EurActiv: Moving forward, with strong values

Child (in Paris, after the terrorist attacks, at one of the places where people were bringing flowers and candles, asked by a reporter if he understands what happened):

Yes, because they are really, really mean. (…) And… We have to be really careful, we have

Father: Oh, no, don’t worry… We don’t need to move out. France is our home.

Child: But, daddy, there are bad guys.

Father: Yes, but there are bad guys everywhere.

Child: They have guns… They can shoot us because they’re really, really mean.

Father: It’s OK. They might have guns, but we have flowers.

Child: But flowers don’t do anything, they’re for, they’re for…

Father: Of course they do, look, everyone is putting flowers. It’s to fight against guns.

Father: It’s to remember the people who are gone.

(EurActiv.ro, 18 November 2015, transcription of a report broadcast by Channel Plus.)

 

Back in time in November 2004 When I and the initial team officially launched EurActiv Romania, 11 years ago, in the presence of an important friend of Romania, Ambassador Jonathan Scheele, former head of the Delegation of the European Commission, no one could have imagined that, one day, we will report live on six coordinated terrorist attacks in the very heart of Europe.

 

Today, with dignity and a high civic consciousness, France and the rest of Europe are recovering after the shock. While officials respond with talks of war and police forces with cross-border anti-terror actions, the courageous and extraordinary answer of ordinary people is that of solidarity and decency: flowers, candles and a massive not-to-

How can Europe be described over past 11 years? The key words are prosperity,

These were also the main coordinates of how Romania, as an accession country, saw the European Union, when it opened EU negotiations. The interest in the country concerning EU-connected issues was, at the time, huge, but highly superficial – most of the people simply wanted to know when will Romania be part of the European Union and were focused, in tabloid-like fashion, on the potential negative effects.

 

EurActiv Romania wanted to be a balanced and relevant voice, capable of reflecting in a balanced manner the effects of the accession process and, more appropriately, of the effects of European integration.

 

At the time, the atmosphere in Romania was split between corruption and the desire of a high majority of the population to be part of the European Union. Media was similarly divided between corrupt and well-paid outlets and a handful of honest journalists struggling to survive. Corruption touched everything.

 

Although under-prepared, Romania joined the European Union on the 1st of January 2007. The accession was celebrated with fireworks in the capital`s symbolic square of the Revolution. The image of the European Union and the way people saw the process of integration were kept, however, as ideals by some, or were registered in tabloid fashion by others. While most attention in the media was placed on minor and endless political scandals, internal corruption remained the main issue of the country.

During this times, the policies of the European Union managed to avoid getting caught in the focus of Romanians. Most media outlets succeeded in almost completely ignoring those writing on EU policies. These subtle themes, although in the center of attention in Europe, were clearly not considered newsworthy by major media. Nothing scandalous happened in this field, so policy-news were no news at all.

The ignorance of the mainstream media (of course, with some notable exceptions, like a few TV programmes, radio channels and some specialized journalists/editors) has remained unchanged until the global financial crisis. Since then, the way Europe is affected started to get more and more coverage in the Romanian media. The Greek bailout, developments in Portugal and in Spain – we could say that the Romanian population was rather well informed on Europe’s problems but less so on its potential Despite the aforementioned media coverage, once the borders opened up, gradually, Romanians saw, through their own eyes, what the European Union meant. They travelled to others parts of Europe, some of them got paid in euros for temporary jobs, others benefited from EU sponsored funds or scholarships. Step by step, most people realized that less corruption means more prosperity for more people, means schools, health care, other standards of living, dignity. Also, they realized that they have the power to vote. In this sense, the people living abroad mobilized in the past years, in some cases in truly extraordinary ways – when they saw their votes wasted in the hands

Today in late 2015, much has changed. A powerful anti-corruption fight has started and specialized agencies have begun capturing the big fish. Having said that, corruption is still an important issue that can at times hit some very sensitive nerves. This has been the case of the fire in the Collective nightclub. This tragedy, in which 56 young people lost their lives, has persuaded massive numbers of Romanians say “enough is enough”.

Thus, while the heart of the European Union bleeds because of terrorist attacks, Romania bleeds because of its endemic corruption. The obscenity of the whole system was revealed in this catastrophic event, with authorities favouring and protecting unsecure public spaces through their corrupt practices. The population was outraged and major protests broke out. The king was finally seen to be naked.

In response to these devastating situations, both in France and in Romania, people cried and offered flowers – a bridge of tears and flowers across borders and time. 25 years ago, another generation of Romanian young people faced weapons with flowers for the soldiers who were ordered to shoot. It is unlikely that actual killings might have occurred, but the former communist leaders placed their bet on fear – much Today, this malleable monster, fear, can take so many faces and can be seen in so many places. Fear can make a massive number of victims, as it hits civilization in its heart and challenges democracy and its key values: freedom, dignity, responsibility and honesty.

Today, the role of independent media has become more challenging than ever.

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