Thursday, May 24, 2007

In regard to the May 16 letter "A Democratic Solution in Romania1":

Bogdan Olteanu and Graham Watson know that the real reason President Traian Basescu was impeached by the Romanian parliament was that he broke a taboo and spoke out about corruption at the very top.

Mr. Watson heads 96 Liberals in the European Parliament. His role should be to improve the ethical standards of his Romanian members instead of siding with them to drive out a president who wants to clean up politics. Mr. Watson prefers to associate himself with forces that have made Romania a byword for predatory politics instead of working with Commission officials in Brussels who want Romanians to benefit from EU membership and the country to be a force for stability in a dangerous corner of Europe.

The 2009 elections for the European Parliament cannot come soon enough. Then the voters in Mr. Watson's electoral district of South-West England can judge for themselves whether he has been a good steward of the €30 billion the West European taxpayers are due to give Romania over the next five years.

European Liberals can still salvage their honor by restraining Mr. Watson and siding with the majority of Romanians who currently see their president as the best hope for meaningful reform.

Now that three quarters of the voters in Saturday's referendum have overturned the attempt to drive President Basescu from public life, dare I suggest that Mr. Watson should be giving some thought to his own position? He has aligned himself with some of the most retrograde Romanian politicians and dragged the name of the European Liberals into the mud.

Romanians need better-quality engagement from European politicians if Romania is to build a modern political system based on the impartial exercise of the rule of law. Nothing less is required to halt the exodus of millions of enterprising citizens who continue to be stifled at home owing to runaway corruption.

Tom Gallagher
Professor of East European Peace Studies
Department of Peace Studies
University of Bradford
Bradford, U.K.

(The writer is author of "Modern Romania: Theft of a Nation," New York University Press, 2005.)

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