In the news
Le Monde, The Guardian, The Herald Tribune, The Times and a range of British and German boulevard papers ? most big European cities and tourist centres sell international newspapers. In Romania, they are very hard to find. I remember seeing one copy of Die Zeit in Sibiu and that`s about all. Even Romanian newspapers do not seem to be printed in high numbers and stunning diversities.
Curious to find out what an average national newspaper writes about on a normal weekday. I buy the Jurnalul National and try to find some people to help me read it. Jurnalul National calls itself a vertical newspaper, which stands for independent.
Ioana (22, photo) doubts whether such thing as independent press actually exists, but she is willing to explain some of the main articles to me.
..has little confidence in the Romanian health care system
I am surprised to find part of page 2 allocated to Romanian `proverbs of the day`, followed by viewer statistics of talk shows, political or other that were broadcast two days earlier. Strangely enough, the headlines of the newspaper are barely representative for the article that follows them. Ioana explains that Romanians get suspicious when information seems too logical: `They prefer to have it the complicated way, so they have something to complain about. If something is too obvious, there must be another problem hiding behind it and they will feel like they are not getting the entire truth.`
The upcoming NATO congress in Bucharest is given plenty of attention. Not so much for whatever is going to be discussed, but the more so for the draconic security measures that have been taken to make sure that the NATO-presidents will survive the event. Romania will return to communist times, as it seals its borders for all days the congress is taking. Nobody will be allowed into the country, nobody will be allowed out of the country. Memories of the 1980s.
According to a critic journalist, the NATO congress will finally make the authorities fix the road between Otopeni airport and the city centre of Bucharest, something which should have been done at least ten years ago, but `nothing happens when there is no emergency`, so he writes. Romania wants to show its best side, just like it used to do whenever the former leader Ceausecu was traveling in the country. No room for imperfection or any negative comments.
The writer further argues that in any other European country, different organisations would actually be invited to make their criticism known. A few days ago, a group of Germans traveling to Romania were stopped at the border for 19 hours and were finally refused entry into Romania because they had some anti-NATO poster material in their car. The writer of the article sarcastically remarks that customs must have thought that those posters were ingredients to make Molotov cocktails. A separate article mocks about the US Foreign Affairs Ministry who wanted to send George Bush to Constadt (should be Constanta) for a meeting with Romanian president Vasesque instead of Basescu.
Further on in the newspaper, an article is dedicated to the difficult position of HIV-infected kids in children`s homes in the South of the country. Most of them were born with physical or psychological disabilities which made it too difficult for their parents to take care of them. Most of them were not infected by HIV when they were born, but acquired the disease through blood transfusions at a later point in their lives. When British organisation Children in Distress came to lend local caretakers a helping hand in 1992, they were surprised that the Romanian personnel did not even dare to get close to the children who were suffering from AIDS ? afraid that they would become infected. The newspaper says that the children are not afraid to die, because they have already seen so many of their friends die. The kids are further called `victims of medical progress`, implying they would already have died if medication hadn`t improved in the meantime. And also implicitly judging that they would have been better off in another world.
I ask Ioana how these kids could be infected with HIV and she says that `such things just happened at the time.` She explains that still today, people in villages are sometimes infected with Hepatitis C when they go see a dentist: `We have a very strange medical system in Romania. We have a handful of very good doctors and masses of poorly educated ones. Less then 10 years ago, my mum once took me to hospital when I had a fever. I was given antibiotics but nobody cared to check which ones. I had an allergic reaction which caused liquid to enter my lungs and heart. The doctors in the local hospital predicted that I wouldn`t have more than one week left to live. My mum offered them money to cure me, as is a general practice in Romania, but they told her that they wouldn`t accept because they couldn`t save me anyway. All they could do was to take me to a bigger hospital in Iasi, but they could not guarantee that I would make it there alive. My mum was desperate and decided to have me transferred. In Iasi, they quickly found out what was wrong, and I recovered in a matter of days. You won`t be surprised that I will not go to the hospital in my home city again, and I will not allow anybody else to go there either.`
Jurnalul National also describes the celebration of the 90th anniversary of the unification of Romania with Basarabia (Moldova). After WW I the region of Moldova was added to the Romanian territory, but it was cut in half at the start of WW II. The Soviet Union then annexed the entire Eastern part of Moldova, and turned it into a Soviet Republic. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, The Republic of Moldova became an independent country, right next to the Romanian province of Moldova. Romania calls for re-unification of the Moldova region, while the communist leader of the Republic of Moldova wants to get rid of the Romanian heritage in the country.
While Romanian president Basescu hints at EU membership for Moldova, the Moldovan president Vladimir Voronin is using the 90th celebration to widen the gap between Moldova and Romania even further. He suggests that all Romanian opinion leaders - teachers, judges, doctors - should be extradited from the Republic of Moldova as they represent infiltrators of a foreign nation. He is also quoted saying that it makes no sense that school children in the Republic of Moldavia are learning a language that is referred to as Romanian, and a history that is referred to as Romanian.
International news is only taking one out of a total of 32 pages. Half of that page has been consumed by advertisements, leaving little room for a few words about anti-Taliban fights in Afghanistan. Another ten lines for the elections in the United States and for the to-be president of Russia. The 3-0 victory of the Romanian national football team against Russia seems to be more important, even though it was a friendly match. The lighter incident is also given plenty of attention. It refers to a match between rivals Steaua Bucharest and Rapid Bucharest which was suspended after the referee was hit by a lighter that a Rapid supporter threw at him. After 13 minutes of play, with Rapid 1-0 ahead, the match was ended and Steaua was granted a 3-0 victory. Such events spark the ever-present Romanian sensation that everything is part of a giant conspiracy, but Emil (21) says that Steaua will not win the championship anyway: `It`ll probably be CFR Cluj this year, so whatever they are fighting about does not really matter.`
Last but not least, the newspaper describes the eternally troublesome relation between the Romanian president and the Prime Minister. They keep calling each other names, except when they are sent to Brussels together, when they `prefer to keep their quarrels at home`. The president Basescu is supposed to be impartial but used to be at the head of the Democratic Party. Prior to the elections, he created an alliance with the Liberal Party who sent the Prime Minister. Romanian politics are probably be inspired by Italy, given their likeliness with soap operas. President Basescu is said to need another term in office to stay out of jail. He is suspected of corruption and money laundry in the 1990s, but will be protected by his presidential immunity as long as he remains in office. However, charges against him will not expire before the end of his current term. Being reelected for another five years would be enough to avoid any trouble resulting from his pre-presidential political career.
By becoming a Romanian president, the leader of a party is supposed to resign from the party to be an impartial head of state. And so Basescu did, but at the same time, he assigned that job to his 20-year old daughter, who is not known to be particularly smart. And so the political mill keeps turning..
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