Meeting with Mr. Boc, Mayor of Cluj-Napoca and ex-Prime-Minister of Romania
We were very surprised to hear that Mr Boc, who is the former Prime Minister of Romania and the current Mayor of Transylvania Regions’ biggest city Cluj Napoca was available to have a meeting with us. He was going to be a very important part of our project with his invaluable insight and experience therefore we prepared ourselves with many questions for our meeting. We were welcomed by his assistants upon our arrival in the municipality.
We began our discussion with brief instructions and then when we were talking about the transformation of Cluj in the last 25 years Mr. Boc said that it’s still challenge for them to move forward. Romania which is one of the last countries to join the European Union and that it is still in a rapid development process with the aim of reaching the level of the other member nations.
Romania was the only country in Eastern Europe who had a bloody transition from communism to democracy, unlike other post-communist countries like Hungary, Czech Republic. Romania had bloody revolution because Romanian communist system was the most aggressive one in the center and Eastern Europe. The power of the security system and the secret police was one of the major difficulties for the transformation. That is an explanation for why Romania couldn’t adapt to the free market system and social liberty so rapidly. He said that institutions could be changed overnight with a change of label at the entrance but that would be superficial and a real change could take much longer than anticipated because of all the adaptations and reformations that are needed to be done in order the accomplish that transition.
He underlined that Romania wanted to enter into EU in 2004 along with the other candidates but this adaptation process took longer for Romania than the other countries therefore Romania missed the train during that year and this was again because of the innate problems that were haunting Romania since the revolution. He sees this loss of 3 years as a very important loss for Romania as means of infrastructural development of the country. They finally became a member pof the European Union in 2007.
He says that Romania is in the best shape in its history today in regards of security and economy. But he warns us that this is not going to last forever and he stresses that the idea of democracy is not in the DNA of the European identity as we have seen what Europe has done in the last 100 years. Therefore, he says that the burden is on the shoulders of the younger generations to fight for and preserve the democracy.
When we are talking about the differences between the two eras, he gives us examples from his youth. When he was a student, visa was a very problematic issue for people of his age and that he could not even think about going abroad. Mr. Boc says that there are 4 million Romanians living abroad right now following the Accession. 2 million of these people are unfortunately not documented. He says that these people work abroad and then eventually bringing money back to their homes.
When we ask him about the general sentiment towards Europe in regards of rising Euroscepticism throughout Europe, he says that because of the great advantages that the EU offers, a clear majority of Romanians see the European Union as a great opportunity. Therefore any Eurosceptic movement is far from having a substantial power in Romania like other countries such as UK, France, Netherlands and Germany etc.
We have also talked to him about the long lasting corruption problem in Romania and he told us that the best weapon against corruption was a working democratic system. He told us that during his tenure as the prime minister, he also worked against corruption and he says that nowadays the judges are more free and can take stronger actions against corruption therefore corruption is declining in Romania. Yet, he also adds that a zero corruption ideal is not possible in any country but the goal of minimizing it is the most plausible. He adds that Romania is still working on being a truly democratic nation and that there are still some problems to be tackled but the most important thing is the peoples’ will to pursue democratic values and with that popular force a true transformation is possible. Nowadays, at least we can say that everyone is equal in Romania which was hard to be said before and that is why corruption is diminishing, says Mr. Boc.
Minorities in Romania
We have also asked him about the minorities in Romania and especially in Transylvania because we have had a discussion before with the organizer of the Hungarian Culture Days in Cluj. He said that for example Hungarians were making up %6 of the general population of Romania and %16 of the Cluj city. He presented us the Romanian Constitution and read us the clauses regarding the preservation of the minorities’ rights. In the constitution, all the minorities’ right of representation is protected with a clause which says that even if a minority does not get enough votes, they still have one spot at least in the parliament. He also added that all the events organized by minorities are funded by the municipalities and he added that equality was the most important value that they were keeping an eye on when making their plans. Minorities can have their own languages in their schools like with the Hungarian population and they can learn Romanian as the second official language in the schools other than their mother tongues. He stressed that Romania was a multicultural country but that it wasn’t a federal system.
We also asked him about the EU Accession process of Turkey and he said that if we compare the two countries’ processes, Romania had a much more smooth process than Turkey. He said that the main reason behind this difference was the Constitutional differences between the two countries and the cultural infrastructure. He thinks that it will take some time for Turkey to adapt to the European Cultural structure.
On the other hand, he says that Turkey is bringing along with itself an incredible economic and political potential for the European Union. He says that Turkey should focus on the transition efforts and show that it is really working hard on the adaptations programs and understand that it will take some time but with patience, it can happen. He puts Direction and Communication as the most important points.
Dreams About City
We lastly asked him about what his aspirations for the city. He said that he always wanted Cluj to be a real European city like Paris and Barcelona where all the people from all over the world has the ability to live together in peace. He said that they were the candidate city for the European Capital of Culture but they lost to Timişoara in the last round. He wants to see this dream come to life next time. His other dream is making Cluj a city of Innovation
At the end of our interview, we took some photos together and he kindly gave us a French copy of the Romanian Constitution as a gift which was a very nice thought.
We thank him for his time.