Protests in Romania: Alice Strete discusses with Angelina
Merisi: Alice, you are a young Romanian freelancer. You have been very much involved in the recent protests taking place throughout Romania. Could you firstly tell us a little about yourself.
Alice Strete: My name is Alice Strete, I’m 25 and I’m currently a freelancer. I’ve lived in Romania for most of my life, with the past couple of years spent abroad. At the moment, I am at home with my parents, in Transylvania.
Merisi: Considering Romania was once part of the Soviet Union and is now an EU member state – could you briefly place in historical context the primary political events which underpinned this transitional period?
Alice Strete: In 1989 the dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu was defeated (and killed) after a series of massive protests against the oppressive regime, where many protesters were also shot and wounded. The excitement of the moment quickly dispersed during the next years, and the transition to a democracy was quick to start but quite slow in practice. Romania’s progress has been marked and damaged by corruption and poverty. We entered the EU in 2007 with great hopes, but not much has improved since.
The past few years have seen a sort of revival of patriotism. People went into the streets on several occasions (election of president Iohannis, with massive lines in front of embassies in foreign countries; protests after the burning of club Colectiv, after which the government resigned; current protests, the biggest since 1989).
Merisi: Has the formation of the first democratic government since the fall of the Soviet Union been successful would you say, from a Romanian perspective?
Alice Strete: As I mentioned before, the transition has been slow and often disappointing for most Romanians. Especially in the last decade, many Romanians have chosen to move abroad in search of better opportunities, believing that our country has nothing to offer them. Even though very few are nostalgic about the old regime, not many are happy about the current situation either.
Merisi: Could you tell us about the current government: what are the circumstances surrounding the eruption of unrest sweeping the country, the alleged corruption and subsequent protests?
Alice Strete: A curious, but predictable thing happened this autumn: the government that had been kicked out just the year before, was voted again by the people. The socialist party PSD currently holds a majority in Parliament. Historically, PSD has always been associated with the old communist regime, and has received a lot of criticism. What is more, a large number of its members have been accused of corruption, are currently under trial or even imprisoned.
Last week, the current prime minister Sorin Grindeanu, alongside head of PSD Liviu Dragnea, passed a decree in secret, at around 9 PM, which was published in the Official Gazette after midnight. The law is meant to lower the punishment for various offences, including official misconduct and nepotism, as well as to reduce the years in prison for some categories of people and offences, including convicts over 60 years old.
As it happens, many party members, including friends and family, are included in these categories and therefore, will greatly benefit from this decree (including Liviu Dragnea himself). Naturally, people were outraged, hence the biggest protests in Romania in over 26 years.
Merisi: Do you think the protests will lead to changes in the current political system. What result are the Romanian people hoping for?
Alice Strete: The demands of the people are, first of all, that the government repeals this decree, and second, that the government resigns. So far, the public pressure has led to the Ombudsman to attack this decree in the Constitutional Court ( before he wrongfully declared that it was not in his power to do so).I truly believe people are empowered by the massive number of fellow protesters in over 50 cities around the country, and also around the world. Everyone is confident that corruption will not prevail in this case. As for me, I’ll be out in the street as long as I have to!
Merisi: Thank you for your time.
Strete: You’re welcome.
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