Raluca Enescu is a Romanian national who is based in London. She is one of the leading figures in New Europeans – a civil rights movement for Europeans and one of our partners in the pro-European movement. Raluca is in London this evening protesting outside the Romanian Embassy and she has asked us to publish her feelings about the demonstrations against corruption in Romania. The hundreds of thousands of Romanian citizens have won a dramatic victory against a government who were attempting to establish a set of rules which were designed to encourage corruption. But because people like Raluca took to the streets night after night, and demanded that these laws were repealed, the Romanian Government has relented.
Let this be a lesson to other states faced with governments who wish to make decisions with little or no majority or consent by the people. No letter to your local representative, no petition and no Facebook page can ever beat the power of the people.
There is something I would like to share with you, so please hear me out. I am also really, really hoping it would go viral, so if you agree or feel inspired by it, please give it a share.
In November this year, after a populist, racist and nationalistic campaign, the Social Democratic Party of Romania won the Parliamentary elections; and now the new Executive they put in power is rushing through a set of very worrying measures which would allow corrupt politicians who stole from the public purse and used the powers of their office unlawfully, to walk away scot-free and with a clean criminal record. Its the same story you’ve heard with Brexit really: “We’ve won a slim majority through populism and bald-faced lies, so that’s a mandate to do whatever the hell we want”.
And you know what we did? We took to the streets and protested. Every – single – day for almost two weeks now. We had over 300,000 people filling the Victory Square and surrounding streets in Bucharest (that’s about 1/6 of the city’s entire population!). We had 20,000 people marching in Sibiu, a city of 150,000 people. And guess what? the government is already started to give signs of backing down. As we speak, I’m in the train, going to the Romanian embassy, where we will protest some more.
The law that we are protesting against was adopted through an Emergency Ordinance by the Executive, at 9 pm – in the middle of the night, like thieves. And that very night, thousands of Bucharest residents who had nice evenings at home planned out, instead got up and came to Victory Square to protest.
So, what I’m getting at… I’ve been spending the last few days running around between anti-Brexit rallies and Romanian anti – corruption rallies in front of the Embassy, and I can’t help but notice the difference. Today, at the anti-Brexit rally, I would say that there were several hundreds of us.
However, In front of the Romanian embassy last Wednesday, there were more than 1000 Romanian immigrants who came there to show support to the 300,000 in Victory Square. And we’re doing this every day now. (Yes, I know, One Day Without Us on the 20th and the big march on March 25 will be huge – but that’s weeks away and we are in a crisis NOW).
I guess the UK never had the kind of “take to the streets” protest culture that Romania has, and ordinarily that would be a good thing. Generally, we should be a stable, established democracy, where you don’t need to take to the streets with placards and chants because writing to your MP works. But now we really live scary, dodgy times. And in the past decades in Romania, we’ve had a far bigger share of scary, dodgy times than the UK did by a long shot. So we’ve become better organised in dealing with them and fighting back.
It’s not the first time that by protesting, we’ve overcome the odds. Just a few years ago, the beautiful mountain village of Roșia Montană, which is home to unique wildlife and archaeological vestiges of the Roman period, was due to be sold to a Canadian gold mining company, and to be utterly destroyed with cyanide mining. Our president Traian Băsescu was on board with that. Our prime minister Victor Ponta was on board with that. We protested in the streets for months – but we saved it.
In those days, a slogan /hashtag emerged from the protests – #UnitiSalvăm – “United, we save” – Roșia Montană, Romanian democracy or the EU. So can we do it? Are we united enough to save ourselves? Would we, concerned citizens of the UK and the EU, be prepared to take direct action, not as a one-off thing in March, but every day and starting soon, for as long as our rights are under threat? Can we do like Romanians did?