Keeping her head
Formerly a popular and moral force within the Government, ex-minister of culture Mona Musca is now focusing on promoting Romania in Europe. But will that be the end of the story? It seems unlikely, as she talks to Anca Pol
Along with former Prime Minister Theodor Stolojan, Mona Musca is the politician that the Romanian voters trust the most, after President Basescu.
Despite this popularity, Musca resigned from her position as Minister of Culture in a move some observers saw as a calculated step back in order to assume a higher position at a later date.
But the job right now for the 56-year old former lecturer, is Europe.
“What Romania brings into the European Union are two essential things: trust in the European Union and trust in the European institutions,” she tells The Diplomat. “Also, Romania will contribute to a concept dear to the European Union, the very foundation of the European Union, namely diversity.”
Romania has sent 35 cross-party parliamentarians to Strasbourg to learn about the European Union institutions, how the MEPs work and what they do all day and Musca, among them, is enjoying every minute.
Especially what she calls the good organisation and efficiency of the European Parliament.
“Its set of regulations are as precise as a Swiss watch,” she says.
A philology graduate, who has taught the Romanian language to grades five to eight and at the Letters Faculty of the Universitatea de Vest in Timisoara, Musca entered politics in 1990. At first she joined the centre-right Civic Alliance (AC) and then the National Liberal Party (PNL).
She was appointed as Ministry of Culture in December last year.
But in July she resigned from this function and from her position as vice-president of PNL. Her reasons for this, she declared were “personal”.
But she was annoyed that Calin Popescu Tariceanu took back a decision to renounce his position as Prime Minister and 'revoke the irrevocable'. Tariceanu had announced, on 7 July, to resign due to the fact that the justice reform laws had been rejected by the Constitutional Court. This resignation, which he called “irrevocable”, would pave the way for early elections. Then half the country became buried under floods. And he said it would be cowardly of him to resign when the nation's priorities were bailing out water from villages and getting into the EU.
Like any public figure, Mona Musca has not been spared gossip. Women in politics in Romania, it seems, are also more commonly targeted.
Some allegations claim that, before the Revolution, as a Romanian language teacher, she used to inform the authorities which of her colleagues told anti-Ceausescu jokes, while others call her charismatic, but superficial.
Still, there is little doubt that Musca is generally perceived as a serious and balanced person, a rare specimen in politics.
“I am glad I have remained a normal person, because many lose their heads in politics,” she says.
TIPPED FOR THE TOP
This has prompted debate on whether, if there was a change of government triggered by early elections, she would accept the post of Prime Minister. At the moment, she will not speak about the possibility.
“I keep away from me any discussion regarding high positions,” she says. “You can do a very good job both as a parliamentarian and as a minister, because this is an essential condition in politics: to be fond of people and to really want to do what is best for them.”
As a Euro-observer, Musca has joined her colleagues in the European Liberal Group, the Alliance for Liberal and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), where Romanians and Bulgarians remain “a passive factor” on the Brussels stage.
They have no vote and cannot speak in the European Parliament's plenary session.
But in European Parliament's commissions on areas such as culture, environment and health, they have a voice.
MEPs receive only one to three minutes to express a certain issue in the Parliament's meetings, where they have to illustrate the pros and cons and their own position.
This is an oratorical discipline some Romanian parliamentarians could learn from, according to Musca.
“The Romanian Parliament, like almost any national parliament, is much more colourful, much more flexible in regulations, but this degree of colour and looseness unfortunately decreases its efficiency,” Musca adds.
Now she is on the promotional bandwagon, helping to enlighten Europe to the diverse qualities of Romanian culture. “Romania's best product, absolutely competitive in front of the other European countries, is its culture,” she says.
Cinema, she says, is gaining a lot of international recognition.
But it remains to be seen whether festival hits such as 'The Death of Mr Lazarescu' will change the common foreign cineastes' ignorance of Romania.
Sibiu, along with Luxembourg, will be the two European cultural capitals of 2007.
“It is an extraordinary opportunity for Romania to show a different side than the one that is usually known,” says Musca. As a Euro-observer, she intends to continue to promote this project in front of the Commission for Culture and Education at the European Parliament.
Another demonstration of force was displayed this year in Luxembourg by the George Enescu State Philharmonic and soprano Angela Gheorghiu, who offered a concert on the day of the ratification of the Accession Treaty by the EP. “This concert raised us a lot in the eyes of the Europeans, because Romania showed them what it is able to do,” says Musca.
Human rights and freedom of expression are also part of Musca's mission to the European Parliament. She herself is the author of a 2001 law regarding citizens' free access to infor-mation on the activities of Romanian public institutions and authorities. Musca considers this law to be “an anti-corruption law, because transparency always reduces corruption”.
Through this law, she says, “freedom of expression has gained a lot in value and substance.”
In terms of press freedom, Musca says the years between 2002 and 2004 were “a very difficult period for journalists”, when “freedom of expression has been often infringed”, as journalists faced attacks and, sometimes, were beaten-up by agents of local business bosses and politicians.
“During the past government, pressure was made by the former authorities on the public television as well, even by ministers and PSD leaders,” she says.
According to her, unfair restrictions on the press are over. “I hope that in a short time local barons will not have the same power they enjoyed under the past government,” she says.
It seems hard to believe that Musca will rest here.
When Romania joins the EU in 2007, elections for MEPs will follow.
At this stage the 35 Euro-observers are likely to have better chances to become MEPs, if they wish so.
“It's difficult to say whether I will participate at the elections for the European Parliament,” says Musca, “because I am very linked to the problems of the people from Romania and for this I feel obliged to remain some more and work in the Romanian Parliament.”