Archive | January, 2014

Ghettoes – Bulgaria

30 Jan

Bulgaria

In the last 10 years I have been at least twice a year to Bulgaria. I spent time in some of the largest urban ghettoes in Bulgaria Fakulteta – Sofia and Stolipinovo- Plovdiv. I saw also the living conditions of Roma in Vidin and Ruse. The problems there are well documented and very similar with the problems of the urban ghettoes everywhere else in the region.

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toxic creek full of garbage –next to the Roma ghetto – Kyustendil Bulgaria 2013 

Unsanitary living conditions, drugs, trafficking, prostitution, abject poverty, small criminality, usury, violence, people broken by addiction, poverty or discrimination are all there.

Education is devalued and overall ignored as a way to success by the overwhelming majority of parents and children. Generations after generation of children are lost – used to start with begging then the garbage work, early marriages, then temporary migrations. Nowadays trafficking of children, selling or abusing drugs, theft, robbery, usury and prostitution are the main threats as many youngsters see these as the only way for becoming successful in a society that despise them.

Many children live in these ghettoes far above the average percentage (3 to 4 times more)– the majority of them will become broken adults in overcrowded prisons with practically no chances to break the ghetto cycle. The ghettoes are feared and despised by the Bulgarians. The local administrations ignore them and used people living in the ghettoes at elections. Here  are some of the easiest to buy votes in  Bulgaria.

The infrastructure is terrible and there is practically no policing. Safety in the ghettoes are ensured by gangs or extended families .

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living from garbage – generations –Kyustendil – Bulgaria 2013 

People that abuse the most vulnerable in the ghettoes are getting rich -criminality and bribing the system are tools that get them there These very few become the role models for the many children growing up throwing the ghettoes in a dangerous spiral of looking for fast success through illegal means.

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sign of success – built on drugs, usury and small criminality Kyustendil- Bulgaria 2013

Isperih is very different from an urban ghetto- a tiny city in north rural Bulgaria – 30 min drive from Razgrad or 3 hours from Bucharest. There is a significant  percentage of Roma  among the population here. Some of them live in nice big houses. The “Alo-Alo business” is what brought significant amounts of money to the city and the region I am told.

The business is in fact a con. Turkish speaking Roma girls and women use specialized chat rooms to get in touch with Turkish men living in Western Europe – mostly Germany. Some of these women are already married and is their husbands or their fathers that push them into getting involved in these “relationships” over the internet. After a few days of chatting on the internet the women will ask money for different reasons including cost of travelling to go visit. Nowadays video-chats some with an explicit sexual content are becoming more and more common.

Shark-loans and facilitating grey or black market trades between Turkey and Western Europe are some other ways to make easy and fast money.

The Roma mahala is very far from that sophistication. The entry in the ghetto is typical. The road becomes a dirt path going downhill.

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entry in the Isperih Roma Mahala 

Whenever it rains access becomes to and from the community is difficult or impossible due to the mud. In case of emergency people need to carry their sick up to the main road as the ambulances can not reach the houses.

In the past there were incidents with the children as the school teachers refused to allow children to attend as they came dirty -full of mud. The few women that consider education important do carry their children in their back through mud in order to get them to clean to the main road.

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road in the mahala , woman with children  Isperih 

The houses become worse and worse towards the end of the “mahala”. Around 700 people live here the majority of them children. Most of the houses have mud floors and are poorly built. No sewage system either.

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mud housing and satellite dish Isperih

Satellite dishes seem an odd presence considering the poverty around. TV remains the cheapest way to avoid the ugly reality and escape in the dream world of Turkish  soap operas.

At the end of the main street of the ghetto there is a house where 10 people live. The parents, grandparents and 6 children crowded in around 25 square meters.

All children look much smaller than their age. One of them has a serious disability. He is 10 but his mind is at the level of 3 years old. Another child has a very serious skin condition – is mostly due to the insanitary conditions they live in.

The vocabulary of the adults is very limited in Bulgarian. They speak almost exclusively Turkish with a few Romani and Bulgarian words here and there.  The entire household is illiterate.

Nobody in the Roma mahala has all the needed papers to prove the legality of their houses. Some do not even own the lots where their houses are built. Many are disconnected from electricity for running big bills. Some steal electricity.

Turkish minority that runs the mayoralty but Roma from the mahala have no representation whatsoever in the local administration. The health mediator that comes here from time to time has himself very limited knowledge about the way local administration works and what could this people do.

The local councilor meetings are kept secret complains the informal leader of the community. Unable to ask for their rights these people seemed to be doomed to a life of abject poverty. The adults collect garbage or medicinal plants for enough money to survive from one day to the other. All wish they could migrate one day.

Social inclusion is meant to avoid extreme poverty and discrimination but means the ability to negotiate, gain and retain power. The chances for inclusion here are  in the short term zero – migration represents a much more realistic ideal.

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housing – Isperih 2013

As I sit there the woman starts cooking. The stove works with wood. The water looks dirty and the meal has very limited nutritional value.

Quality of the housing is terrible. The electrical wiring is dangerous. The windows are broken. The floor becomes muddy during rain. The winters must feel terrible as none of the houses around have any thermic isolation whatsoever.

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Over the street there is a man holding his trousers , no shirt and making weird noises. I thought he is 50 but he is in his early thirties. He suffers of a severe mental disability too. The family built for him a separate hut as they were afraid of him in the night. From time to time he forgets to use the toilet and soils himself.

The husband is 50 but he looks as he is  over 70. He worked for 17 years in the old communist cooperative that used to function in the village. Now he is recycling garbage or picking up herbs from the hills around. His house looks like it could fall on them anytime.

He is small and his clothes are dirty, smelly and look too big on him. His hands shake and he looks like he might have a problem with drinking. Inside the house it smells of cheap alcohol.

He is not employable. There is no chance in a depressed city like Isperih with a high unemployment rate for him to be ever be able to find a job. He says he badly wants a job but I have troubles imagining him able and willing to have a regular job.

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house –Isperih 2013

The inside of his house looks depressingly poor. Many of the wood-beams are decaying  and the space is full of bugs, flies and mosquitos.

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inside of a house- Isperih 2013 

As we leave I see a horse – the owner is the son of the community leader. He uses the horse to pull  a cart that collects garbage. Over 300 adults can vote here more than enough for getting two local councilor. Last election they have been bribed with around 5 Eur each. No representation in the local council for the mahala in Isperih.

Shumen is a bit farther away on the way towards Varna around 200 km away from the Romanian border at Giurgiu. On the outskirts of what it is a medium size Bulgarian city we meet the first Roma family. They live from garbage and they have a one year old baby. We met them twice – the second time the man showed us the food he found in the garbage. They started eating the bread found in the garbage while I was there.

His sister is 24. She has a serious disability. Her trousers were soiled as she is unable to control her body.  She looks like 12 years old. None of them have ID cards as their house is built illegally and they need an address in order to get their ID. These are ghost people for the system. There are many in the same situation – over one hundred is the estimate of the Roma expert there. The father and some other relatives are around. They look dirt poor.  The father makes a cigar with some tobacco rolled in a piece of a newspaper.

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Family living on garbage- Shumen

They know almost nothing about how the system works. They are discriminated or at best ignored by the local administration and in turn they do nothing but fall farther away from the social grid.

The disable girl should benefit of social housing and a pension. She has no ID paper therefore they can not register her I am told.

Drugs started to be available here too and there is an increase in prostitution and trafficking. It is linked directly to the fact that there are more and more young people in very vulnerable situations.

On the outskirts of Shumen – 500 meters into a field there are a few of Roma houses.  In the first one live two very young couples. The house is very clean and newly painted. None of the youngsters here went to school for more than 4 classes.  They are young – none over 20 and one of the girls is pregnant.

People like them are the easiest targets for drugs –kings as the need for dealers is increasing. There is also a risk that they can end up exploited by the prostitution gangs in the cities. It is not rare that the man in the couple will “pimp” his girlfriend in order to make money. None of the four people here works and all wish to leave – Belgium, Netherlands or Italy were among their choices.

The road to this settlement is the same like almost everywhere else. Whenever it rains seriously the road becomes impossible. The apartment buildings mark the end of Shumen.

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end of city start of the ghetto

In the past there were Roma that used to live in those blocks.  They were evicted a few years ago – some of these apartment buildings were almost destroyed. Some Roma took their horses in their flats I am told. It happened the same in my town in Craiova. During the cold winters after they were cut from the heating system due to the huge debts they ran people burned their wood floors. Nowadays there are a few Roma still living in these buildings but most of the people living there are Bulgarians

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Roma housing – outskirts of Shumen

There are lots of youngsters in the ghetto on the outskirts of Shumen. Most are illiterate; very few have enough basic education to be able to read. No place to work. The houses are badly built. Satellite dishes are everywhere – the TV addiction is up to this point the worst addiction in the ghettoes as TVs are on most of the times.  Drugs started to creep into the city but it did not reach yet dangerous levels. It will sooner or later. Many people here steal electricity. Running water and sewage is exceptional. During the winter a good number heat their houses with stolen wood or scraps collected from the garbage. In many cases the heating is toxic.

Male prostitution seem to have increased significantly in the last years I am told but most of the male sex workers prefer to work abroad.

Frustration of youngsters is increasing. Aggressiveness comes as a logic result. Bulgarians avoid the ghettoes as they are afraid to be beaten and robbed. Tensions among the two communities have increased constantly during the years.

The Roma population is a young population with a much faster growth than the Bulgarians.  Most of the children will be pushed into small criminality if there is no intervention to start curbing the existing trend. Such interventions are costly and most money for the social inclusion of Roma in Bulgaria go for conferences and paper production.

The intervention of health mediators – a program that is often presented as a positive practice is practically inexistent in these places. The local authorities do whatever they can to incentives Roma to leave by creating obstacles for them to access social services instead of trying to find solutions for their social inclusion.

European Commission I am told is both clueless and uninterested when it comes to the problems of these places. The ping-pong of avoiding responsibilities between Brussels and Bulgaria leads not only to frustrations and disillusion but to an accelerate dissolution of the already very thin social fabric in the ghettoes.

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Children in ghettoes

24 Jan

The first few years of a child life can be economically productive for the family if the child is used for begging. As soon as he/she will not be good for or able to beg they will start picking or sorting garbage.

 Some of the children will be trained to steal, some others will make money washing windshields or hassling people for money. Some will do all these things. A good number of them will do these “jobs” abroad (Western Europe) as the economic gains are much better than in their much poorer countries (Eastern Europe and the Balkans).

 

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Children and garbage – Craiova- Drumul Apelor – 2013 

A few of them will be trafficked and another few will sell themselves for sex.  As they will turn into teenagers a percentage of them will end up involved in criminal activities[1] and prostitution. These teenage years are very productive for the gangs as teenagers can not be prosecuted. Addiction to drugs, alcohol or other substances that can provide an artificial escape (such as glue, paint-thinner etc) is already high in most of the ghettoes and increasing. Most of these children and teenagers will end up functional illiterates. In their overwhelming majority they will drop out of school before reaching their 8th grade. A significant percentage will never go to school or give up on school very early. 

 As they turn to youth a good number of them will end up in prison mostly due to theft in value of under 1000 Euros. They will receive in average sentences much longer than people who can afford good lawyers and steal millions. Prison is not only a punishment for people in the ghettoes -sometimes is a good alternative: a way to kick addiction, find shelter during cold winters, learn new skills,” toughen up” and build networks that can be very “productive” after their release. 

The probability to return to prison is extremely high in the case of the ghettoes – around 90% according to a Romanian expert working for the Romanian National Agency for Prisons. 

Most of the children from the ghettoes will end up as adults with a very poor education and extremely limited chances to find employment that will pay enough to give them the opportunity to get out of the ghettoes.  On top of this involvement in criminal activities pays much better than any job they could possibly get considering their skills and formal education. It will also not require the discipline and responsibilities of a normal job. 

Risks associated to criminal activities tend to be very much downplayed as the focus in the ghettoes tends to be on the very few who “made it” and became rich due to their criminal endeavors. 

The majority of the children from ghettoes that become adults will have to struggle with abject poverty, addiction, unemployment, poor health and periodical imprisonment. Some of those who will manage to go abroad will have to deal with the significant pressure and risks due to the fact that the money needed for travelling are from loan-sharks. 

Women will be abused and struggle most of their lives. The social fabric in the worst ghettoes is disappearing or is already inexistent as a good number of families are mono-parental –the mothers have children with different partners with whom have rather short relationships. Fathers tend to assume little or no responsibilities towards their children. The alternatives for women are even fewer than those for men when it comes to employment – a good number will have to work in awful toxic conditions related to garbage collection and recycling, steal, prostitute themselves or sell drugs. 

Violence – especially domestic violence is not reported in the ghettoes. Reporting violence makes no sense and leads to serious economic loses. People in the ghettoes usually live there illegally and in conditions that are considered inappropriate for children. Reporting domestic violence can lead to a forced removal of children from their parents due to child protection issues. In a good number of cases children are vital for the support of the family as they receive allocations or/and produce money by begging, stealing, selling drugs or helping their parents to collect and sort garbage. It is very rare that the violent male responsible for the violence will be sent to prison, it is rather more likely he will receive a fine. The women risk to be severely beaten up when the male returns home, having to come-up with the money to pay the fine and to be left alone. The children will be relocated to institutionalized care where in most of the cases they have problems to adapt. 

For the ghettoes abroad there is even less incentive to report cases of domestic violence as that will bring the attention of the police to the often-illegal settlement and can lead to deportation and an abrupt end to what is most often a much better life than in their countries of origins. 

In the ghettoes violence (other than domestic violence) is rife and rarely (if ever reported).  Break-ins and fights in the ghettoes are common occurrences. Arsons and serious damages to one property happen often. As these types of incidents take place mostly among rivaling gang members they remain unreported to the police. State policing and security in the ghettoes is simply non-existent – the police may act to prevent violence outside the ghetto but only extraordinary intervene within the ghettoes. 

Gangs are those that ensure “protection” in the ghettoes. Affiliation to a gang brings safety, jobs and sometimes power. 

The street dealers (most of them drug addicts, women or teenagers) are taking significant risks. They are threaten, abused, robed and beaten-up by the much powerful overlords that intimidate them into submission and try to prevent snitching to the police, by corrupted policemen and by addicts in urgent need for their shot. Such incidents can not be reported either. 

Most of the people in the ghettoes are registered as living in some other places. There are sometimes 20 – 30 people that are registered on the same address. Without a permanent address one can not have a permanent ID which in turn results to serious problems into accessing welfare and social services. 

In the case of urban ghettoes (apartment buildings) in most of the cases people do not pay utilities. The way they avoid paying utilities and avoiding any type of responsibilities is by repeatedly selling the same flat between members of the same family. 10 -15 fictitious sales makes impossible for the local authorities to determine in time who is the owner and has the responsibility for paying the bills. Before the elections the debts are often waived off as the mayors want to ensure the votes in the ghettoes – there is a much higher concentration of voters in the ghettoes than anywhere else. 

The ghettoes are paradoxically profitable for the local administrations. Garbage collection services for instance happen much less often than they are supposed and paid to happen. The same happens with lots of other social services – the money resulted can be used to win re-elections or make people rich especially thise with the right political connections. 

There is an advantage in not having ID papers especially for people in the ghettoes that live from small criminality. Lack of ID papers can sometimes avoid prosecution. 

One of the main sources of income for many ghettoes remains begging. 

Aggressively tackling begging is a disastrous approach as long as it is done without measures that can offer acceptable alternatives to those begging. Interdiction to beg cuts drastically the income of a family and forces it to find other ways to survive. Collecting and sorting garbage for recycling is an alternative for some but for most beggars and their families that will be in the situation they are unable to beg they will switch to theft and robbery. The overall societal costs become in this way much higher than in the case of begging. 

Abject poverty, drug abuse, prostitution, lack of education, poorly designed or discriminatory social services, poor nutrition, toxic environment, inadequate housing, violence are some of the basic communalities of these ghettoes.


[1] selling drugs, illegal cigarettes, stolen goods ; participate in break-ins or robberies, pick-pocketing, stealing from shops and supermarkets

The Ghettoes – I

20 Jan

There are 6 children in the big garbage dumpster – and a few others playing around it. It is a sad playground. Some of them play inside it, some look for something to eat or something to sell.  None of them is over 13 years old. It is a hot day in Bucharest and the smell of rotten garbage is strong and off-putting. One of the children found an almost new clock in the garbage. It is broken but can be used as a toy. She is happy.  A few days ago she discovered a doll. She is very proud when she shows it to me. It is a dirty, medium size doll without a hand.

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Garbage dumpster – Ferentari –Alea Livezilor- July 2013

Some 40 meters away there is an empty space of around 600 square meters between 2 apartment buildings. It is full of garbage.  One of the many drug addicts that live in the buildings near by looks around in the garbage for anything that he might use to sell and get his fix.

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Garbage between the apartment buildings – Alea Livezilor, Bucharest June 2013

A woman – she is in her 30-ties but looks around 50 years old collects the plastic bottles thrown around. She is not on drugs – she struggles every day to gather enough plastic rubbish to put food on the table for her three children at home.

Her husband is in prison. Prison is part of everyday life in the ghetto. The majority of the male adults were in prison at least once. A good part of the females served some years in prison too. Theft, drug related crimes and prostitution are the most common causes for their imprisonment. Their friends or their families framed some people – it is a desperate but sometimes effective way to save somebody from certain death due to drug addiction. Prison is sometimes a choice for people that are left without choice. A harsh winter in prison is preferred to one of sleeping rough.

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Woman collecting garbage in a plastic bag- Alea Livezilor, Bucharest 2013

There are lots of syringes are on the ground. Many children’s parents are drug addicted.  Sometimes they send their children to gather syringes for the periodical exchange syringes programs. Some of them get pricked by needles during the process. Too many have hepatitis B or C. Rarely the illness will be detected in time.

Many of the drug addicts are at a very high risk of HIV. Most probably in their majority they are HIV positives but they have never been tested. The number of overdose deaths has increased in the last years. Since the beginning of the year 5 of the people I knew including a 13 years old died of overdose. His brother died of overdose 4 years ago. The mother is left with just one child. He is 5. The probability for him to end up the same way is high; out of the 109 young adults ( between 21 and 23 years old) that I polled – 46  were addicted.

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Drugs and garbage – view from the window- Alea Livezilor, Bucharest, June 2013

Sewage from one building leaks out in the street. Rats are common; so are the stray dogs.  During the summer the rats population explodes and there are cases of children being bitten by the big rats. There are two women washing their carpets on the street. Too many children are on the street – it is a school day – education it is rarely a priority for them or their families.

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Children on the stairwell of a apartment building in Ferentari (photo taken during regular school hours) – February 2013

This is one of the 8 different but similar ghettoes in a radius of 1 kilometer. Four of them Amurgului, Zetari, Pangarati and Tunsu Petre are the biggest. Thousands of people live in ghetto like conditions here.

On the street close to the cemetery there are always 4-5 prostitutes waiting for their clients. Drug addiction among the prostitutes is high. Some of them make enough money to feed the addiction of their boyfriends and friends.

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Prostitutes – Prelungirea Ferentari-Bucharest June 2013

Two of them live in the shacks behind the big hot-water pipes near by.  There is one girl that lives on the pipes. Children call her the Owl – her eyes and the uncanny way she walks on the pipes as well as her abilities to kill rats are some of the reasons why this nickname seems appropriate. She sleeps on the pipes inside a cement casing built to protect the pipes. The space between the pipe and the cement ceiling is around 40 cm.I had the feeling of looking into a grave.

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Living on the hot water-pipes- Prelungirea Ferentari – May 2013

Around 90 people live behind those pipes in shacks. They steal electricity – there is no sewage or running water. Most of them recycle garbage or from collecting and sometimes stealing iron. The majority of the people living in the shacks are children. Most of the women get pregnant at around 14 years old. Men in their majority are addicted to alcohol. Most of them dream of going abroad and have a lucky strike.  The teenage girls wish to become strip dancers or prostitutes. Only exceptionally children go to school.

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Housing and living conditions – Prelungirea Ferentari May 2013

I meet Sile on the main street. He is high and hungry. He is also happy to see me. We know each other for more than 4 years now.  His two other brothers were heavily dependent on drugs too. Ilie went to prison for drug trafficking – it was a set up of people that cared about him. He was heavily addicted and thought most of the time that he was a reincarnation of Jesus. He gave up on washing and looked like a sack of bones. The prison was good for him. He writes regularly to his brothers asking them to give up drugs and he looks healthy.

Ion the other brother  is abroad – somewhere in Europe stealing ( now -4 months later since I wrote this part he is in prison for drug trafficking). Seasonal stealing is a regular practice in the ghettoes – a weird way to survive as most of the times they will come back home with just enough money to survive for 2-3 months after paying their debts.

Most of the drug addicted I talked to (interviewed 52 but talked with well over 100) justify their drug addiction as the best or only way to find relief from their previous abuses ( family and street violence, sexual abuse, irresponsible parents, psychological traumas, discrimination) and their hellish present ( homeless, addicted, HIV positive, syphilis or other serious illnesses, forced to live in dangerous situations, forced to prostitute themselves). Alcohol and drugs are in a strange way used as self-medication to treat severe depressions and escape reality for a good part of the people living in the ghettoes.

One of their sisters served 6 years in prison for drug trafficking – the other one has been caught stealing in the UK. One of Sile’s nieces is also in prison for drug trafficking for 5 years. Sile taught her how to use drugs. Both of them are HIV positive. Most probably at least one of his brothers is too.

Most of the children, youth and adults in the ghetto are part of lost generations. Their choices are limited and their lives are Hobbesian -shorter, nastier and more violent than most of us could imagine.

The children in the ghettoes are severely underdeveloped due to poor nutrition, health issues and overall living conditions. For children between 8 to 14 years old the development gap is sometimes 2-3 years compared to the average children. Despite clear facts proving that children in ghettoes are at a much higher risk of getting sick the predominant stereotype among the majority populations is that these children are much healthier and resistant than the majority population children.

The children that are playing now in the dumpster will turn at best into old people that collect garbage for living. The cycle is simple, cynical and scary similar in all the ghettoes I know.

Another ghetto is around 1km away. This time is another agglomeration of apartment buildings. Some of them look almost fine from outside as the buildings were painted last year. Same smell of the ghetto -rotten garbage. Many drunk people and many children on the street. Loud music blasts out of some big speakers.

300 meters away a BMW 7 and a Porsche Cayenne . Both have tinted windows.– there are 4 drug dealers laughing and exposing their bling and muscles. A police car goes by and they spit in the direction of the car. The links between the police, politicians and criminal gangs are rumored to be rather strong.  I know for a fact that the illegal drug store near by the school is protected not only by a private security guard but also by the police. I saw many times people buying drugs while the policemen were standing nearby.

 

 

 

Politica ”străină” de Romania a clasei politice romanești

16 Jan

În România, numai în cazuri excepționale, conformitatea, ipocrizia/ vorbele goale, mita, compromisul, nepotismul sau lăcomia nu determină numirile ambasadorilor, consilierilor, secretarilor de stat, înalți diplomați și birocrați români desemnați în cadrul instituțiilor interguvernamentale importante. Aceste practici fac aproape imposibilă dezvoltarea unei strategii de reprezentare și influență în cadrul mecanismelor internaționale existente. Tensiunile și ambiguitățile în privința rolului și  a relației dintre MAE și Președinție reprezintă alte obstacole serioase.

Ultimul ministru român al afacerilor externe care a îndeplinit un mandat complet a fost Mircea Geoană. Începând cu 2004, mandatul miniștrilor a fost scurt (sub doi ani), iar cei responsabili, aproape că nici nu au încercat, sau au eșuat lamentabil să reformeze sistemul existent. Ca de obicei, președintele, la fel și prim-ministrul și miniștrii de externe au fost înconjurați de lingușitori și sicofanți, fiind preocupați în majoritatea timpului de vizibilitatea lor în mass-media română de scandal. Cei mai buni/ profesioniști diplomați români preferă să fie delegați în misiunile României din străinătate. Salariile lor sunt mult mai bune și stresul, în mod semnificativ, mai scăzut, ținând la distanță ceea ce un respectabil diplomat român a numit ”cohortele de idioți la nivel înalt”.

Aceste ”cohorte” sunt numite politic la nivelurile superioare de conducere în cadrul MAE, ori de câte ori miniștrii își pierd sprijinul politic. Puținile numiri inteligente din structura de management a MAE, au proiecții pe termen scurt și caută modalități rapide de îmbogățire și faimă, știind că mandatul lor va dura, probabil, nu mai mult de doi ani. Aceștia sunt preocupați de carierele lor politice și de vizibilitate și mai puțin de potențialul succes al diplomației României. În același timp, experiența și expertiza din cadrul MAE sunt în declin.

Puțini profesioniși pasionați și bine-intenționați din cadrul Președinției și MAE joacă un rol minor, iar profesionalismul lor devine un handicap atunci când vine vorba de promovare. Conformiștii ajung să atingă poziții influente; cuvântul lor poate fi adaptat la nevoile politicienilor, sau ignorat cu usurinta de cei aflați la putere.

Locurile de muncă și carierele majorității liderilor politici din România depind de relațiile lor cu cele mai puternice (și, de obicei corupte) grupuri din cadrul partidului sau de relațiile cu liderii de partid. Cel mai adesea, stimulentele de promovare în cadrul ministerelor sau partidelor politice nu au nimic de-a-face cu profesionalismul, ci mai degrabă cu favoruri personale, legături de familie, ipocrizie, bani și sex.

Pozițiile bine plătite în cadrul instituțiilor guvernamentale sunt rezervate pentru cei care servesc cel mai bine interesele personale ale celor mai influenți politicieni și nu pentru cei care sunt cei mai buni la locurile lor de muncă. Rezultatul: România este foarte slab reprezentată în cadrul instituțiilor interguvernamentale și, de cele mai multe ori, aproape că nu joacă niciun rol în stabilirea agendei acestor instituții. Există foarte puține cazuri în care români cu înaltă calificare ocupă poziții bune în instituțiile interguvernamentale, dar, ale căror interese tind mai puțin spre cele ale României, deoarece au obținut acele slujbe prin forțele proprii, uneori, chiar împotriva intereselor politice.

 Parlamentul European și nepotismul

Nu există niciun partid politic românesc care să dețină o strategie publică privind rolul pe care România ar trebui să îl joace la nivelul UE, așa cum nu există nicio corelație între o asemenea strategie și lista de candidați a partidului pentru Parlamentul European. În schimb, conducerea partidului – care trebuie să ramburseze ”favorurile” primite sau de primit – compune/ formulează/ stabilește aceste liste. În cel mai bun caz, ceea ce contează, este mai degrabă vizibilitatea decât profesionalismul.

Datorită deciziei stupide de a-și „pune” fiica în Parlamentul European, Președintele României, nu are nicio legitimitate pentru a cere o reformă semnificativă a sistemului, bazat pe nepotism. Soțiile celor doi politicieni români importanți ai momentului, ocupă, de asemenea, poziții nemeritate în cadrul Parlamentului European: ambele situații evidențiază nepotismul. Pot continua: soțiile a doi dintre cei mai cunoscuți și influenți lideri locali a celui mai mare partid politic din România, respectiv, fratele unui al treilea lider, dețin, de asemenea, funcții în Parlamentul European. Acestea nu sunt excepții, ci mai degrabă o practică comună.

De fapt, o astfel de situație – obținerea unui post în Parlament –  este o sarcină relativ ușoară pentru oricine are o puternică/ bună relație cu (și, de cele mai multe ori coruptă) cei mai influenți primari sau politicieni. Pozițiile/ locurile de muncă cu înaltă calificare ale celor mai importante afaceri conectate cu statul, ale organizațiilor interguvernamentale care lucrează în România și ale organizațiile internaționale ale societății civile sunt, de asemenea, controlate de politicieni puternici, iar astfel de situații sunt considerate a fi o ”normalitate” în rândul elitelor românești. Un bun exemplu este numirea unui lider liberal, care a fost prieten apropiat cu prim-ministrul acelei perioade, într-o poziție în cadrul Băncii Naționale a României, în ciuda lipsei acestuia a unei expertize financiare.

Nu întotdeauna nepotismul și corupția sunt motivele pentru care rudele sau apropiații oamenilor puternici ajung în poziții influente nemeritate; puterea exemplului, conformitatea și lașitatea de a vorbi împotriva acestor numiri, joacă un rol important. Practici similare pot fi remarcate la toate nivelurile societății românești. Situația este asemănătoare, și uneori mai gravă, în universități, spitale, școli, sindicate, ONG-uri, administrații locale, sistemul de poliție și justiție, ministere, afaceri mari.

Concluzii

Nici diplomația română, nici elitele politice românești nu par să aibă idei bine definite sau strategii pentru a promova România la nivel internațional. Politicenii noștrii par a fi incapabili să înlocuiască tradiția comunistă a cultului personalității cu mecanisme funcționale pentru a promova și proteja interesele statului de corupție și nepotism.

De fapt, nu avem un stat funcțional cu instituții funcționale; avem, în schimb, un grup de indivizi care acționează, fie ca zei(te) (deasupra controlului muritorilor) sau ca familiile mafiote, și instituții care servesc zeii la putere in general impotriva cetățeniilor. Soțiile, fiicele, frații, fiii și iubiții/ iubitele majorității liderilor politici din România sunt supra-reprezentați în poziții de putere la toate nivelurile societății românești. Dezbaterile publice în jurul conformității și nepotismului sunt puternic descurajate în România, datorită faptului că ambele fenomene sunt predominante în cadrul tuturor sectoarelor societății românești.

Mai mult, elitele intelectuale preferă să dezvolte explicații incredibil de complicate pentru a justifica status-quo-ul existent, decât să incerce sa schimbe ceva.

Politica externă a României, se bazează, în principiu, pe politici tradiționale înrădăcinate în conformitate, ipocrizie, nepotism, șantaj și scandal, cât și pe un profund dezinteres față de tot ceea ce contravine interesului personal al politicienilor influenți. Fără o politică externă, de orice fel, parca fi mai bine …

PS.Cel mai dureros este faptul ca MAE este ministerul care a avut cei mai inteligenti ministri si angajeaza cei mai buni profesionisti comparativ cu alte ministere.

The not-so-foreign policy – Romania and the EU

9 Jan

Most analysts describe the Romanian use of EU funds as a disaster. Romania has the worst absorption rate of all EU members. We lose billions of euros every year.

The weak Romanian economy badly needs the tens of billions of euros available from the European Union in the next years. A significant improvement in the absorption rates depends on a pragmatic but strategic approach and functional state mechanisms. It also requires solid political planning related to Romania’s foreign policy at the EU level.

Romania has many positive experiences related to transition and reform of state institutions; for example, arguably we have the best expertise among all the ex-communist countries in reforming the soviet-style child protection mechanisms. Most of the best available experts on Roma social inclusion are Romanians and we have a great track record (and therefore expertise) of participation in governance of an ethnic minority (Hungarian). These experiences should put Romania in a leading position at the European level when it comes to these and other related issues. Hundred of millions of euros of EU money are available for these types of expertise each year.

Since joining the EU in 2007 Romania diplomacy has been spectacularly absent at the EU level. Our few initiatives have been in general big failures or flops. For example, our success in nominating a French-educated Romanian Commissioner for Agriculture – Dacian Ciolos- did not translate into anything particularly beneficial for Romania… although it has been a great success for France, our main ally in getting that position. The British anger (France was accused of having two commissioners) proved well justified as Mr Ciolos has protected French interests exceptionally well. Romania received significant glory for holding such an important portfolio and little else.

The overall situation regarding the role we play in Europe seems to be getting worse. Why is this happening?

The Romanian ministry of foreign affairs (MFA) has never had a human resources plan to prepare Romanians for influential jobs within the European Commission or other intergovernmental institutions. The inability of Romanian diplomacy to use pragmatically the strengths and expertise which exist within the system, and within Romanian civil society, is almost proverbial. Romania has much less influence in the European Commission than most (if not all) member states. Even countries with populations 10 times smaller than Romania are doing better at promoting their national priorities within the plans of the European Commission.

Romania has no clear strategic target for the portfolio of its next commissioner, starting in 2014, and no idea yet about who will be nominated. This is typical of how Romania prepares its candidates for the very influential jobs within the different structures of the European Union. The current discussion among political elites that the next Romanian commissioner should be the one in charge of the Commission budget is at best hopeful, if not inept. The Enlargement portfolio or the Employment and Social Affairs portfolio are strategically and pragmatically where we should focus, considering our expertise and legitimacy.

Preparing for the commissioner position, or any significant position at the international level, requires time. It should not be a rushed, unprepared decision, as is currently the practice. Functional state institutions staffed by professionals, good political planning, and good coordination among those institutions responsible for determining foreign policy (in Romania’s case, the Presidency and MFA) are needed if we want to play a significant role within the EU.

What is the situation in reality?

In Romania, it is only in exceptional cases that conformity, lip-service, bribery, compromise, nepotism or greed do not play an important role in the appointments of ambassadors, councilors, secretaries of state, senior diplomats and appointed Romanian bureaucrats within important intergovernmental institutions.

These practices make a strategy for representation and influence within the existing international mechanisms almost impossible. The tensions and ambiguities regarding the role and relationship of the MFA and the Presidency are other serious obstacles.

The last Romanian minister of foreign affairs to fulfill a complete mandate was Mircea Geoana. Since 2004 the mandates of ministers were short (under two years), and those in charge either did not try, or failed miserably to reform the existing system. As usual, the president as well as the prime minister and foreign ministers surrounded themself with sycophants and yes-men and spent most of their time concerned about their visibility in a Romanian mass media dependent on scandals.

The best Romanian diplomats prefer to be posted in Romanian missions abroad. Their salaries are much better and the stress significantly less, as they avoid dealing daily with what one of the oldest and most respected Romanian diplomats has called the “cohorts of high level idiots”. These “cohorts” are appointed politically at the senior management levels within the MFA whenever the ministers fall out of grace. The few smart appointees in senior management within the MFA think about the short term, and look for fast ways to become rich and famous, knowing that their appointments will likely last no more than two years. They are preoccupied with their political careers and visibility rather than the potential success of Romanian diplomacy. In the meantime, the experience and expertise within the Romanian MFA is just getting worse.

The few passionate, well intended professionals working for the Romanian presidency and the MFA play minor roles as their professionalism is their most serious handicap when it comes to promotion. Not the most brilliant, but the conformists will end up in influential positions where their advice can be either adapted to what the politicians need, or ignored/overruled by those in power.

The jobs and careers of the overwhelming majority of Romanian political leaders depend on their relationship with the most powerful (and usually corrupt) groups within the party or with party leaders. Most often, the incentives for promotion within ministries and political parties alike have nothing to do with professionalism, but rather with personal favors, family connections, lip-service, money and sex. The well-paid positions within intergovernmental institutions are reserved for those that best served the personal interests of the most influential politicians and not for those who are best at their jobs.

The result: Romania is very poorly represented within intergovernmental institutions and plays almost no role in setting the agendas of these institutions. There are a few cases of highly skilled Romanians in good positions within intergovernmental institutions, but these tend to feel little allegiance to Romanian interests as they managed to get into those positions by themselves,  sometimes against political interests.

The European Parliament and nepotism

There is no Romanian political party with a public strategy for the role Romania should play at the European Union level, and a correlation between such a strategy and their list of candidates for the European Parliament.

Instead, party leadership – which needs to repay “favors” received or to be received – composes those lists. In the best case, visibility rather than professionalism is what matters.

Due to his poorly considered decision to push his daughter within the European Parliament, the Romanian President has no legitimacy to ask for a significant reform of a system based on nepotism. The wives of the two most important Romanian politicians at this moment are also in the European Parliament: neither of them can say much about nepotism either.

I can continue: the wives of two of the best known and strongest local leaders of the biggest Romanian political party are in the Romanian parliament, and the brother of a third one is there too. These are not exceptions but rather a common practice. In fact, it is a relatively easy task for anybody with a good relationship with the most influential (and often most corrupt) mayors or politicians to get a position in the Romanian parliament. High-level jobs in some of the most important businesses connected with the state, intergovernmental organisations working in Romania, and international civil society organisations are also controlled by powerful politicians and this is considered “normal” within the Romanian elites. A good example is the appointment of a liberal leader, who was a close friend with the prime minister at that moment, in a top position within the Romanian National Bank despite no financial expertise whatsoever. Not always nepotism and corruption are the reasons why close relatives of powerful people end up in undeserved positions of power themselves – the power of example, conformity and cowardice to speak against those appointments plays an important role.

Similar practices can be seen at all levels of Romanian society. The situation is same and sometimes worse within universities, hospitals, schools, trade-unions, NGOs, local administrations, the police and justice system, ministries, big businesses …

Conclusions

Neither Romanian diplomacy nor the Romanian political elite seem to have well-defined ideas or strategies to promote Romania at the international level. Our politicians seem unable to replace the communist tradition of personality cult with functional mechanisms to promote and protect the interests of the state from corruption and nepotism. In fact, we do not have a functional state with functional institutions; we have instead a group of individuals that act either as Gods (who cannot be held responsible for their acts) or as Mafioso families and institutions that serve themselves and not the citizens.

The wives, daughters, brothers, sons and lovers of major Romanian political leaders are hugely overrepresented in positions of power at all levels of Romanian society.

Public discussions around conformity and nepotism are strongly discouraged in Romania due to the fact that both characteristics are predominant within all sectors of Romanian society. Even the intellectual elites prefer to produce incredibly convoluted explanations to justify the existing status-quo rather than fight it.

Romanian foreign policy is basically about traditional policies rooted in conformity, lip-service, nepotism, blackmail and scandal, and a profound disinterest in anything that is against the personal interest of the influential politicians. No foreign policy at all would be better.