Zoe Petre

The thing is that we had to put the basis of a relatively autonomous diplomatic service within the Presidency, which - making the proof of their remarkable professionalism, all the more as it consisted of five young university people, specialists in international affairs but without any kind of previous bureaucratic or diplomatic experience- realized hundreds of analyses, of sketches of officials conversations, of theses of the interventions the president had at the highest levels. Every December, for four years, we used to fight the high MAE1 officials for days, trying to explain to them that president Constantinescu was not sending Christmas telegrams to Saddam Husein or Ghaddafi. I shall later on explain how the ?system? had its revenge for all that. I will furthermore add only one detail: in spite of our appeals, all the projects of diplomatic correspondence we used to receive from MAE invariably started with the well-known formula ?I shall take the delightful opportunity?, expression which to us, those in the Presidency, together with the President, seemed-I keep on thinking it was a rightful judgement-horrible. This stylistic incongruence remained a sort of epitome of the four years of delicate confrontations.

Benefiting from a Weberian education, I am fully aware of the fact that there is no administration without bureaucrats. Yet, in our country, regardless of the place or time, bureaucracy cumulates the inevitable flaws of the job, showing an inertial passivity which is sometimes shocking. One can add to this the feeling- sustained by the most varied sources, from the big PDSR bosses to the tabloids- that the authority alternation in 1996 was a little accident on their way, which was anyway temporary and insignificant and that things were quickly going to go back to their place. I know at least one ministry where every more or less significant strike made the officials drink champagne celebrating the fact that ?tomorrow the government is going to be overthrown? and where the 1999 miner riot aroused whispered enthusiastic comments. At the respective moment, even TVR set some megaphones in its yard, ready to again receive the big redeeming crowd, so that we shouldn?t be surprised to see the ministry directors waiting every morning for the usurpers to fall?

I, as well as the others, also had my share of discussions on the miner riots and there are still things to add. Yet, since I am subjectively writing for ?Martor? magazine, I will add something else. One of the most important domains of activity of the Romanian Presidency as envisaged by the Constantinescu administration was the one focusing on culture. I used to have an excellent relationship with the Ministry of Culture- as compared to many other ministries- especially due to the direct relationship I had with Ion Caramitru, who was imaginative and friendly and with the state secretaries, Maria Berza, an old friend of mine, whose competence and intelligence nobody places under doubt, Ion Onisei, efficient and serious and Hunyor Kelemen a very promising young politician. That is why, during the spring of 1998 I invited Irina Nicolau, with whom I used to share an old complicity- of the cigarettes pondered on in front of the Academy Library, of the too rare but all the more precious post-December chats, of her wonderful books and articles in ?22? or ?Dilema? magazines-to ask her to join our team. Then she told me that she was very ill - almost nobody had any idea about the terrible truth- and that she was not after new responsibilities. She told me she was sorry, because she was very fond of all of us, and that she was aware of what we had to fight against. ?Don?t loose your nerve? she said? ?no matter how hard it is, do something essential and do it right? and she gave me a brass little ring, one of those delicate or extraordinary gifts she was capable of making. That bright memory has been living in my mind as a sort of lucky-charm up to the present day.

Translated by Raluca Vîjîiac

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