The New Oligarchs of Europe


I don’t pretend that I understand the Central and Eastern European business environments and political complex situations, but I do have a general understanding of how corruption works. And, in my opinion, today, Central and Eastern Europe political communities are building an “elite” tier of political oligarchs that see democracy as a threat to their “economic” interests (actually, their interests are just about money, not economic development, production etc.). These oligarchs are attacking the most fundamental values and institutions of human civilization in order to consolidate their social and political positions. For instance, in Romania, these oligarchs are claiming that someone’s integrity, an ethical descriptor for an individual, cannot be contested until there is a court decision saying otherwise.

In other words, though you are investigated by the Anti-Corruption Directorate, there is nothing to impede you from being appointed in the Romanian Government as minister or state counsellor. But those people intentionally confuse integrity with the legal idea of innocence/guilt: a rapist and a politician accused of corruption should both enjoy the basic right to be treated as integer (aka “innocent”) until proven guilty, as a Romanian political figure said a few days back.

From a different perspective, the public statements of politicians regarding the so-called “traditional family” in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary or Poland have a similar objective. These oligarchs reject the idea of diversity and treat human dignity as a “relative” right in order to accumulate political capital from people so they can trade this capital for favors, positions and other things. Similarly with the public statements on death penalty or the Christian fundamental background of our communities.

When you have hundreds of thousands of people voting for you, even if you are investigated by Anti-Mafia or Anti-Drug law enforcement agencies, you can make money out of those votes. And these oligarchs know this perfectly well. Especially in poor areas of Central and Eastern Europe or in regions were people don’t have access to independent media, to foreign cultures that support diversity as a value of all human societies, to elevated public discourses and a multicultural environment.

The idea of making the journalists vulnerable to economic factors was part of this strategy. The local press has been destroyed all over this region so that no one has the courage to right about what is going on there. And not only the local press, if you pay close attention to Hungarian or Romanian cases.

The education system, on the other hand, was a collateral damage: the intention was and still is to have voters who never question the political opinions, who have a minimal or no understanding at all of how central and local governments work, or who are not open to new social and cultural ideas, to the dynamics of the economic growth, to alternative opinions etc. This could be achieved only through sub-financing of the educational system, keeping the teacher’s incomes at minimal levels, and refusing any kind of improvement in the general curricula.

But it is not only about these major issues, i.e., moral values, free press, better education –, but also about the simple things that make our lives comfortable: road traffic, official parking lots and easy to pay systems for public parking spaces; the quality of public transportation and of the streets; how short is the trip of a citizen who wants to pay his taxes and how many forms he/she has to pay; access to public services; the quality of health services and the respect the citizens get when he/she enters an institution paid from public funds and many other issues. Even if some progress has been registered in some countries, the political oligarchs are slowing down the progress in these directions. And everything for the money. Citizen’s money. Our money.


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