December - 2005



Majority of country opposes military presence abroad

            Most Romanians do not favour their country's troop presence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo, says a new report, which shows that the country is not as gung-ho in its attitude towards a militaristic foreign policy as many have believed.
            Three fifths of Romanians believe the presence of the American military bases will see an increased danger of a terrorist attack against Romania, according to the Institute for Public Policies (IPP) report.
            Romanians support Basescu's strategy of a Bucharest-London-Washington DC axis, but almost half blame the USA for increasing international tensions.
            Most respondents were not against Moldovan citizens needing visas to enter Romania, think fondly of Italy and Spain, but have a fairly reluctant attitude towards their larger pre-1989 trade partners, Russia and the Arab countries.
            As for the European Union, citizens are sceptical. Not about whether or not the EU's intentions are honourable, but more to do with their own nation's suitability. Many see Romania joining in 2008 or even 2010.
            “The population perceives the difference between Romania's development and the EU as being very large,”  Sever Voinescu, IPP programme coordinator tells The Diplomat.
            Around 70 per cent have a positive attitude to the EU and Voinescu does not expect a large drop in such an upbeat perspective after accession.
            “This attitude is based on the people's desire to place the country under a new European management style,” he says. “Romanians experienced a similar thing over 100 years ago, when a foreign prince was brought in the country [King Carol I of Romania].”
            Romanian authorities have done little to consult its citizens' views of their own country's foreign policy, concludes the report, and have “disregarded almost completely” their views when deciding such matters.
Anca Pol

Yes to USA.Yes to NATO.Yes to EU
No to fighting

  • 56 per cent favour President Basescu's idea of a Bucharest-London-Washington axis
  • 58 per cent of the Romanians have a good opinion about NATO
  • 51 per cent do not agree with the presence of Romanian troops in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq
  • 70 per cent have a good or a very good opinion about the EU
  • In national feelings towards other countries, Italy scores the highest
  • This if followed by France, then Spain and the USA
  • Romanians feel better inclined towards these four countries than any of their immediate neighbours

Source: IPP Report. Implemented by Gallup. Sample of 1,050 citizens over 18. Between 29 August and 9 September 2005



Breaking the silence

During the Second World War thousands of Romanian Rroma died in the now Republic of Moldova in a holocaust that is only now gaining state recognition. Anca Pol talks to its survivors

                “Hitler and Antonescu took us away from our village in Teleorman county with nothing else but the clothes we wore,” Rroma Holocaust survivor Dumitru Tranca tells The Diplomat.
                Tranca was 12 years old when he and his family were among tens of thousands deported by the pro-Fascist Antonescu regime between 1942 and 1944.
                “When we reached the Dniester, the Romanian gendarmerie told us to take some cardboard boats to cross the river. 50 to 60 people jumped on these boats and by the time the boat was in the middle of the river, the cardboard dampened and the people fell in the water. So, from the bank of the river, we saw most of them drown.”
                Two of survivor Maria Luncan's brothers also drowned in the Dniester when the gendarmerie forced them to cross the river. Another died on the cattle-train to Transnistria, from inhaling coal smoke. On the journey to the camp, she also lost her father. “He was killed by a soldier, when he hit my dad in the head with the butt of a rifle,” she says.
                Once in Transnistria, the Rroma were crammed into empty barns on the Soviet collectivised farms (kolkhoz) in freezing conditions.
                “We would eat nothing but corn beans, baked on the fire, and it was so cold that we had to tie straw against ourselves to keep warm,” Tranca says. “Life was so bad in the kolkhoz that, when the morning came, only two from a large family were alive. The others would die overnight. That's how my parents died.”
                Luncan adds: “There was snow, bitterness, lice and the Romanian gendarmerie executed us if we tried to escape.”
                According to sociologist Michelle Kelso, Antonescu's ethnic and social cleansing scheme deported around 25,000 Rroma to the territory between the rivers Dniester and Bug, killing an estimated 11,000.
                Some historians and members of the civil society claim the figures are much higher. Historian Petre Petcut estimates that around two million Rroma were deported.
                According to the International Commission for the Holocaust in Romania, the deportation of the Rroma “did not enjoy” the support of the Romanian population, causing heated protests. Its report states that composer George Enescu “pleaded in person with Antonescu against the deportation of Rroma musicians [the lautari] and threatened to go with them should that occur”. He did not.
                When Romania joined the Allies in 1944 many Rroma survivors returned to their native villages. Some remained in Transnistria. According to Luncan, from 80 Rroma expelled from her native village, Buturugeni in Giurgiu county, only three came back.
                “In Romania we put our lives back together and had families. But nobody can give us back what we lost then,” she says. “What hurts me the most is that I lost my parents and, because I had no parents, I didn't get any schooling. As a Gypsy woman, to read would have been my greatest joy.”
                Few seem to acknowledge the memory of the victims, despite a 2004 report from the International Commission for the Holocaust in Romania which clearly states that Rroma were victims of a Holocaust.
                The state has failed to make any efforts. National Holocaust Commemoration Day, on 9 October this year, was dedicated exclusively to the Jewish victims of Antonescu's purge. Recognition of the losses inflicted on the Rroma, the disabled, homosexuals and other “undesired” social or ethnic groups was absent.
                A 2002 Official Ordinance defines the Romanian Holocaust as “the state supported persecution and the annihilation of the European Jews by the Nazi Germany and by its collaborators between the years 1933-1945”.
                According to Mariea Ionescu, the president of the National Agency for the Rroma, the ignorance of the parliamentarians is due to civil society's failure in making this information known.
                So, this October, representatives of civil society sent an open letter to Traian Basescu asking him to ensure the Ordinance is modified to include all victims. This is cosigned by the Jewish community of Romania, several Jewish organisations and academics.
                “The group behind this letter has no financial interests and seeks only moral reparation,” says Ciprian Necula, project coordinator at the Media Monitoring Agency. “We want the Rroma victims not to be forgotten.”
                Since then, President Basescu has suggested the modifications to Parliament to include the Rroma, a move which has broad backing from the senators and the deputies.
                This could indicate a change of heart.
                Also Virgil Nitulescu, state secretary in the Ministry of Culture, says the state and sponsors will construct a Holocaust memorial on the banks of the Dambovita River, near the Ministry of Interior, dedicated to the sacrifice of both Jews and Rroma. Depending on available funds, he adds that a Museum of the Rroma Civilization should open next year, in Sibiu or Bucharest.