NATO Summit in Bucharest may have been too big for Romania

02 April

NATO Summit in Bucharest

As the minutes tick closer to the start of today’s NATO Summit in Bucharest, some Romanian bloggers question the zeal of their leaders in ensuring there is neither public protest nor questions to the value of NATO for Romania or other European states- neither in Bucharest nor Romania in general. Although an outspoken and public critic of the flagging commitment of other NATO members, Romanian President Traian Basescu believes that NATO remains a national priority for Romania.

Yesterday’s press conference on the arrival of President Bush and the upcoming NATO Summit in the clip below:

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Recently, Basescu challenged Russia’s opposition to NATO, telling Russia that its time now to work with NATO- and not against it. Among the public items on Basescu’s agenda: an anti-ballistic missile shield for Romania provided by the US or NATO, renewal and enlargement of Romanian troop commitment in Afghanistan, security policy regarding energy, and NATO acceptance of requests to be considered in the enlargement of NATO. Included in these requests are those from Albania, Georgia, Macedonia, and Ukraine.

The Romanian government, however, has ignored increasing complaints about civil rights violations of EU citizens being denied entry at the Romanian borders. At the same time, the Press has issued warnings to the Romanian people that terrorists may have infiltrated the borders. There is also a concern that the Government will be limiting international internet connectivity during the NATO Summit- allowing only email traffic and local network access. No official statement has been made, but the government rarely makes public statements about questionable actions or intentions.

The warnings remind some Romanians of the same kinds of warnings told during 1989 revolution which is believed by many to have been a facade for a coupe made by intelligence leaders to translate political power and public properties into great personal wealth. Of course, the eve of the NATO summit is not the eve of a new revolution.

In the Romanian leadership’s endeavor to make a great show of Romania’s boot-licking commitment to NATO, Romanian leaders choose quick and dirty solutions over Law, Justice and due process to deal with peaceful dissent and protest. Such decisions suggest there remains strong authoritarian undercurrents in Romanian politics that could be mistaken (recognized?) as a wolf disguised in a sheep’s fleece.

Authoritarian proclamations and manipulations

For the last week, Romanian television, radio and print media have been telling the Romanian people some interesting stories:

1. NATO is key to the security of Romania against terrorists and other undefined, but more terrible threats such as anti-ballistic missiles

2. Protesters must not be allowed to disrupt these important affairs of state

3. Protesters are actually terrorists intending to kill and/or injure civilians in their desperate plot to stop NATO and prevent the “securitization” of Romania

Theoretically, the Romanian people must be protected from paper cuts– the kind of deep, thin cuts that could be administered by flyers and posters distributed by protesters. Death by a thousand paper cuts may not be just a cliché! It could be a terroristic threat that must be prevented at all costs.

One popular letter circulating on Romanian blogs is believed to have come from an anarchist group in Berlin. In the letter, the authors attempt to provide an inspiring answer to why European anarchists are not going to risk coming to Bucharest to protest the NATO Summit.

“We strongly believe that enough of you will decide to oppose the NATO-summit on the streets of your capital city. One of the principles of anarchist social philosophy is that people need to solve their own problems by themselves by taking matters into their own hands…”

As I write elsewhere, the political manipulation of the Media (a complicit Media that includes complicit journalists) and consequent manipulation of popular perception is nothing less than a surreal realization of Oceania from George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

EU Citizens denied entry at Romanian borders

For those that had an internet connection, Romanians are concerned by the reports of foreign protesters with EU citizenship that are being denied entry into Romania. Not so many years ago, Romanians did not easily gain entry into neighboring European states. Still, some bloggers believe the efforts to stop foreign protesters at the borders is a blow against Romanian Constitutional rights to free speech and, perhaps, a blow to Democracy in Romania.

Marius Tuca, a prominent journalist, talks about the border problem (Romanian) in the clip below:

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The moral outrage of European citizens whose entries are being denied is, of course, being expressed across the blogosphere.

In a comment to one Romanian blogger who expressed his disappointment with recent authoritarian border policies, a Lithuanian writes: “It surprises me that you are surprised. Welcome to the real world.”

Protests at the Romanian border in the clip below:

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Will Internet Access Be Limited?

Anonymous bloggers are spreading the word that international internet connections will be prevented during the NATO Summit. The Romanian government has supposedly contacted ISPs about this new strategy and request the cooperation of ISPs in the Romanian governments to prevent cyber-terrorism during the NATO Summit.

According to one blogger, Romanian internet users will have access to local networks and be able to send and receive email (Yahoo and Google included) without links or attachments. It is suggested that Romanian internet users may loose connection with the rest of the world for a week or more.

Although no official government statement has been made about any possible lock down on international internet access, companies across Romania are reporting unusual lag in their internet connections today. Regardless of any lag, today, it is highly unlikely that Romanian or ANY authorities could exercise such precise control of email or the internet. From a technological perspective, if there’s email, it’s very likely there will be attachments and links.

Who’s country is this, anyway?

Every time that foreign dignitaries come to Bucharest for a pow wow, the city grinds to a halt. Secure routes create detours and congestion on overloaded, inadequate streets, but that’s not all. Sections of the city are closed down without any consideration of the businesses and residents in those areas and no one is allowed in without proof of residence. Myself, I’m stuck in my office for the next week if I want to get back in before the last dignitary has boarded the departure gate.

The video clip below does not represent my personal opinion; it is placed here to present the general frustrations felt by the local population as I have found expressed across the Romanian blogospherre:

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Often enough, it’s in planning that the true attitudes of Romanian government officials become transparent. The general population is treated like dogs and Romanian government officials act like spoiled courtesans. If these so-called public servants had any consideration and respect for the population and business community, they would have made general plans available – many months ago. In fact, they fail to communicate their plans even when they have a plan. If Romanian planners had an above-average collective intelligence, they would have moved the meeting out of the capital where most of the business of the nation is being done.

In a place where free speech is not a fundamental right recognized by the current government, where government makes capricious decisions and fails to communicate public policy to the public, and authoritarianism is just below the scratch-able surface of law and public policy, one has to wonder why Bucharest was chosen to host a major NATO Summit. Under the pressure of security concerns and enthusiasm for the NATO Summit, Romanian authoritarianism quickly substituted for an obvious lack of democratic principles and processes.

Although they had many months to prepare for the Summit, the Romanian government waited until the last minute to prepare for the big days ahead.

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Such lack of democratic character of a NATO member raises new and alarming questions about NATO’s future. Worse, the lack of serious concern about this problematic by other NATO members raises more interesting questions about the Alliance.

o6 April Edit: If you are interested in reading more about the lack of democratic character of Romania, go here.

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Stan Faryna
April 2nd, 2008
Bucharest, Romania

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About Stan Faryna

Stan Faryna is a Global Voices author and translator. Global Voices is a non-profit global citizens’ media project founded at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, a research think-tank focused on the Internet’s impact on society.

Mr. Faryna is the founder and co-founder of several technology, design and communication companies in the United States and Europe including Faryna & Associates, Inc., Halo Interactive, and others.

His political, scholarly, social and technical opinions have appeared in The Chicago Defender, Jurnalul National, The Washington Times, Sagar, Saptamana Financiara, Social Justice Review, and other publications.

Mr. Faryna also served as editor-in-chief of Black and Right (Praeger Press, 1996), a landmark collection of socio-political essays by important American thinkers including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Copyright

Copyright 1996 to 2008 by Stan Faryna.

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Edit on 03 April 2008:

The Romanian Media was wrong again. As late as Wednesday morning, Romanian news teams issued warnings about internet controls, traffic deadlock, and anticipated protester violence. However, the truth is that the Internet was not limited, traffic was better than usual, and there were no reported incidents of so-called protester-related or other kinds of terrorism. Up to 100 protesters, Romanian persons and foreigners, were picked up off the streets as quickly as they were identified, held for questioning, and later released without charges. According to Bucharest’s chief of police, none of the protesters were identified as threats to the state.

Romanian Stormtroopers (Politie Romana in battle dress)

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One Response to NATO Summit in Bucharest may have been too big for Romania

  1. Stan Faryna writes at length about the NATO Summit, which has opened in Romania’s capital today, and reviews reactions in the Romanian blogosphere.

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