Tony Barber writes for Financial Times about the maturity to elect as president of Romania, a leader from an ethnic minority. “The result of Romania’s presidential election may turn out to be the most positive political event in Europe this year. It is encouraging for what it says about three things in central and eastern Europe: its troublesome ethnic politics, the never ending struggle against corruption and the unfolding contest between the Euro-Atlantic alliance and Russia. The election winner was Klaus Iohannis, the centre-right mayor of the city of Sibiu, who defeated Victor Ponta, the centre-left prime minister. What makes Mr. Iohannis’s victory special is that he comes from Romania’s ethnic German minority. After waves of emigration in the communist and post-communist eras, ethnic Germans account these days for well under 1 per cent of Romania’s 20m people”.
For many international comentators this may be surprising since the significant propaganda from the Budapest related to the treatment of ethnic minorities in Romania, propaganda that has been so “succesful” in western democracies. Well, for those that do not know, Romania has given many political rights to its ethnic minorities, rights that you cannot find elswere in Europe. For example, besides the representantion in the Parliament of the political organization of Hungarians, organization that receives normaly around 6% of the votes and thus can enter the Parliament, the other very small 18 ethnic minorities of Romania that can gatter in total around 4% of the votes are given by law one place in the Parliament for each minority. So, 18 places in the Parliament for the 18 very slamll ethnic minority groups and other places for Hungarian minority, depending on the percentage thay take.
In addition, Hungarian minority representatives have constantly been in the government having 2-3 minister places. Now they have also the vice-primeminister place. So, all the propaganda of Hungary that Romania is not respecting the rights of etnic minorities is just for those that are not willing to open their eyes. In this propaganda driven context, we can understand some international commentators that were surprised that a representative of very small ethnic group managed to win the presidential elections. He managed that for two reasons, first that the ethnic background do not count to much and second because he was seen as a hope for the steps forwared the country need to make.
Tony Barber writes for Financial Times also that “Romanians showed exceptional maturity on Sunday by electing an ethnic minority candidate as their head of state. For many voters, the political programmes and personal appeal of the two candidates evidently mattered more than their respective ethnic backgrounds. (…) Few European countries, east or west, can say the same. Has Bulgaria had an ethnic Turkish president? Has Italy had a prime minister from its ethnic German region of South Tyrol? Has Britain had a premier of Afro-Caribbean origin? In a region whose history is riddled with ethnically inspired political tensions, Romania’s election result gives hope for a future of tolerance”.
The election of Mr Iohannis is also seen as a hope to strengthen the rule of law and to contribute to giving a new input to help “Nato and the EU to stand firm against Russia’s efforts to expand its political, military and economic influence in the Balkans and Black Sea area. In some respects, Romania is less susceptible than its neighbours to Russian pressure. It relies less on Russian energy. As a non-Slav nation that once lost territory to the Soviet Union, it is immune to pan-Slavism and has few illusions about how the Kremlin deploys power”, Tony Barber reports.
From this respect, Mr Iohannis is considered to be a politician that understands the danger posed not only by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, but also by its support of the breakaway Transnistria, a region of the Republic of Moldova. During the electoral campaign all the candidates had to express their view point related to a future reunification of Romanian nation devided now in two countries, Romania and Republic of Moldova, a reunification using maybe the German example, but also taking into consideration that a part of Republic of Moldova (Transnistria) is under Russian occupation. Mr. Iohannis considerend that the normal reunification of Romania with Republic of Moldova on long term cannot be stoped by anyone if the people of the two countries will want that, as it happened with the two German states, but what matters at this moment in time is that Romania should not press for reunification, but for democratization of Republic of Moldova and to bring it closer to the EU.