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New Iron Curtain?

Robert Schwartz/ db
August 22, 2012

Romania's constitutional court reinstated the president, saying the referendum aimed at impeaching Traian Basescu was invalid. DW's Robert Schwartz warns the country cannot afford to alienate its western partners.

-opinion logo DW-Grafik: Peter Steinmetz

Good losers stand out in sport and in politics alike. However, the new center-left Ponta-Antonescu power duo cannot and will not accept defeat. More than that: both declared the Romanian Constitutional Court's recent ruling against impeaching Traian Basescu to be illegal, anti-democratic and anti-national. According to the ruling strategic coalition, it is now the government's main duty to protect those Romanians who voted in favor of impeaching the president from the "Basescu regime" and the constitutional court's decision.

Are we witnessing a call for a civic cold war in an EU state? Both interim President Crin Antonescu and socialist Prime Minister Victor Ponta appear not to be aware of the implications of such comments. Either that, or they are actually trying to split the Romanian people - while alienating the country from its international partners at the same time.

The EU and the US criticized recent developments in Romania and repeatedly called for the rule of law to be upheld. That was very much to the chagrin of the two main players who wrongly imagined they had already won their personal political battle against Basescu.

Robert Schwartz
Romania needs stability, Schwartz says

Turning away from the west?

Now that Ponta and Antonescu have had to accept the Constitutional Court's ruling, it is time for a new round in the power struggle. Things are poised to get tougher. Berlin, Brussels and Washington stand accused of relying on one-sided information. Basescu, the opposition says, paid Romanian and international journalists to create an "anti-Romanian" sentiment among partner states. The essence of the center-left criticism from Bucharest is that "the west" is meddling most intensely in the country's domestic affairs.

Partners don't communicate like that. Such absurd accusations echo well-worn complaints from the Communist era. Ponta and Antonescu are building a new Iron Curtain between Romania and western countries. In the process, they have forgotten that Romania belongs among western nations not only thanks to its membership in NATO and the EU, but also as a result of democratic reforms - albeit sluggish - introduced at home.

Both Ponta and Antonescu have forgotten that a majority of Romanians still want to belong to the European community of shared values. In the name of these people and in the interest of their own country, "cohabitation" between Prime Minister Ponta and reinstated President Basescu should be possible. In the long run, an unstable political situation not only weakens trust in a partner state. It also weakens the already precarious economic situation. An endless odyssey would spell the end of democracy in Romania. That can't be the goal of any responsible politician in Bucharest.

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