Zoe Petre

looking for me through the shadowy studio, in order to rejoice together.

On 17th November, at 9 in the evening, I was at the campaign office, typing on the computer-driven by a confusing combination of conscientiousness and superstition ? the outline of the speech the candidate was supposed to have delivered if defeated. I was more or less on the first half when Dorin Marian entered the door with a livid expression on his face, leant on the wall and said: ?We won?. Automatically, I saved the ?NO? speech and came back to the ?YES? draft. I very well knew that it was pointless, that nobody would read it, that the winner Emil Constantinescu was to speak from his heart and not from some papers (which actually happened), but I was determined to stick to the ferocious discipline of the campaign which demanded never to allow your candidate to be off guard.

Afterwards, our presence as President Constantinescu?s councillors seemed so natural to all of us, the majority from the close stuff, so that by the end of November 1996 we had no idea that somebody might have asked himself why the team included us and not others. Now, that I think of it, it is possible, for the parties present within CDR to have been bemused by the organization of the presidential team without their direct participation. I was quickly provided with the proof that, first of all, a woman?s presence in a position of authority wasn?t easily accepted. I remember- I think I mentioned it before- how General Vasile Ionel quickly turned pale when he wrongly assumed that I could have been his successor for the job of national security councillor: he was anyway disappointed by the fact that a university person, outside the system had become the president of Romania, but a lady in his position was out of question! He was at least spared from this situation.

In spite of the general victory feeling, times were tough, Emil Constantinescu was not any president, but the first democratic president of Romania, faced with an institutional system which had been hostile to him a minute before and he needed to be surrounded not only by abstract expertise, but also by people he could trust. During the four years while I was a councillor, it was more than once that I had the feeling that I was stepping on a thin layer of ice behind the president, a layer full of wild beasts swarming underneath. You need friends and not clerks for this type of crossing. This is how, for four years I had the privilege to be associated to a state politics which makes me proud, as historian, dignitary and as human being.

Not only once after year 2000 had I been vehemently contradicted when making this statement. This is why I keep on repeating it on every occasion, because, beyond any other consideration, Emil Constantinescu?s staff was the one which managed to move the East NATO and European Union borders from Tisa to Prut, thus generating a new development for the history of Romania. In a nutshell: Romania came to a standstill between 1990-1996 because its governing politics had been naturally and deliberately placed ? both on an economic, politic and ideological level ? closer to the former Soviet republics than to ?the Vişegrad countries?. The CDR government and president Constantinescu personally managed to defeat the inner and external forces which had prefigured a second Ialta, thus planning to place Romania within the new geography of the unite and democratic Europe. If somebody believes that this irreversible turning point could have been achieved without the will, courage and determination of a man who, without any hesitation, had risked his political career, his success, popularity and even the affection of those who had voted him and the minimal trust of those who hadn?t, in order to place the citizens of his country in the area of the long-lasting progress, that someone is terribly wrong. I used to be a committed witness of that constant and determined battle and I see it as the utmost privilege of the position I had been assigned to.

In all ex-communist countries, the beginning of the ?90s had been, with local variations, a radical turning point in all respects and that of building a new political class was by no means an exception. Everywhere, the collapse of the communist regimes had immediately brought some persons in the limelight - sometimes personalities- who didn?t have the minimal political experience, either in the traditional sense of the already-established democracies, where it takes years for a political person to be formed, where he hierarchically passes from the stage of parliamentary expert or communal councillor to that of MP or minister and where the political elite needs time to gradually sediment (either for the common well of the respective government or not), or in the sense of the hierarchies which, during the communist regime, built the party and the state nomenclature on their own criteria, from the ?clean file? to the skilled inner negotiations and flunkeyism.

In Romania, this phenomenon of renewal of the political class had its particularities and failures, starting from shyly and sporadically in the years preceding the Revolution, and up to 1996 when it managed to get a significant dimension. Yet, as Romania ? different from Poland or Czechoslovakia ? had no real dissident movement, but only a few isolated protesting figures, the heterogeneous, uneven and motley character of the newcomers was really glaring: from venerable survivors of the communist jails to young ambitious and with very little scruples wolves, from one or two authentic dissidents to patched university people. Each of us faced this high level projection the best way he could. Some of us hold their temper, others lost it in an instance. Different logics of the various parties they represented brought variations to this panoptic manifestation. Faced with a party like PDSR1 (then, PSD now), built on the old recipes of influence and on a well-worn routine, to which a new solidarity generated by the post-December complicity was added, with a common

1 The Party of the Social Democracy in Romania.

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