Geopolitics

Romanian Political Crisis Escalates, Spreads Across Europe

ADEVARUL, ZIARE.COM, BUCHAREST HERALD (Romania)

Worldcrunch

BUCHAREST - An escalating political crisis in Romania pitting the prime minister against the president is spreading abroad, with protests in foreign capitals and concern from European officials about the state of democracy in one of the EU's newest members.

Center-left Prime Minister Victor Ponta and his Social Liberal Union (USL) have moved to oust center-right President Traian Basescu, which some critics have said amounts to a political coup. A group of Romanian intellectuals and members of the civil society addressed a letter on Monday to the governments of all the European member states, complaining about Ponta's recent actions, reported Bucharest daily Adevarul.

In addition to the dubious Parliamentary maneuver on Friday, and alleged manipulation of the media in the coverage of the crisis, the letter criticizes the Prime Minister for not resigning after he was accused recently of copying his PhD thesis.

As Mediafax press agency reports, Romanian PM Ponta will have a meeting with the President of the EU Commission, José Manuel Barroso, after several representatives of the Commission expressed their concern about the status of democracy in Romania. Markus Ferber, head of the German delegation in the European Parliament, said that he will initiate procedures for unprecedented sanctions against Romania because of threats to rule of law from the Parliamentary actions, reports the Bucharest Herald.

Romania, a country of 22 million inhabitants, has a significant diaspora that exceeds 10% of the total population, including many in the United States, though increasingly concentrated in Europe after its 2007 entry into the EU.

The vote of Romanians living abroad appears to be issue, after President Basescu managed to obtain a second term in 2009 thanks in part to Romanian ex-patriates.

Meanwhile, protests have been held on the streets of cities in France, Spain, Germany and Belgium. Ponta accused Romanians living in Germany and Belgium of organizing protests against his party and being manipulated by the President's supporters, reported Romania Libera.

According to the Romanian Constitution, until the referendum, the temporary chief executive is Crin Antonescu, president of the Senate, a member of Ponta's coalition. The website ziare.com reports that Antonescu suggested Romanians living abroad should pay a tax if they want to have the right to vote.

A protest by Romanians in Paris took place at Place du Trocadéro on Sunday:

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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