Today (Monday) is the first business day of a new era for Romanian business and Romania. Yesterday saw the swearing in of the new Romanian President Klaus Johannis. It was the end of the era of President Basescu; it was also the 25th anniversary of the Revolution in Bucharest.
Much has been written about this day 25 years ago and much will be written. I was not in Romania on that day although I know many people who were and who remember that day. My wife was in the square and heard and saw it all. She saw the power of the people; the rejection of all that had gone before; the surprise of the people of what they had done, and in some cases fear. Me, I was back in London reading about it and enjoying life in Holborn (London). Little did I suspect that the events which were taking place 1500 miles away would also change my life.
I did not arrive in Romania until the 12th January 1990 when I came with a client on a visit to see what it was all about. I can remember arriving at Otopeni airport and waiting ninety minutes for them to unload my bags; I can remember the bus (very cold and drafty) taking a further ninety minutes to drive from the airport in the fog to our hotel in the middle of Bucharest. I can remember the dark and occasional lights and the crowds streaming from a meeting in Piata Revolutitei. What an arrival.
The next day saw us full of questions, visiting various companies and ministries with whom we had been able to arrange meetings so as to allow us to try and understand what was happening and what was going to happen. Was there a future for a law firm from London in Bucharest. It was very different from London. The rest so they say is history.
So what about what happened yesterday. It was a very different day from 25 years ago but was just as important and also a revolution. I have written earlier about the feel in the country after the election in November and the rejection by the people of a type and style of Government and leader that the majority did not want. That mood has changed. There is today no longer that feeling of relief and elation. It has been replaced by something more measured and calm. More purposeful and focused. Perhaps a reflection on the attitude and personality of the President.
Since the election there have still been inflamatory television programs regarding both President Johannis and former President Basescu. I wonder what the ordinary people must think of the television presenters. I know what my wife’s family thinks. Times have moved on. The “hate” generated against former President Basescu by the Prime Minister still lingers on some television programs as though this is an answer to their problems. If you talk to Romanians they now feel that enough is enough, unless you are a zealot and anti Basescu. The majority of people now want to move on and want the elected leaders to do the same. Mistakes were made by all – no-one is perfect but times are changing and have changed.
It was refreshing to hear last week a former Minister (PSD) state that corruption had been allowed to develop in Romania by the fault of the governing (PSD) party. Early on after 1989 when a minister or member of parliament had been accused of corruption he felt that they should immediately have been ejected from the party and forced to resign. Instead the party and the Parliament became a home for such a people.
This was also a theme from President Johannis yesterday. He reiterated that the war against corruption would continue. He had no intention of backing off on this promise. This is what the people want and this is what he intends to deliver.
The people in my office all believe that he will be a different president. There will not be the histrionics of the former President. The Prime Minister will be shouting at a wall he does not understand. There will be no public reaction, nothing for him to rail against. The comment and the fact that President Johannis appears to be quiet and unflappable will annoy the Prime Minister only more. He will not be able to blame anyone else but his policies if there are any failures.
So for Romania yesterday was the first day of the new Presidency and like many other foreigners I hope that 2015 will be the beginning of when Romanians can hold their heads high. They will be proud to claim to be Romanians and will have faith in their country. If they do this then Romania will in my view take its proper place in the region in Europe and the world, but perhaps most importantly in the hearts of all its people.