Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hello Mr. President!

On Monday, I happily received the invitation to attend the official meeting with the Romanian president, Traian Basescu, set for Wednesday the the 27th of February.
Despite that most of my friends didn’t like my intent to meet him, I felt very honoured to be included on the guests list of the Romanian business and cultural society that lives in Austria. Traian Basescu is either loved or hated by Romanians, I respect both sides but what fascinates me is his absolutely incredible professional career. I like people with such ambitions! Here are some paragraphs that I took from Wikipedia:

Traian Băsescu was a member of the Communist Party (PCR). He entered politics after the 1989 Romanian Revolution, as a member of the large National Salvation Front (FSN) party. 
In April 1991, he became Minister of Transport in Petre Roman's Cabinet, and continued to hold this position during Theodor Stolojan's "Cabinet of technocrats" in September 1991 – November 1992.
In 1992, after the FSN split in two factions—the Social Democratic Party of Romania (PDSR, later PSD), Băsescu joined the PD faction. In 1992, he was elected to the lower house of the Romanian Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, then re-elected for the 1996–2000 term.
Concurrently with his second term in Parliament, from November 1996 to June 2000, Băsescu also served as Minister of Transport in the centre-right governments of Victor Ciorbea, Radu Vasile, and Mugur Isărescu.
In 2000, Băsescu was elected Mayor of Bucharest, winning the run-off against PDSR candidate Sorin Oprescu by a slim margin (50.69% to 49.31%), despite trailing 24% behind him in the first round.
Following Theodor Stolojan's surprise withdrawal from the 2004 presidential elections, Băsescu entered the presidential race on behalf of the Justice and Truth Alliance. He won the Presidential election by using an anti-communist and anti-corruption rhetoric.
Băsescu was suspended by the Parliament a second time on 6 July 2012, with a referendum on his impeachment being held on 29 July 2012. After initially calling on the population to vote, PDL called for a boycott, accusing the majority party USL of attempted fraud.[63] Băsescu, however, declared that he would still vote,[64] albeit not voting after all. An overwhelming 88.7% of voters rejected his leadership. However, the turnout at the referendum was estimated at 46%,[65] which was less than the 50% + 1 required for it to be validated.
The Romanian Constitutional Court subsequently invalidated the referendum[1] by a vote of 6-3, which reinstated Băsescu as president of Romania.[66] Băsescu said that now is the time to leave old conflicts aside in order to solve Romania's problems, and to "restore a functioning democratic Romania, and restore our credibility." Source

The next presidential election will be held in 2014 because, according to the Article 83 of the Constitution of Romania, the "term of office of the President of Romania is five years, being exercised from the date the oath was taken". The last presidential election was held in 2009 and Traian Băsescu was sworn in for his second term on 21 December 2009. He is ineligible for a third term according to the Constitution. Source

I first saw Traian Basescu after his first won elections, in 2004. I was amazed by how cool and down to earth he was. It was a casual event, an open air beer festival in the Constitution Square. He was wearing a baby blue (with a white stripe) t-shirt and jeans. I was allowed to sit at his table as my friends (that were working for the state-owned Romanian TV broadcaster and different theatres) personally knew him. I then understood his popularity's reason: a modest, “one of ours” man.

Yesterday, being an official occasion, he seemed more formal and elegant but still kept his warmth and easy going approach. I couldn’t help but noticed that he looks the same like eight years ago: very fit, slim and charming. 

The people greeted him with tears of joy and emotions, everybody felt proud and happy to be so near to the president. I liked that he patiently answered all of our questions and his rare quality as a politician is that he also admits mistakes and unfortunate situations. 
But yesterday he was very optimistic regarding our country’s economical future and that brought a bit of hope for a better life.

Another topic that personally interests me is that he confirmed that Romanians’s day to day life has improved. He also compared the average salary in Austria to the ones in Romania (giving EUR 3000-4000 per month for Austria), but unfortunately, he forgot to mention, that he obviously was referring to gross salaries. This omission could confirm the false believes of Romanians living in Romania that all Romanians living in Austria are rich, which is not more than a distorted image of the reality. We think that their financial situation is not so awful especially that ours is not rosy. Sure, the reality is that my mother’s teacher pension is 220€/month, but one of the few great things that Ceausescu did, was to offer (together with the first job) a low priced apartment. Single people or families could own an apartment, the payment rates were extracted in very low amounts from the salary for a period of 15-25 years. So, the majority doesn’t have to bother with paying high rents. Life in Romania is much cheaper, especially the healthy foods and services.

In Austria, an average, net salary gravitates around EUR 1.200-1.600, sure, excluding salaries of people in top positions. Many families, like in my case, have only one salary per household. In the majority of the cases, more than 50% of a salary goes on the house rent and running bills and 30% on food. In Vienna, an average rental price is set between 8-12€/sm/month. So, a two room apartment of 60sm would go for 600€, adding the running costs, the final sum would reach at least 750€/month.

See below a chart made by Statistik Austria and extract 50% off (the taxes) from the gross yearly salary:

Please, take in consideration the differences between women and men salaries. 

This meeting was special, it felt private and cosy. Everyone was smiling at each other; the general mood was relaxed and pleasant. Before leaving, the president tried to satisfy people’s burning wish to take a photo with him. I liked that he was very generous and didn’t refuse most of the interested ones; it impressed me that he even hugged or shook hands with some fans.

I then imagined what an energy consuming profession he has. Everyone wanted a “piece” of him, he is under constant scrutiny, he even said that as a president he never had a holiday, so not many people could have such a strength: to be a democratic state president. I wonder if when he sleeps he dreams himself as a president or as a normal person...

Below, some snap shots from the meeting:

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