From Calin to Crin…

antonescuCrin Antonescu is the new leader of the Romanian National Liberal Party (PNL).  He defeated the incumbent Calin Popescu Tariceanu comfortably enough at the party’s congress today.  He won 873 votes to Tariceanu’s 546.

Antonescu is an interesting character.  He joined the National Liberals in the early 1990s.  A former leader of the PNL parliamentary group he has been something of a back-room boy in the party and has been accused of lacking charisma.  He has an interesting family story

Tariceanu was Prime Minister, leading a minority PNL government, until elections last November.  Now the National Liberals are effectively the only national opposition party after the largest parties on the left and right formed a coalition government.  Tariceanu was originally associated with neo-liberal factions in the party and has long been associated with oil magnate Dinu Patriciu.  Inevitably Tariceanu’s defeat will raise questions about Patriciu’s future relations with the party although Tariceanu himself has already wished Antonescu well in a show of solidarity.

The first big question will be how the result will affect the PNLs choice of candidates for the European Parliament elections in June.  There will no doubt be plenty of people looking for reward for their support in the leadership election - and others who fear the consequences of backing the wrong horse.  The National Liberals should be able to win at least 7 seats in the elections.

Then, of course, there will be the pretty thankless task of taking on President Basescu in the presidential elections this autumn.  Ne vedem!

When is a nation not a nation?

It is a year since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia.  Insomnia led me to the BBCs ‘The Record Europe’ programme last night which included an interesting discussion of the implications of the widespread international recognition of Kosovo as a state.

The Serbs have been cast as Europe’s bad guys for some years and the Milosevic regime’s treatment of Kosovans added to the antipathy felt towards the Serbian state.  Not too surprising, then, that numerous Western states rushed to recognise the legitimacy of the Kosovan state.  The problem, that has been illustrated starkly in the more recent Georgian conflict, is that it sets something of a precedent.

Five EU states – including Romania and Cyprus – have not recognised Kosovo.  Social Democrat MEP Adrian Severin argues that this has nothing to do with Romanian self interest.  Well…, lets be charitable and say that while we are sure he firmly believes that to be the case, there may be others who would point to Romanian concerns about challenges to the country’s territorial integrity as a result of the Kosovan move.

Severin’s apparent assertion that countries should only gain their independence with the consent of the state they are seceding from stacks up uncomfortably against the whole region’s centuries-long struggle against imperial domination.  Yet, it raises an important question:  when should a group of people be able to legitimately declare independence from an established state?  What’s to stop Surrey, say, from declaring UDI from the United Kingdom if the majority of its people so decide?

As a post script, the same recording (which is only available at that site for the next few days) includes a treat for Eurosceptics with coverage of Czech President Vaclav Klaus’s recent speech to the European Parliament.

Catching up with Romania

I was fortunate to spend last weekend in Bucharest talking to Liberal candidates ahead of Romania’s parliamentary elections in November.

I cant claim credit for the best answer of the day.  In response to the question, “How do you deal with opponents who offer voters a million lei to buy their vote?” an experienced Liberal Senator replied: “Tell them ‘he might offer you a million now but we have raised your pension by a million for each month’”

Belatedly, if its the sort of thing that floats your boat, you can find my EPERN report on the Romanian elections to the European Parliament at:

http://www.sussex.ac.uk/sei/documents/epern-ep2007-romania.pdf

A winning plan for the capital

Here is a real plan of action for a Liberal mayor:

  • Widen the four main roads into the city
  • Create a new outer ring road
  • Build a new rail link from the centre to the main airport
  • Extend the underground system to the south western suburbs
  • Build a new airport to the south of the city
  • Construct new port facilities in the city

OK, so it’s not a plan for London.  They are (just some of) the key pledges from Ludovic Orban, Liberal candidate for mayor of Bucharest.  You cant say he lacks ambition (though goodness knows how he plans to pay for it).

Everything changes, everything stays the same…

You turn your back for 10 minutes and a whole bunch of new parties appear in Romania.

Arrived in Bucharest in the middle of the local elections to discover the Popular Christian Social Union (they almost got all the bases covered there with the name ;-) and the Civic Force Party as the newest kids on the block.  The former seems to be vaguely left of centre (their leader is a former Social Democrat, their Bucharest mayoral candidate is ex National Salvation Front and ex Democrat party), the latter a splinter from the Greater Romania Party. 

Also surprised to see Adrian Mutu (a footballer, for the uninitiated) endorsing Cosmin Gusa of the National Initiative Party (amused that Gusa flew out to Italy for the meeting rather than the other way round though) and to see Sorin Oprescu running as an independent – last I heard, Oprescu was a senior Social Democrat. 

Everyone is running ‘against the government’ – cohabitation helps because everyone has someone else to blame.  The National Liberal campaign in Bucharest seems to be well funded but they bought lots of advertising space last November and still got trampled on by the Democrats.

Anyway, if you are interested and if you can read Romanian (or Latin or Italian – you’ll work it out), I recommend:  www.alegeri.tv which I have just discovered.

For Megson, read Roeder…

Different club, different manager (although Gary Megson worked his magic at City too in the past), same story.  This article says it all. 

 Is there a pithy phrase for the way waste spirals down the toilet bowl – it might be more appropriate than ‘managerial merry-go-round’.

Still, ticket prices might be cheaper in League One…

I’m backing Sherwood Forest

I’m backing Sherwood Forest’s bid to win £50m of lottery funding.

I’m always suspicious of big-money Government projects but the money will go to one of the four projects and I am backing Sherwood Forest because of its commitment to:

  • Community access and involvement
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Expansion of the forest itself
  • Promotion of a sense of pride in the locality and the values it represents

You can find out more at www.robinhood.co.uk and I have also joined the group supporting Sherwood’s bid over at www.facebook.com

I’ll be voting for Sherwood Forest when the vote is launched (the companies running the vote say they will not make a profit from the calls and texts.)