How do you see the role of NGOs in a functional democracy? Do they embrace the cause of participatory democracy?
Civil Society organisations are absolutely crucial for a mature and functional democracy. Not only do they give a voice to the interests of different groups within society, but they fulfill an extremely important role as a watchdog in regards to the political elite and the general behaviour of elected or appointed political and administrative figures.
Hanns Seidel Foundation came in Romania in 1992. How difficult was to build civil society, inexistent before the Romanian Revolution of December 1989?
Contrary to the believes of many european experts at that time, the Romanian Revolution was not the beginning of a spontanous democratic and people-oriented transformation period in Romania. The movement was quickly hijacked by old structures – which were better organized and more experienced in power games than the nascent civil society. It took almost a decade until civil society organizations and peer groups got a foothold in Romanian society and were not only able to voice their opinion, but were even beginning to be heard by the political decision makers.
Corruption is one one of the phenomena that irrefutably dismantle democracy. Is participatory democracy able to eradicate this subversive behaviour?
Like I said before, one of the most important roles of civil society is that of a watchdog in the political process. That of course is especially important when we talk about corruption. Civil society organisations cannot arrest somebody – but they can make sure that public figures can`t get away with it, that it won`t be forgotten. Civil society initiatives have the power to turn the fight against corruption into a fight for a corruption free society- which is easier to do on a social level through initiatives and activities.
Has the Romanian rule of law have been consolidated since Romania became a member of NATO and EU? What developments do you notice?
In my opinion the rule of law has tremendously increased over the last years – but I think it is mostly driven by the power of law-enforcement agencies and the courts to put negative sanctions on anybody who is not behaving accordingly. What is still missing in my point of view is the readiness in politics, economy and society to stick to the rules of law even when nobody is watching – in other words, a consolidated democratic and civic political culture.
The Republic of Moldova is on its path toward Euro-Atlantic integration. What is the main contribution of Hanns Seidel Foundation to this major reforms-implementation process?
Our project activites in Moldova focus mainly on civil society engagement in the country. We want to support young leaders and experienced peer persons on their way to built a new, democratic Moldova. The institutional hardware is already in place. All that`s left to do is to develop the mindset, the software of the people and their leaders. This has to be a evolutionary process, because no one can take that task out of the hands of the Moldavian peole. They have to shape the country they want to live in themselves.
Romanians generally face the problem of reconciliations with a totalitarian past. Does Romania need to accept and assume that past in order to strengthen democratic institutions and avoid any radical sideslip?
Romania has to deal with its past, the positive and negative elements of it. This is the only way how to connect to and develop the positive elements of its history, and to make sure that the negative elements will never repeat itself. This has nothing to do with blaming somebody or repainting history in black or white colours. Historical responsibility goes further than that and is a important basis for the common understanding of the nations democratic future development.
National Anticorruption Directorate is fighting a “war” against corruptions. Has this unprecedented initiative contributed to the improvement of Romania`s image?
Absolutely. The ECONOMIST recently described how Miss Kövesi was greeted like a “Rock Star” at an anticorruption conference – and in my opinion she very much deserves to. DGA and DNA have immensely contributed to the much improved image of Romania`s fight against corruption.
OSCE was the “spare head” for change starting from 1973 even regarding communist states. Is Hanns Seidel Foundation militating for the same values as OSCE does?
That goes without saying. OSCE nowadays stands for the implementation and consolidation of democratic practises and values. It is much more than the cold-war instrument of the 70s and 80s and is therefore yet another instrument of promoting democracy and freedom in international cooperation.
Madeleine Albright stated that patriotism is a commonplace in relation to state, but nationalism is extremely dangerous. What is your opinion, taking into account that nationalism tends to neutralise democracy and radicalise society?
Like any -ism, nationalism is dangerous, because it narrows the mind and leeds to all kinds of unpleasant and radical developments. But if we talk not about radical nationalism, but about a positive identifier for the people living in one country, patriotism like Miss Albright said, nationbuilding or however you want to call it, can be a common basis for a country as cultural and historical diverse as Romania. But this development has to be inclusive, it has to stress what unites the roamanian people within the county and vis-a-vis its neighbors, not trying to divide them by religious, ethnical, political or whatever means.
George Marshall considered that after the Second World War a healthy economy is the determinant for a healthy democracy. Is this principle still vivid?
I would say yes – but to a much lesser extent than George Marshall might had in mind. I would say that in Europe, at least, there is no country whose economy would not allow democratic consolidation. Of course, politics is always about the distribution of scarce resources – but even if these ressources are tight, there is no reason why the political system behind it should not be based on democratic principles. On the contrary – an open and democratic society is much better suited to come through times of economic troubles, than an authoritarian one.