Reforming Romania: After 2016 Elections, Many Setbacks Remain

Nations & States

This year in Romania, Halloween carried a solemn tone. My university students explained their own ambivalence toward celebrations. It was the anniversary of the fire that killed over 64 young people in a night club in Bucharest, the capital. The catastrophe could have been prevented were it not for bribes to government officials that allowed club owners to circumvent basic fire code rules. The revealed ethical bankruptcy of the Romanian state brought thousands of protesters into the streets, toppling the center-left Social Democratic Party (PSD) government led by Victor Ponta, who also happened to be facing multiple corruption charges. The renewed Romanian activism sparked hope that the tragedy would trigger a “silent and peaceful revolution” against “cancerous corruption.”

Replacing the PSD government, described by a Romanian friend as a “coalition of feudal barons,” was a broadly center-right, technocratic government led by Dacian Ciolos, a former EU agricultural commissioner with…

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