This morning, around 4 am, I found myself in a long cue so characteristic of Romania, waiting to go through security at Otopeni Airport (Romania’s largest and Bucharest’s main airport).
Next in line was a couple, maybe in a larger group but I couldn’t tell. They resemble very much the stock photo I stole from an Australian website which you can see above. The only difference is that the dude also was wearing a hat.
And with this last word the rambling begins:
Why do people going on vacation have to dress for the beach or city-tour from the airport?
Why do you need a hat in an air-conditioned, pressurized airplane?
Do they think that upon landing a blistering Saharan sun will blast them and they will be the sole survives of the mass sunstroke?
Just think about it: you get up at 3, maybe 2 in the morning; put your flip-flops, shorts, short-sleeved shirt and hat on; get out in a Bucharest street, flanked on all sides by gray Communist apartment blocks and silent parked cars, through which the old, beat-up yellow taxi barely made its way. You’re a bit shocked by the morning chill and darkness interrupted only by the flickering street lamps high above. After half an hour in the companion of a sleepy and bored taxi driver and trying to make yourself as comfortable as possible in the seat of a million passengers, you reach the airport: the Babylon of sleepy, pissed off people, some because they have to work at 4 am, some because they are classifying all the things that can go wrong with their aerial journey in alphabetical order. You head straight to security – people who are ready to jump in the sea do not bother themselves with extra luggage besides a back-pack or ideally a beach bag – and you’re stuck for half an hour in front of a jolly fellow who happens to be me. While you’re thinking of all the things you planned to see and how close your hotel is to the sea, I am thinking about this post.
Now that you have an imaginary hat and are in front of me at the cue in Otopeni you can realize the awkwardness which stems from the extreme contrast between your hat and all the places it has been and will be until it will protect your scalp from certain skin cancer.
The behavior of fellow men will never cease to amaze me!
I bet you’ve heard this thousands of times: research and the academic world are always one step behind what’s going on in the ‘real world’. No matter how cliché this might be, it is true, be it due to the time eaten up by review and publication or intentional submersion in abstract theoretical debates.
This introduction is indeed misleading, because this post is not an analysis of the gap between research and practice, but the showcase of an essay that I wrote this year on the impact of accession on Romania’s environmental policy. The reason I started rambling on about research is that if one looks at Romania’s environmental policy and most of the reports, it is most probable that he won’t discover what NGOs have been screaming about for the past decade: illegal deforestation, decaying industrial sites and widespread poaching, just listing a few of the systemic problems.
I hope you will enjoy reading this piece and I welcome your thoughts about the issue or about the research gap. *
Next year Romania will celebrate 10 years since its accession to the European Union (EU) and 28 years since it regained democracy. Going from a seemingly non-existent environmental policy as a socialist state, to a country dedicated to the Europe 2020 targets is a long way in just over three decades and a half. This begs the question of how much of this evolution can be linked to its accession to the EU. While a large body of literature has been dedicated to the effects of enlargement on the environmental policy of the Union, there are few comprehensive assessments on the effects it had on the new member states. This paper attempts to shed some light on the case of Romania by looking at the changes in legislation with the integration of the environmental acquis communautaire and the effectiveness of its implementation. Before developing the assessment, the first two sections will lay the conceptual and historical foundation for the discussion. The third section will analyse the overall challenges of Romanian environmental policy (REP). The fourth section will look at each sub-group of policies as outlines by international evaluations (air, waste, water and biodiversity). Finally, the paper will conclude that Romania’s accession to the EU had an overall positive impact on environmental policy, despite some discrepancies between the legal provisions and implementation.
Accession and enlargement are two sides of the same coin. While accession refers to the process of a country joining the EU, enlargement refers to the process of the EU expanding horizontally. Both processes are generally considered as gradual, even though some scholars restrict them only to the signing of the Accession Agreement by the candidate country (Faber, 2009).
This is relevant because they allow us to understand transformative power of the EU. Enlargement is seen as EU’s strongest foreign policy tool, because access to the common market is used as a ‘carrot’ which incentivizes candidates to make structural reforms (Brady, 2007; Bohle, 2003). Future accession starts to influence candidates even before formal proceedings begin and this process intensifies with each step in the negotiations. Consequently, one can trace the influence of the EU many years before the accession date. The following section will look at how Romania changed in the years leading up to 2007.
Moreover, accession is a formal process, being enshrined in the Treaty of the European Union under articles 2 and 49 (Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier, 2002). The candidates need to meet the eligibility criteria defined by the Copenhagen meeting of the European Council in June 1993: stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, a functioning market economy and the ability to implement the obligations of membership (EUR-Lex, 2015). Moreover, they need to go through a staged procedure monitored by the European Commission (EC). This again puts pressure on the candidate country as they have clear objectives and a clear implementation plan. The effectiveness of this pressure can be seen in the relatively fast transposition of the lengthy and complex aquis, but also, in the slowing down of the integration process after accession, which has been termed by some scholars as ‘post-accession fatigue’ (Rupnik and Zielonka, 2013). This can also be observed in the field of environmental policy and, more generally in the case of Romania.
‘Sustainable development’ is a highly contested notion, due to its vagueness and its relationship with the crises of justice and crisis of nature of the global environment (Sachs, 1999). As it is not within the scope of this paper to test the validity of the concept, the mainstream definition will be employed: ‘Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ (WCED, 1987: 41).
This definition is relevant in the current context, as it sustainable development is enshrined in the Treaty of Lisbon and defined as ‘a fundamental objective’ of the EU (European Council, 2009). Hence, it is expected that the EU would promote and encourage sustainable development in the new member states. Whether this is the case has been a contested issue.
On the one hand, researchers argue that accession, together with the intensification of liberalization had a positive impact on the sustainability of new member states (NMS) (Crisen and Carmin, 2011; Archibald et at., 2004). One perspective is given by the Kuznets curve that show how environmental damages increase with the increase of consumption in the short term, but in the long term, the rise in income leads to an increase in sustainability (Archibald et al., 2004).
On the other hand, Inotai and others argue that the EU favored liberalization over sustainable development, with the result that transnational corporations took advantage of the situation in NMS (2009). For example, they chose to build facilities on ‘green-field’ sites rather than assuming the responsibility of upgrading existing industrial sites (Pavlínek and Pickles, 2004). Gille go to the extent of saying that the EU promotes ‘unsustainable development’ (cited in Kramer, 2004: 300).
Through the assessment of each group of environmental policies in the fourth part, it will be assessed the extent to which sustainable development was encouraged in Romania.
The general argument is that the socialist past of Eastern European countries is the main cause for their laggard environmental policy and poor rankings in environmental classifications (Skjærseth and Wettestad, 2007). This was also the case for Romania, due to its combination of rich natural resources and politically driven economic development.
The instauration of communism in Romania after the Second World War, mean that, like in the other socialist countries, the majority of land and production facilities were nationalized. These assets were employed in fulfilling the five year plans of the Communist Party which had the aim of transforming Romania from an agrarian to an industrialized country.
While this process was fairly slow in the first decades of communist rule, it was particularly intensified in the 1960s, after the election of a new general secretary, Nicolae Ceauşescu, who ruled the country until 1989. During his rule technocrats were replace with political activists, making industrialization more a propaganda tool than an instrument of economic development (Dăianu and Murgescu, 2013).
The result was an exponential growth of heavy industry and ambitious infrastructure projects – 15 to 20% per year (Scurtu, 2011). The new facilities were particularly polluting, being centred on steel and cement manufacturing, petrochemistry and mining. Consequently, they had a big impact on the environment, waste water being discharged with little treatment and air pollution not being monitored – Kramer approximates that only 20% of main water courses were able to provide drinking water (1983). This was further intensified by the fact that Romania is a country rich in ground resources (ferrous and non-ferrous metals, uranium etc.) and energy resources (hard coal, lignite, gas and oil). Thus production tended to be characterized by inefficient utilization of resources and high energy consumption (Arouri et al., 2012).
Despite the increase of the share of industry in the economy, agriculture continued to be an important sector. However, agricultural policy was equally harming the environment, as it led to soil degradation and further water contamination. It did so through intensive farming after the collectivization process and an increase usage of pesticides (Pavlínek and Pickles, 2004).
In conclusion, the environmental policy was almost non-existent in Romania before 1989, therefore the ‘cocktail’ of abundance of resources and propagandistic economic planning led to environmental degradation, whose consequences are felt even today. There are however a few voices advocating that the industrial development of western countries was not much more environmental friendly in the post-war decades (Inotai, 2009).
The economic development of socialist states after 1990 was called ‘the most dramatic episode of economic liberalisation in economic history’ (Murrell, 1996: 31). This had positive and negative effects on the Romanian economy and environment. The last decade of the 20th century was marked by high economic volatility with consumption fuelled growth falling drastically following the first economic crisis of 1992 (71% reduction in GDP). Despite experiencing growth again after 1993, Romania was hit by yet another crisis in 1996 which led to further decrease in output (Dăianu and Murgescu, 2013). This is relevant in the current context as the attention of the Romanian public opinion and political class was directed towards the economic and political struggles, with the environment in the background.
Moreover, Romania experienced a phase of ‘clean up by default’ as environmental indicators improved considerably during this decade, especially air quality, in line with the drastic decrease in industrial activity: industrial output decreased 40.8% (1999 compared to 1989) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 47% (from 1989 to 2001) (EEA, 2005). However, deindustrialization also brought new environmental treats in the form of mismanagement of old production and extraction facilities. An illustrative example is the largest environmental accident in Central and Eastern Europe when cyanide leaked into the Tisa River from the decaying retention tanks of the newly privatized Baia Mare complex (Pavlínek and Pickles, 2004). While Baia Mare was a major problem, it was not an exception, as privatization rarely included environmental assessments.
Even when privatization was successful and had a positive effect on the economy, its environmental impact was still negative. Big industrial conglomerates took over production and continued ‘dirty exports’ from Romania, which maintained their majoritarian share of the economy (45%) (Murgescu, 2010). Moreover, the successful privatization of the car manufacturing sector encouraged car ownership with the new Renault owned factory increasing production three times between 2005 and 2008 (Murgescu, 2010) and most of their production being bought nationally.
Nonetheless, the first decade of democracy also brought advancements in environmental policy with the Romanian government creating the first framework for environmental protection, which introduced monitoring, sanctions against infringement of environmental legislation, classification of dangerous chemicals and protection of biodiversity (EC, 2001). This showed the willingness of the government to deal with the socialist legacy described above. Moreover, on the international stage Romania became more and more active in fighting climate change with the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 2001.
Concerning its relations with the EU, Romania became in 1974 the first country of the Eastern Bloc to have relations with the EU (at that time European Community) (EC, 2007). Cooperation grew in the 1990s with the Trade and Co-operation Agreement signed in 1991 and the Europe Agreement in 1995. Nevertheless, the 2000s was the decade where relations intensified as Romania tried to close the 31 chapters of its accession (Murgescu, 2010). Still there were important difficulties incorporating the environmental aquis (Ioniţă and Mihu, 2012). The European Commissioner at that time, Margot Wallstrom was quoted saying that ’environment will be one of the most difficult chapters to close in the accession negotiations’ (cited in Kramer, 2004: 290). This was made obvious in 2004, when the chapter was still not signed (EC, 2004).
While the last section will look in more depth at each policy field, there are some challenges which affect all environmental policies regardless of the issue they are tackling. They are: the consequences of the socialist legacy, funding, administrative capacity, democracy. While the socialist legacy has been dealt with extensively above, the other challenges will be developed further below.
Since the start of the negotiations, the gap between the environmental investment needed and the capacity of Romania to finance these investments was made evident. The European Commission approximated that 22,000 million euros would be needed for Romania to implement the environmental regulation (2001). They identified several investment heavy directives, summarized in Table 1.
Source: EC, 2001: 6
Most of the funding for adjustment came from the national budget, which was expected to rise the share of environmental expenditure to 2-3%. Nonetheless, external donors, such as the World Bank, pledged 1 billion dollars (approximately 923.5 million euros) (Mediafax cited in Kramer, 2004). Moreover, the EU contributed financially before and after 2007. Pre-accession funding was mainly through three programs PHARE, SAPARD and ISPA and amounted to 1,023 million euros. After accession Romania was expected to receive 10.5 billion euros through structural and agricultural funds, 50 million through the Transition facility and 559.8 million through the Schengen facility (EC, 2007). Overall, we can observe a stark difference between what was needed and what was available.
Furthermore, some issues arose concerning the extent to which the EU funding, both before and after accession, promoted sustainable development. First of all, pre-accession funding was heavily diverted towards infrastructure building, which encouraged car ownership and in some cases threatened bio-diversity. Moreover, SAPARD was criticized for encouraging intensive agriculture (CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth Europe, 2000). Finnally, environmental impact assessment was done very late in the accession process.
Regarding post-accession funding the problem of sustainability persists. Despite some funding being directed towards improvement of the local environment through the second pillar of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), the overall sustainability problems of the CAP were transferred to Romania as well. Moreover, Filipescu pointed out that the figures are deceiving as they depend on the absorption rate of each country, with Romania absorbing 0 euros in 2007 (2009). Finally, Romania, like the other new member states, had limited access to EU funds: 25% of CAP and structural funds limited to 4% of GDP (Bohle, 2003).
Administrative capacity was identified as the second biggest challenge to environmental policy, with Romania ranked lowest among the 13 candidate countries (EC, 2001). This is because an ambitious environmental policy on paper, but lacking monitoring and sanctioning mechanisms on the ground amounts to little change. As a result of the socialist legacy, environmental policy in Romania is spread across many ministries and agencies. While this is not necessarily problematic, it negatively impacts environmental policy because there is little coordination between the institutions (Kramer, 2004). Moreover, there is the systemic problem of staffing: insufficient employees, low level of training and concentrated at the national level. Delegation in the field of environment remains very low, despite changes in legislation, with local authorities finding it hard to manage the new responsibilities (Ecotec, 2000). This issue is closely linked with the problem of funding as the post-accession period coincided with the austerity measures which aimed to balance the budget after the 2008 crisis (Stoiciu, 2012).
Thirdly, the democratic challenge was highlighted in multiple country evaluation reports. They point out how the development of the environmental policy in the years leading up to accession was mainly political and technocratic and lacked serious public consultation (Europolitics, 2003). This diminished the effectiveness of environmental policy as sustainable consumption and other practices such as recycling were not embraced by the population. Again this dimension is linked with funding as there is little government funding for NGOs. A study of NGO’s in the region showed that the majority are in ‘unstable, poor, or very poor financial state’ (Regional Environment Centre cited in Kramer, 2004: 302). Moreover, the socialist legacy also influences this dimension, with civil society still being underdeveloped and under-represented in policy-making. As there is little data on the number of NGOs, a secondary indicator can be used to show the level of public involvement in Romania. When compared to other EU member states in terms of participation of volunteers, Romania has ‘relatively low participation’ (10-19%) compared to Germany, for example, which has ‘high participation’ (30-39%) (GHK, 2010).
Finally, when evaluating the effect of accession on REP one has to take into account the multiple transitional arrangements and derogations from some EU directives. While the Accession Treaty specifies that these provisions are exceptional and strictly monitored by the Commission, they are nonetheless, extensive (EC, 2005). For example, in the case of the pollution generated by large combustion plants Romania has until 2017 to comply with regulation. The same applies in the case of municipal waste. Although these derogations allow for more realistic restructuring, they diminish the progressive impact of the EU on the REP.
In conclusion, just transposing EU environmental legislation does not guarantee a better environmental policy. While it provides a solid and transparent framework for implementation, without the necessary funding, administrative capacities and involvement of the public its effectiveness is severely diminished and it can become empty words. In the next section will reveal how these challenges effect the main policy areas.
While air pollution consists of several substances released in the atmosphere, this section will look at air pollution as a whole, in order to have a more complete view of the issue. In Romania the biggest polluters in order of importance are energy production, transport, agriculture and waste; each will be dealt with in more details below (EEA, 2013). The accession to the EU significantly improved emission monitoring and indexing provisions, with the Romanian Government adopting an integrated pollution prevention and control system (GEO 152/2005, implementing Directive 96/61/EC) (Ioniţă and Mihu, 2012). For example monitoring stations were introduced in big cities such as Ploieşti or Bucharest (EU-Romania Joint Consultative Committee, 2004). Nonetheless, air monitoring is particularly affected by the low administrative capacity and financial resources, which result in sometimes poor understanding of the data collected. More importantly, sanctioning of infringements does not act as a deterrent mechanism for violators (Ecotec, 2000).
The energy sector emits 70% of all GHG in Romania, as it is heavily reliant on fossil fuels and 80% of the facilities are considered obsolete by current standards (Xie, 2014). Despite growing alternative, cleaner energy sources (15 to 22 per cent from 2000 to 2011), implementation of EU directives in this field is considered low, even in the context of full transposition (Xie, 2014).
The impact of EU accession on the second biggest emitter, transport, was mixed. The EU regulation of transport emissions was implemented more successfully than in the case of the energy sector. However, accession did not encourage sustainable transport solutions. Demand for public transport and rail continued to drop even after accession, despite being set as a priority for EU funding (CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth Europe, 2000). Most of the pre-accession funds were directed at road infrastructure that encouraged car ownership. Consequently, this aggravated the problem of motorisation in Romania. While government funding helped the elimination of old two-stroke engines vehicles, it encouraged car production (Guvernul României, 2015). This is reflected in Table 2.
Source: Xie, 2014: 56.
Agriculture makes for 10% of GHG emissions in Romania, notably ammonia, methane and nitrous oxide. While production decreased in the 1990s, accession generated an intensification of production, especially in the poultry sector (EEA, 2004). Despite predictions showing that a reversal to the 1980s levels is unlikely, this increase in emissions from agriculture highlights the systemic flaws of the CAP.
In the case of waste, high levels of pollution are mentained due to the use of landfils which do not trap resulting gases of bio-mass decomposition. Nonetheless, EU accession through the 2007 – 2013 Operating Program brought investment and expertise in this area, which are expected to improve the situation (Xie, 2014).
After 1989 the system for collection of glass and paper collapsed and recycling was almost non-existent in the first decade of democracy (Pavlínek and Pickles, 2004). As the vast majority of waste was landfilled, the transposition of Directive 2008/98/EC on waste into Law 211/2011 was a significant step forward for the REP. It gave the Ministry for Environment, Water and Forestry the legal tools to tackle the rampant illegal dumping. Nonetheless, further steps are needed to increase the sustainability of the Romanian waste collection system, as recycling continued to be very low even after accession: 2% in 2013 (Almasi, 2013).
A 2007 study of water quality in Romania shows that pre-accession efforts did not bring major improvements, as 78% of residual waters did not go through a treatment process and only 52% of the population had access to drinking water (Ministry for Environment cited in FSD, 2009). Nonetheless, this has been linked more with the administrative and financial challenges of implementation, such as the low number of laboratories, than with the legal framework. The transposition of directive 98/83 was particularly important, as it provided the Romanian authorities with a solid framework of reference. Taking into account the extensive derogations in this field, we have yet seen the effects of EU accession on REP on water.
In the field of conservation, Romania benefited from the introduction of the Natura 2000 project in 2004 under the Birds Directive and Habitats Directive. The project was implemented in Romania through special ministerial orders and it covers 17.84% of the territory (Natura 2000, 2014). Nonetheless, gaps in implementation persist due to the fragmentation of institutional responsibility. This result in infringements of the Natura 2000 sites through illegal deforestation and fishing (Camera Deputaţilor, 2016).
In conclusion, Romania’s accession to the European Union had an overall positive impact on the national environmental policy. Nonetheless, due to its socialist legacy and inadequate financial and administrative capacities implementation did not meet European standards. In the case of air pollution, a better control mechanism should prevent further infringements. The same applies in the case of water, especially from 2017, when the derogations will expire and treatment plants are expected to better manage waste water. While conservation has seen major improvements, waste management has changed little since 1989. Consequently, more investment is needed to make Romania more sustainable, coupled with an increased political will. From a research point of view, our understanding of the REP needs to be enhanced, as currently there is very little data available. Future studies need to take into account the environmental problems highlighted by the Romanian NGOs.
 A few representative examples are Skjærseth and Wettestad, 2007; Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier, 2002; Crisen and Carmin, 2011.
* The references are not included in order to keep the post at a reasonable length. If you want to consult them, feel free to contact me.
It’s Sunday night, after a hot day in Berlin, I’m in a room packed with people, people standing,shouting, drinking, clapping. No, I’m not watching Germany vs Slovakia (which ended 3-0, if you are wondering), I’m watching the Spanish elections.
My mood matches surprisingly with that of the room – call me bias, who cares?! – and the best way to put it is through this German idiom mit einem weinenden und einem lachenden Auge weggehen – with a smile in one eye and a tear in the other (source unknown).
One eye is sad for Unidos Podemos* (UP) is not winning, the conservatives, el PP, are, and history is repeating itself. People are derrotados – I’m using the Spanish word here because I feel like there is no English word which encompasses the mass of feelings in the air tonight: disappointment, exhaustion after a long campaign and frustration with the status quo. [For those of you not emerged into Spanish politics, UP are the leftist alternative to the establishment].
Moreover, tonight not only UP’s dreams were crushed, but those of left-leaning and progressive people from Europe and the world who looked at Spain with admiration in their eyes.
The other eye is happy because I see all these people for which politics matter. And this is the point, no matter the outcome of the election, Spain has gained a class of voters, of carers who will change the country if not today, in this decade. In their state of disbelief, they do not understand that exactly this state is something precious, something that most of the other European countries do not have, as they are few peoples of Europe, let alone expats, which would give up their Sunday night for politics.
What is more, this room is multiplied by hundreds and this has an impact beyond the Pyrines and Costa del Sol, it has an impact on the whole Europe, showing it that getting people involved in politics is possible, not implying winning.
To wrap this up, YES, 26J was the day when the status quo was reinstated, neo-conservatism won and millions of people, no only in Spain, were left in shock, BUT there is a bigger lesson to be learned from this Sunday, as long as people care about politics, democracy, society and our world is dying a little bit slower.
*I would like to thank UP Berlin for allowing me to join their meetings and I am looking forward to what’s to come.
Update: The picture was changed to something more representative
What happened after 1990 is Eastern Europe and is happening now in many regions of the world is still a mind-blowing phenomenon. A country, a nation has to become democratic, they have a look at other countries and they pick a model of the self. ‘What should I be, a presidential republic, should the church play a role, what welfare state suits me better?’ So many questions to which nobody has a the ‘right’ answer. Obviously, with each country their choice is limited by many factors but as long as you tick the right boxes such as elections or free trade you’re free to choose.
My first essay about Romania tried to understand this baffling decision which millions of people and will continue to do so in the decades to come. By reading this paper you will have a better understanding of the transitional process in Romania and about transition in general.
A considerable body of literature has been dedicated to the understanding and analysis of political systems due to their intrinsic complexity. For this reason it is hard to imagine how a country can choose a system and put it in practice in a few years. Unfortunately, due to numerous constraints, new democracies are forced to do just that. The post-communist states of Central and Eastern Europe looked at their Western neighbours for ready-made systems that became the basis of their transition. This was the case of Romania that in just 18 months after the revolution adopted a new constitution that laid the groundwork for a new, French modelled political system. This essay will try to understand how this came about by looking at four categories of factors: the legacy of the period between1866 and 1938, the communist legacy, focusing on the later, Ceauşist period, the early transitional period and the wider cultural influence.
This paragraph will lay the theoretical underpinnings of the analysis. The first three categories mentioned above draw upon the ‘legacy of the past’ theory, according to which democracies are not born in void, but develop in line with the previous political experience of a country. In short, like many political concepts, democracy is ‘path dependent’ (Stan, 1997). This theory was approached from different points of view by political scientists. To begin with, Robert Dahl sees the success of a young democracy bound to the ‘evolutionary processes of change’; therefore a sudden rupture from the past, like the Romanian revolution, diminishes the quality of the resulting democratization process and of its new political system (Dahl cited in Dix, 1994). Contrary to this view, Robert Dix argues that when it comes to modern polities it is easier for country to adopt democracy and do not necessarily need a long evolutionary process, as it can learn from the mistakes of ‘old democracies’ (Dix, 1994). Besides the historical factor, many writers, such as Robert Putnam, affirm that the country’s culture and social context are also important variables in the transitional period and the choice of political system (cited in Dix, 1994).
Unlike other countries that were part of the Eastern bloc, Romania had already experienced democracy between 1866 and 1938. Many parallels can be drawn between the two periods: the adoption of a new constitution – in 1866 following the Belgian model, in 1991, following the French model – and the fact that democratization was elite driven with little involvement of the population. Another similarity is the presence of the liberals, the conservatives and the socialists. The first were represented by the Liberal-Democrat Party that became active again in 1989 under the name National Liberal Party (Partidul National Liberal – PNL). The second were represented by the Conservative party (Partidul Conservator) and the National Peasants Party (Partidul National Taranesc), that reappeared after the revolution as the Christian Democratic National Peasants’ Party (Partidul National Țărănesc Creștin Democrat – PNȚCD). The last were represented by the Social Democratic Party (Partidul Social Democrat, PSD), that reappeared under the same name. While before 1886 these parties played an important part in the choice of political system, it was not the case after 1989. They became anachronistic, because society modernized, even in the mutilated communist way with forced urbanization and industrialization, while their modernization was put on hold for 50 years. Consequently, they lost their support base and were unable to balance the force of the National Salvation Front (Frontul Salvari Nationale – FSN) in the institution building debates (Schöpflin, 1993). Moreover, some scholars, such as Samuel Huntington and Keith Hitchins, argue that democratic values did not take root in the relatively short democratic history of Romania (Stan, 1997). Their theory is reinforced by a Romanian academic of that time, Titu Maiorescu that characterized democracy as ‘form without substance’ (Maiorescu, 1868). Preda (2001) and Zaicu (2005), as well as many others, maintain that Maiorescu’s theory was valid for the post-revolutionary institutional building process as well. To sum up this section, it is fair to say that even if the modern transitional period has many aspects in common with the early democratic experience, the choice of political system was not significantly influenced by it.
In contrast, the communist period that stretched between 1947 and 1989 had a great impact on the transitional period and institution building. The Stalinist communism imposed by Moscow until 1964 changed Romanian society in two ways relevant to how the democratic regime was built in 1991. Firstly, it destroyed civic society by breaking down individualism and traditional institutions; this meant that post-communist society was a ‘tabula rasa’, especially when it came to its relationship with politics (Whitefield, 2002). Citizens were unable to identify their interests and political choices; they lacked the necessary political experience to participate in the building of Romanian democracy (Gail Kligman cited in Linz and Stepan, 1996). How could a population that have been bombarded with socialist glorification for five decades and deprived of information about other political systems, choose, for example, between a presidential and parliamentary system?
Secondly, the state did not only deprive Romanians of their social institutions and organizations, but replaced them with communist alternatives, coordinated by the government. For example, an association so small as the Bee-keepers Association was taken over. In Ovidiu Trăsnea’s words: ‘The system interfered more deeply in your life than in any other East European Country’ (cited in Linz and Stepan, 1996). The consequence was that etatism of this magnitude could not have been easily scaled down to the size of a modern liberal state, therefore it was present in the new system that for many years maintained communist structures and did not pursue shock liberalization, as in other countries such as Poland (Linz and Stepan, 1996).This could explain the choice of the French system that empowers the state more than other systems of government (Rupnik and Zielonka, 2013).
The period between 1964 and 1989, when Nicolae Ceauşecu ruled the country, was characterized by an extreme personalization of power. Following the model of North Korean communism, Ceauşecu and his wife Elena developed a complex cult of personality that made him ‘the hero of all heroes’ or ‘the most loved son of the country’ and her a world renowned academic (Falcan, 2015). This personalization was not limited to the propaganda, but was reflected by the government of the 1980s where the Ceauşecu’s family occupied the most important positions and had a firm grip on the state apparatus. This was against meritocracy or institutionalism, politics being based on loyalty (Schöpflin, 1993). Moreover, it was even beyond socialist ideology as the later years have shown when his political decisions became erratic and sometimes contradictory (Preda, 2001). This personalization had two adverse consequences for the transitional period. Firstly, it meant a slow transition and continuism. In December 1989 people shouted ‘Down with Ceauşescu!’ and not ‘Down with Communism!’, as they directed their anger at the dictator, not at the system (Chiribucă, 2008). They believed that the execution of the couple will be the end of the harsh living conditions of the 1980s.
Secondly, it was a big factor in the choice of the semi-presidential system, as the population looked for a strong politician to lead the country through the economic hardship of the transitional period. As Skolkay noticed, this is a regional characteristic as people throughout the region elected populist rulers in the post-communist period, for example in countries such as Slovakia or Hungary (2000).Consequently, there were some critics of the 1991 constitution that attacked the extended prerogatives of the president that could control directly or indirectly the most important institutions of the state, such as the Supreme Court, the Intelligence Service and the Army (Stan, 1997).
Another feature of the Ceauşist regime was its refusal to reform from within as some of its neighbours (Yugoslavia and Hungary) and allow a certain degree of liberalization. Towards the end of the regime it resembled even more North Korea as it became isolated from Moscow and from the west: going abroad was impossible and the security forces clamped down on any information coming in the country. The result was that there were only two independent organizations in the 1980s, less than any other country in the region and samizdat was very restricted in comparison to its western allies (Orescu, 2011). This affected the quality of the post-communist system. The creation of democracy was an ab initio process, as there was nothing for the new system to build upon (Iancu, 2012).
The final period that influenced Romania’s choice of political system was the first 18 months after the revolution. To begin with, an important factor was the nature of the revolution: no other Eastern European communist regime was overthrown in such a radical way as the Ceauşist one. First of all, for most of the population the end of the regime was unconceivable in 1989. The vast majority of Romanians did not participate in the revolution and only came out into the streets after the dictator fled the Central Committee building (Canae, 2014). The result was that transition became a step into the unknown, marked by institutional indeterminism. Consequently, it stayed in a state of flux for many years; time that was not used to perfect and improve democratic institutions, but to delay restrictions on the works of corrupt individuals (Linz and Stepan, 1996). This hindered the development of a healthy democracy and its consequences can be seen even today.
Another consequence of this unexpected revolution was the power void left behind by the Ceauşescu family. The rapidity in which it was filled by the reformed wing of the nomenclature under the leadership of Ion Iliescu led some theorists to consider it a ‘palace coup’ (Paramio, 2002). The group later rebranded as FSN, were a part of the communist party that favoured Mikhail Gorbachev ideas and were marginalized by the active nomenclature during the communist period. This is highly relevant as the system was shaped in order to maintain the FSN in power. It did this, at first through decrees and later by heavily influencing the drafting of the 1991 constitution. Moreover, Roman explains that the FSN wanted to control the transition process not only for political reasons but for economic reasons as well, as they were backed by a whole class of former managers of state companies that did not favour radical change (2002). These continuists had vested interests in a slow transition, but they were backed by an important part of the population fearful of chance and its consequences. An important fear was unemployment, technically non-existent in communist society. Not only were Romanians conservative but they were firstly concerned by their immediate necessities after a decade of rationing (Schöpflin, 1993). This meant that the public did not pay too much attention to the highly academic and complex debates that sounded the building of the new state and of a new constitution: the power of the parliament was much less relevant then their workplace.
Moreover, the arguments brought forward by continuists were that Romania was not prepared for full scale liberalization and that privatization should be gradual in order to avoid social tensions. This approach was proven right when an economically sound decision of reducing the vast mining industry brought to Bucharest thousands of miners angry with intellectuals that were ‘ruining the country’ and the government narrowly avoided a counter-revolution. Nonetheless, it delayed significant reform and the transition ended up being very long, leaving the resulting state with many unresolved issues. Aslund believes that this could have been avoided if government applied an economic shock therapy, like in Poland, regardless of the social and political consequences, as it would have helped the country in the long-term (2001; Holmes, 1997).
Even though the population was against economic shock therapy they favoured western democracy, as 66% of them saw it as a good thing for the country (Stan, 1997). The issue here was that liberalization and democratic practice was decoupled from the rhetoric of democracy. People accepted the new political system only in form, without proper understanding of its mechanisms and consequences (Iancu, 2012). The effect was that they signed-up to a semi-presidential republic without knowing what it does. To sum up, the significance of the first 18 months of post-communism was tremendous, because in this context a new constitution was forged. The main factors to take into account were the FSN, institutional indeterminism and the perceived living standards.
Most of the factors mentioned above were influenced to a certain degree by the Romanian culture. This factor is not restricted to a certain historical period, but has had an effect on politics and ‘the effectiveness of institutions’ for centuries (Putnam cited in Dix, 1994). To begin with, there is a disparity between ‘the legal country and the real country’ (Stan, 1997). In other words, the state and its laws and institutions are foreign to the real life of the people. Consequently, they should be endorsed and respected only superficially, when they benefit the citizen. Moreover, the state is also feared and disliked, as it forces change upon the population and has demands of financial or physical contributions. While this was true for medieval times and the period leading to the Second World War, it intensified even more during the communist period when the state got involved in every element of life, especially through nationalization and collectivization (Preda, 2001). Moreover, communism widened this gap through its propaganda and foreign rules that prompted the population to develop an underground society with the aim of circumventing the rules and benefiting the most from the state. The consequence for the choice of political system was that the population talked the language of democracy without understanding democracy or even practicing it (Schöpflin, 1990).
Another central element of the Romanian culture was nationalism. Throughout its history the country faced constant foreign threats such as the Ottomans, the Russians or the Hapsburgs. This contributed to the creation of an identity in opposition with the others that feared everything that was foreign. This was meant in the post-communist period an anti-occidental, anti-intellectual feeling among the population. The paradox was that it wanted a new system and to steer away from totalitarianism, but at the same time, it feared foreign capital and rapid change (Roman, 2002).
Furthermore, the idea of nationalism was used by politicians to legitimize themselves and their policies. They did this as it is easier to represent a nation then to represent society, while the nation is static with clearly defined interests (mostly related to statehood), society is a complex and ever-changing organism with a multitude of inter-linked interests (Schöpflin, 1993). In early modernity it united the three kingdoms and discriminated against minorities. In the communist period it came as a paradox, as Marxism is opposed ideologically to nationalism. Communist nationalism intensified even more after 1964 under the form of ‘Chauvino-communism’ (Schöpflin, 1993). In both periods nationalism relied heavily on glorified history. Moreover, during the first months of post-communism the nationalistic discourse was maintained even if the socialist ideal was replaced by the democratic ideal. This is made obvious by the numerous nationalistic references in the 1991 constitution, such as in the fourth article: ‘The State foundation is laid on the unity of the Romanian people’ (Constitution of Romania, 1991). For this reasons the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (Uniunea Democrată Maghiară din România – UDMR) voted against the constitution and criticised its writers. To conclude this section, Romanian culture had an important impact on the development of the new democratic system in the 1990s, as nationalism played a central role and the whole process was undermined by the population’s distrust of the state, of new and of the occident.
In conclusion, the decision of the current Romanian political system was the result of a combination of historical and cultural factors. While the period before 1938 did not have as much of an influence as expected, the communist period changed the country to such an extent that it became a significant factor in the transitional period. Even more, the first 18th months of transition proved to be crucial as the climate was characterized by institutional indeterminism and a confuse public opinion towards the process. Moreover, within this context the FSN manoeuvred the institution building process in their favour. The result of all these factors was a slow transition and a relatively flawed political system, whose consequences could be seen in the constitutional debates of the later years. Some argue that Romania needs a new constitution, better shaped to deal with the country’s structural problems and steps are taken in this direction with the creation in 2012 of the Joint Senate and Chamber of Deputies Commission for the Revision of the Constitution. With the information presented in this work in mind, it is worth following the development of the Romanian political system in the next four years.
The political map of Eastern Europe is riddled with governments who look at democracy as a barrier to achieving national greatness. The few independent constitutional courts which have survived face constant harassment from the ruling parties. Just do a short google search about Poland and Romania and the problems politicians have with this damn democracy come to fore.
For this reason I chose this essay about Hungary as the first issue in this series. While I see Hungary as a lost cause, it is interesting to understand the situation. This paper attempts to put the Orban phenomenon in perspective by employing evaluations of external institutions such as the World Bank and academic contributions to the issue.
I have omitted the references in order to keep the length of the post at acceptable levels. If you are interested in a particular author I referenced, just comment.
Analysts looking at Hungary in the 1990s saw it as a ‘model of transition’ (Roberts 2009), a ‘post-1989 success story’ (Rupnik and Zielonka 2013) and a ‘transitional trailblazer’ (Holmes 2006), but when they look at the Hungarian democracy in the 2000s and 2010s they tend to characterize it as an ‘illiberal democracy’ (Balogh 2014), an ‘one party system’ (Kiss 2014) or a ‘soft dictatorship’ (Ziegler 2014). This stark contradiction between the two images begs two questions: what have determined Hungarians to stop walking on the road towards democracy, turn around and go back? and can we still consider Hungary a democracy, in its current form? This essay attempts to answer these questions by looking at four elements in the first part: what democracy is and how to evaluate its quality; a brief introduction to the current political situation in Hungary; how this is influenced by cultural and historical heritage and where does the international context play in. In the second part, it will evaluate five indicators of democratic quality: elections, rule of law, freedom of information, political freedom and economic freedom. After analyzing these elements, it will conclude that Hungary can be classified as a democracy, but its quality has been significantly lowered during the past two governments.
Evaluating democracy is rarely a ‘yes or no’ answer; more generally, scientists look at degrees of democratization (Schedler 2002). The field of democracy and democratic quality is vast and does not represent the scope of this essay, but, in order to have a valid evaluation of Hungary’s democracy, this section will lay out the methodology and what it is understood by the concept ‘democracy’.
In order for a country to be considered democratic, it requires certain elements. The classical definition limits itself to the ‘rule of the people’ (Morlino 2006); this includes electoral accountability and responsiveness. Many researchers such as Andrew Roberts (2009) agree with this and put elections at the heart of their analysis. Still, this is widely contested because elections do not guarantee the democratic behavior of citizens or states (Rupnik and Zielonka 2013), as they can be used as a façade and create a ‘delegative democracy’ (Morlino 2009) where citizens are ignored for the duration of the term. With these limitations in mind, this essay will look at elections, as they represent useful normative data.
Another procedural element of the definition is ‘the rule of law’, closely linked to the concept of constitutionalism, whose importance is stressed by Rupnik and Zielonka (2013). There are many critiques of this approach that give examples such as Chile or Argentina, where the constitution did not stop the abuses of military rule. The presence and, more importantly, the implementation of a constitution is at the core of most established democracies, as it is the guarantor of a system of checks and balances, as well as of basic freedoms. The latter is the third element of the definition that this essay will focus on. Classified as substantive (Morlino 2009), it assures the functioning of the above mentioned elements as in democracy all the elements are interconnected in a ‘democratic chain’ (Schedler 2002).
There are other variables that one can take into account when measuring the quality of democracies, but they can be mere consequences of ‘good democracy’ rather than defining features. For this reason, the essay will not look at issues such as social welfare or human development. On the methodological side, this essay will take into account quantitative data as well as case studies of Hungary, in order to paint a comprehensive picture.
This section will lay out an overview of the past governments and it will be a reference point for the rest of the essay. The past two elections in Hungary were won by the Fidesz party (Hungarian Civic Union). In 2010 Fidesz, in coalition with KDNP (Christian Democratic People’s Party) won three thirds majority in parliament, giving it sweeping powers (Day and Waterfield 2013). On the 6th of April 2014, Fidesz reinforced its position by maintaining the super-majority for another four years. This majority is relevant because it allowed its leader, Viktor Orbán, to implement a complete reform, in his words ‘a revolution’ (Orbán 2014). Mevel called him ‘the “Chaves” of Central Europe’ (2012), because the main characteristics of his discourse are populism and demagogy, which play on the cultural and historical heritage of the Hungarian people.
Orbán would not be where he is today without the political culture of his electorate. This section explains the context of his meteoric rise. Some argue that Hungarians never acquired a democratic sense and have little attachment to democratic institutions (Schein 2012, Müller 2012). Consequently, the country is suffering from low levels of civic participation (Rose-Ackerman 2004). An explanation would be the fact that Hungarians’ main concern is economic well being; in a study by Paul Lazersfeld Society, ‘experts run economy’ was the main alternative to democracy (83%), the highest indicator in the region (cited in Rose and Mishler 1995). The term ‘experts run’ is highly relevant to Hungarian society as the state is seen as the main actor of change, not the citizens (Ungváry 2014). This explains why, for the past 25 years, the people searched for a leader and the executive steadily increased its power (Brusis 2006). This trend culminated with the appointment of Viktor Orbán. He gained even more popularity by playing on the phenomenon of historical injustice, of wounded national pride. He did this by creating a cult for General Miklós Horthy, ‘the Hungarian Pétain’ (Le Monde 2014) and denouncing the Treaty of Trianon. The fact that during the transition both the liberals and the socialists were discredited by the population for their bad management and corruption helped even more as the opposition were not seen as a real alternative to Fidesz (Jenne and Muddle 2012, Puddington 2014, Ziegler 2014).
The final section of part I deals with the international context of the changes in the Hungarian democracy. As Rupnik pointed out, Orbán is not alone in advocating the importance of the nation and the foreign threat, represented by the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (2012); he has many things in common with the anti-establishment movements like Podemos (in English: We can) in Spain or the far-right of Nigel Farage and Marine Le Pen, as well as with other ‘strong’ leaders such as Vladimir Putin or Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Just as the above mentioned movements, Orbán is a contestation of the current form of democracy, that, as Hardin put it, is far from any ‘liberal ideal’ in the West (2004). Faced with this contestation on the part of Hungary of its values, the EU acted on specific issues, but failed to tackle the wider shift away from democracy (Jenne and Muddle 2012). Many argue that it can do more as, together with the IMF, it offers the economic funding that allows Hungary to roll its debt (Marsili 2014). Still, the community is limited in power as its intervention could only provide more fuel to Orbán’s propaganda and it can be easily challenged as undemocratic.
The first element of democratic quality that this essay will look at is accountability. The majority of agencies consider Hungary a working democracy based mainly on this indicator. However, their appreciation varies from awarding Hungary maximum points, such as the case of the Center for Systemic Peace from 1989 to 2010 (2010), to classifying it in the bottom group of their scales, like the case of the Sustainable Governance Indicators 2014 Project (rank 37 out of 40) (Ágh, Dieringer and Bönker 2014). In between lay most agencies that consider Hungary a democracy with decreasing quality every year: BTI (Bertelsmann Stiftung Transformation Index) falling at a rate of 1.6 points (Bertelsmann Stiftung 2014b) and CID (Combined Index of Democracy) falling at a rate of 0.10 (Lauth 2012). Freedom House sees no change in quality of the Hungarian electoral process, that has been stagnant at 2.25 (1 being the maximum) for the past three years (Kovács 2014).
When looking at case studies, the view is also divided, with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (2014) saying that the last elections were legitimate, while the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called them ‘free but not fair’ (cited in Müller 2014). The fairness of elections is questioned for four reasons: the recent reshaping of electoral constituencies with the purpose of increasing Fidesz’s voter share (Lebor cited in Czigler and Takacs 2012), the granting of citizenship to Magyars outside Hungary that offered overwhelming support to Fidesz (Rousselin 2014), the doubtful independence of the National Election Committee (Tavares 2013) and the restricted access of voters to information, that will be dealt with in more detail below. Regardless of the objections, surveys show that Orbán’s government receives wide popular support – 43% (Ziegler 2014). Hence, one can say it is legitimate and democratic, and that Orbán’s move away from liberal democracy is just a reflection of the will of the people (Ziegler 2014).
The second pillar of this definition of democracy is the rule of law and there is a consensus on the decrease of its quality in Hungary. A representative example is Freedom House where the ‘Judicial framework and Independence’ indicator is decreasing from the start of Orbán’s prime ministerial rule (Kovács 2014). The Hungarian Constitutional Court has been a crucial institution in the transition to democracy, as it balanced the state institutions, the increase of executive power (Elster, Offe and Preuss 1998) and it continues to do that. Nonetheless, it, as well as the whole legal system, has been hard hit by the ‘legislative tsunami’ (Czigler and Takacs 2012) enacted by the Fidesz government. This strong legal reform has been achieved through two channels: cardinal laws and decrees, as well as a new Constitution in 2011. The former were deemed undemocratic as they were passed very fast through parliament without being justified, having their impact assessed or involving other political actors (Schein 2012). Just looking at the number of laws past – 850 since 2010 – paints a grim picture. The constitution suffered from the same rapid adoption process, drafted in 35 days and was termed as the ‘ipad constitution’, for being drafted on a tablet (Szajer cited in Simon 2011). Moreover, it did not include the consultation of the people or other interest groups (TASZ cited in Picard 2011). What these legal changes allowed Fidesz to do is to infiltrate all governmental levels and reduce the independence and quality of the judicial system: ‘action populis’ was abolished, the Constitutional Court was banned from challenging laws based on content and all judges past the age of 62 were forced into retirement (around 300). By looking at these swift and radical changes to the Hungarian state, it is evident that the procedural quality of democracy has been lowered significantly. Nonetheless, supporters of Orbán say that the reform is fully democratic as the parliament obtained its three thirds majority through free elections.
The last pillar of democracy analysed is consisted of freedoms. This section will look at freedom of information (media and the internet), political and economic freedom. The freedom of the press rating for Hungary is ‘partly free’ and puts the EU member state below Guyana, East Timor and Benin (Freedom House 2013, 2014). The 2014 rating is influenced by the actions of the Fidesz government on the media, in its attempt to subordinate and control it. This is a regional characteristic as political parties lacking a clear ideological platform use the media to reach out to the people (Rupnik and Zielonka 2013). The consequence is the rise of ‘mediacracy’ (Keane 2011) that hinders the circulation of information and strips the media of its role as watch dog of government policies. Orbán achieved this by punishing affirmations that are deemed defamatory or against the nation, in fewer words codifying dissent (Schein 2012), encouraging the media ownership of Fidesz friendly moguls, such as Gábor Széles, and by creating various regulatory bodies that are infiltrated with people affiliated to the party. The main two bodies are the Hungarian News Agency (MTI) that has the monopole on information (Tavares 2013) and the National Media Infocommunications Authority (NMHH) that can fine media outlets or interfere with the licenses and whose independence has come into question (Picard 2010). An example of governmental control of the media is the two year legal battle of Klubradio – generally opposed to the government – to renew its license (Mevel 2012).
More recently, the last bastion of free information, the internet, has come under fire from Orbán’s party, as he intended to tax it with 0.5€ per gigabyte. Zsolt Varady, developer of iWiW, a Hungarian social network, declared that ‘the tax is a symbol of the autocratic government’ (Le Figaro 2014), but the Prime Minister justifies his actions by saying that the internet is not free, but ruled by foreign corporations (Orbán 2014). By looking at the restraints of the Hungarian press and internet, it is hard to consider Hungary a democratic state.
Not only it is becoming harder and harder to voice opposition views in Hungary, but fewer and fewer organizations remain to do it, as the government is spreading its influence in the NGO sector by creating and funding Fidesz friendly organizations and repressing neutral or opposing organizations. The first practice is made obvious by the Civil Cooperation Forum (CÖF), an organisation that stages ‘Peace Marches’ in support of the government and is led by Laszlo Csizmadia, who also leads the National Cooperation Fund (NEA) that administrates the grants for NGOs (Hungarian Civil Liberties Union 2014). The second practice was brought to light by the targeting of organizations funded by the Norway grants aimed at promoting democracy (Dunai and Koranyi 2014) under the pretext that they are foreign agents (Müller 2014).
At the economic level, market liberalisation is reversed, as Orbán nationalises economic assets and creates state owned companies, for example in the fields of automotive production or mobile telecommunication. Observers note that this practice is less nationalisation and more a change of ownership from private owners to Fidesz friendly businessmen (Haraszti 2002, Balogh 2013). Another constraint on economic freedom is the nationalisation of the Central Bank, as its governing committee is now appointed by the government (Nodé-Langlois 2012). Moreover, a source of income for his reform was pension funds, previously privately managed but now under government control (Schein 2012).
In conclusion, Hungary suffers from ‘democratic regression’ or ‘democratic fatigue’ (Rupnik and Zielonka 2013, p.5) as the quality of its democracy has steadily declined since Viktor Orbán came in power in 2010. Nonetheless, it would be an exaggeration to strip it of its democratic badge as the incumbent government was elected and is functioning within legal boundaries. As we have seen in the first section, democracy does not have an established definition or characteristics and that is because it is shaped by its continuingly changing and complex historical, cultural, social and economic context. For this reason, Hungary is a rich area of future research both for students of Eastern European studies and of democracy. In regards to the future of Hungary, change is unlikely as Orbán and Fidesz managed to infiltrate all social and political areas. For this reason their popularity is unlikely to decrease and even in the case of a change of government, the new ruling party will find itself in a ‘straightjacket’ of Orbanist bureaucracy (Müller 2012).
After a long break the Submarine will resurface for a biweekly series of essays on a variety of topics.
What lies behind this unexpected revival, is my realization that all the papers I have written over the years have been just gathering dust in some forgotten corner of my laptop.
Maybe I am misinformed, but I have always felt that the essays and reports written by undergraduate students are only seen as essay-writing exercises. [I am aware of platforms like Research gate, but I do not know how extended is their usage.] Consequently, their intrinsic value is disregarded, in a institutional framework where young academics are ‘too inexperienced’ to produce something worth reading.
I find this quite patronizing and this what this series aims to remedy at least in my case and maybe, who knows, it will inspire others to do the same. I one am very interested in reading the result of their toil, sleepless nights and battles with the Harvard referencing system.
This post aims to explain the framework of the essay series. Firstly, I chose to do it biweekly in order for anyone who might be interested to have time to read each entry and comment. Secondly, I will not just copy paste my past work, rather I will review it. The result should be updated and more supple essays, which will hopefully be a delight to read. Finally, I will upload the essays on Research gate as well as this series progresses. Nevertheless, the Submarine is the main platform.
As always, my real hope is to hear your views on the topics, on my style if it is the case. As the old saying goes, any feedback is good feedback.
P.S. The title is not inspired by the latest Oscar-winning film staring Jack Dawson in his life after letting go of Rose. It attempts to do right by what I see as the original Revenant, a wonderful French series, which, as opposed to the adrenaline jammed film, is really worth seeing. Check Les Revenants on IMDb.