Keeping up with the Romanians - Ep. 6: The Government vs Intelligence

  • Last week, former PM and EU Commissioner Dacian Ciolos was accused of shady ‘ties to the former Securitate.’ Historian Marius Oprea claimed in an article that a former intelligence officer, Alexandru Iordache, was behind the official registration of Ciolos’ party, PLUS, and thus this collaboration wholly discredits Ciolos & his party.

  • While Ciolos did not directly deny this, he claims the link is spurios, as Iordache’s son was involved in registering PLUS, and that the former does not have any role within the organisation. Ciolos was criticised for his weak response in a Facebook post which cast doubt in the minds of many, including potential sympathisers.

  • It looks to be yet another dirty, or at least muddy, situation that can be directly traced back to Romania’s failure to properly come to terms with 1989 and, most importantly, to conduct an overhaul of its intelligence services, whose extensive reach is almost the stuff of legends within the public consciousness. Even opponents of PSD concede that the power and opacity of the country’s intelligence services are a noxious mix with direct impact on public life.

  • That these accusations of ties to intelligence services only surface now, as the opposition is revving up for the next couple of years of elections, is not surprising. Romania, as many EU countries are nowadays, is also fertile ground for disinformation, with the lack of trust in government and public administration compounded by citizens’ lack of trust in each other.

  • What’s more, PSD has been talking about a “parallel state” for years now, and the latest attack fits the populist narrative perfectly: ‘we are the only option, the opposition is either bought by foreigners/Soros or in the grasp of illegitimate parallel power structures.’

  • To me, this episode raises concerns over the state of the opposition and its ability to withstand a battle-hardened and savvy PSD in the election period to come. This most recent attack has the potential to hound Ciolos, while his relatively muted response could be seen as an example of how not to communicate, as it raised more questions instead of being a forceful rejection of the narrative PSD is pushing; a good opportunity to stress that the opposition is not funded from abroad or used as a front by occult interests was wasted. At the end of the day, there are thousands of people working to make these 2 new opposition parties (PLUS and USR) work, to imply like the original article mentioned above does, that they're a way for the old Securitate to refresh its image is ludicrous and insulting.

  • The good news is that the government coalition is scared enough of the prospect of Ciolos as a candidate (he’s announced he’s standing in the EP elections which he might use as a stepping stone to a Presidential or internal parliamentary elections) to play this card. As an aside, if you’d like to read more about the source of the attack, try this (in Romanian).

  • Regardless, and at the risk of being accused of once again proposing a negative vote (voting against something rather than for), Romania needs to prepare to vote in May if it wants to push back on the populist narrative promoted by the government coalition. Also if doesn’t want more Viorica Dancilas (a former MEP) in the European Parliament.

IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT!?!?

IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT!?!?

Anyway. Here’s a good (no, great!) example of how to communicate and how to do digital diplomacy: Sweden’s MFA.

50472092_10155970433568314_2488364129857830912_o.jpg

In part to do with the MFA’s central strategy, in part to do with the personal efforts of the former Deputy Head of Mission, Alexandre Peyre, the Swedish Embassy in Romania has pretty much become the gold standard when it comes to digital diplomacy and public engagement by foreign missions.

Here, they take the #10yearchallenge and use it to poke gentle, collegial fun at Romania’s infrastructure struggles. I’d say this is better than repeating the word cohesion every 5 minutes because you’ve just learned what it means and want to show it off.