A brief overview of the Romanian case

Research Paper by Mihai Sebe



The present paper is a part of a broader European debate concerning the rise and risks of populism in the midst of a European Union tormented by an economic, social and intellectual crisis. I would like to present here a brief overview of the Romanian political landscape and the scars that populism left behind, from an historical point of view. While analyzing the rise of populism in nowadays Romania, we must have in mind its particular set of characteristics, more precisely the fact that we are facing a resurrected political life, after the Communist “ice age,” which put a dramatic end to the debate between democracy and all types of authoritarianism, in terms of the Romanian national project. When looking for manifestations of populism in Europe, what is yet little known by the foreign audience is that we can find the roots of populism in interwar Romania as politicians and all walks of life debated, often with unwavering passion, the relation between Romania and the yet in nuce project of a European construction. Having to face continental projects such as Kudenhove-Kalergi PanEuropa and Aristide Briand’s Memorandum, populism started to rise, as some feared the total loss of independence. The same fears would come back to life after the Revolution of 1989, as the old “demons” of the past would arise once more to confront the European project. Thus, in the context of a difficult political transition from a totalitarian to a democratic regime, from centralized economy to free market, the political class would have a recourse to the decades-old arguments of the loss of sovereignty and the need of a “Romanian position,” different from the European integration. This research paper is divided into several chapters with an arboreal structure that help create a clear picture, for those unfamiliar with the Romanian political landscape, of the history and present life of populism.