote growth in production, not necessarily population. In Romania though the argument is always about the birthrate being too low, which is a misleading one, not least as schools in particular are currently under enough pressure as it is. Pre-educated workers can always be imported via immigration at the end of the day.

      • Mr Rearguard

        ” we need to promote growth in production,”…………production of what? Haven’t the people gotten everything that they need? “Pre-educated workers”……..Pre-educated? What on Earth does that mean Pre? Why do people put ‘pre’ at the beginning of so many words?

      • If we are to ever import workers, we should look to import value (like the States used to do in the past), not garbage (as in Europe).

        • Mr Rearguard

          What do you mean ‘import workers’? Your native workers are fucking off to England. Sounds like you need to offer something worthwhile to the natives or Romania will lose her identity…forever.

          • I think it’s good to spread some white, Christian diaspora abroad. Europe really needs it and Romania can’t offer much to those people right now.

            England should replace all its damned muslims with Romanians for a change, we can still send another 2 million for a population replacement right away if needed.

            But if we are to import workers, we must look to bring in elites, not muslim garbage.

            Romania can become a country where the elderly European white population could retire to spend their pensions. But we must improve our accessibility in order for that to happen.

            I would make this a country project if I were in charge: sell your Berlin apartment, buy one in Bucharest and keep the difference in cash; take your 1000 Euro pension from Germany, spend it in Romania (it’s worth at least twice).

            • Mr Rearguard

              “sell your Berlin apartment, buy one in Bucharest and keep the difference in cash; take your 1000 Euro pension from Germany, spend it in Romania (it’s worth at least twice).”……….Move from one WIFI brain frying city to another? Have you taken leave of your senses? Are you quite mad? You would be better off moving out to the country because that way you would save even more money as there is nothing really to spend it on.