“Orthodox background leaves Bulgaria and Romania at the tail of EU” – Social Scientist [VIDEO]

Source: Prime Time Russia

Doctor Joachim Zweynert, from the Hamburg Institute of International Economics, spoke to RT about the transition performance of Bulgaria and Romania in relation to the issue of EU conditionality.

“When the transition process started in the early 1990s, people, and especially social scientists, expected the countries in the region would quickly turn into democracies with market economies,” Doctor Zweynert told RT. “What we see today, 20 years after the process started, is a great divergence in both political and economic systems.”
Zweynert said that there are many factors behind such an outcome.

“One explanation is that there are different cultural and historical legacies, such as Orthodox Christianity on the one hand and Protestantism and Catholicism on the other hand,” Zweynert explained. “We look at Bulgaria and Romania as a sword of natural experiment, as they are the only two countries in this Orthodox group that were exposed to EU conditionality. What we can observe is that these two countries have significantly improved their transition performance after they were exposed to the EU conditionality.”


  1. The Romanian Orthodox Church and EU Integration ) (emphasis added)

    Some ROC leaders were deeply frustrated by the conditions the Union asked Romania to fulfill before judging it worthy of inclusion, conditions viewed as unfairly more numerous and unreasonably more stringent than those imposed on other former communist candidate countries in Central Europe. Metropolitan Bartolomeu Anania – one of ROC’s most conservative and authoritative voices – noted that Romanians “have always been Europeans, and thus one can speak not of our ‘entry’ into Europe, but of our reinsertion into Europe or, more precisely, Europe’s reinsertion into us” (3). He lamented the fact that Romanians were treated as “impoverished primitives” by the colonizing Western European countries when those were the very countries responsible for handing Romania over to the Soviet Union without much protest and without trying to defend it from communism (an allusion to the Yalta agreement of 1945), as a result of which Romania was assigned to the Soviet sphere of influence. Instead of insisting on Romania’s undemocratic political culture and under-performing economy, Anania reasoned, the West should set aside its “feelings of superiority” and realize it, and it alone, was to blame for the country’s misfortunes. Equally disappointing was, for Anania, the West’s readiness to belittle Romania’s cultural riches and record of genuine accomplishments. In his words, the West “calls us ‘Balkan’, although geographically we are not part of that region” and Romanians “always had the vision of and lived in Europe, the real Europe.” That “real Europe,” Anania reminded, gave the world philosophers like Plato, Aristotle and Sophocles, a contribution invalidating the oft-cited division of the continent into the civilized, superior West and the primitive, inferior East. The Balkans did not deserve derogatory labels, as they were Europe’s roots drawing inspiration from “Hellenic thought, Christian spirituality and Roman civilization.” It was this old, “real Europe” that the new Western Europe rejected and belittled in order to propose instead “one Europe built on economics and politics, without any trace of culture and religion.” “We don’t expect spirituality on the part of the West, because it has none,” Anania wrote to explain why Romanians “don’t need this Europe…[but] Europe must rediscover Romania” (4).

    The metropolitan adopted a moralizing tone when discussing what exactly Europe had to offer post-communist candidate states like Romania. His answer amounted to a pessimistic evaluation of Western mores, and a bitter indictment of cherished democratic values. Tolerance, trust and inclusiveness were to be adamantly opposed as a concerted assault on traditional Romanian values. “We are asked to tolerate those that lead us astray in our faith…All proposed forms of syncretism, from New Age to neo-Protestant sects forming ‘Evangelical’ and ‘Evangelizing’ federations…are manifestations of spiritual corruption” (5). Given the EU’s unreasonable position, Anania considered it advisable to be intolerant towards new religious movements entering the country and luring believers away from the dominant Orthodox Church, the only denomination which, following him, was tied to the very core of Romanian identity.

    Anania’s position has been shared by village priests, monks and nuns, for whom Orthodoxy is the true, “right” religion, while ecumenism is an abdication from core Romanian values. For Anania, accession offered his country “economics – that is, bread. Through bread we are offered liberty, in whose name we must accept aberrant demands for this Europe to accept us: homosexuality, vice, abortion, fornication, pornography, all damaging to our society, all sins which we, the people, our church and fortunately our Christian Orthodox youth have firmly rejected because we don’t want to lose our national identity in their [sic] accession process” (6). Anania was not the only critic of homosexuality, the EU accession requirement the Romanian Parliament fulfilled in 2000 by scrapping Article 200 of the Criminal Code just hours before the Council of Europe threatened to re-start evaluating the country’s human rights record (7).

    Patriarch Teoctist repeatedly praised the Romanians’ natural ability to distinguish “sin from virtue, natural from unnatural, normal from abnormal, right from wrong,” and criticized the “acceptance of the degradingly abnormal and unnatural [homosexual] lifestyle as normal and legal” (8). While stating that “the church condemns sinful love in order to protect sacred love, rejects the tyranny of egotistic passions unable to bear fruit to protect the freedom to love in virtue, rejects the unnatural to protect the dignity of the human being,” Teoctist reminded legislators that “the church works for the salvation of all, even the spiritually and physically sick,” and “appeals to its believers in Parliament to defend human dignity, the moral health of the people, the stability of the family, and the spiritual rebirth of the Romanian society” (9). To deter Parliament from amending the Criminal Code, Orthodox theologians, priests and monks extolled the virtues of the traditional position vis-à-vis sexual relations and called for rejection of the ‘Westernization’ of Romanian mores.

    • What the Patriarch didn’t appreciate is the democratic government’s approach to morality is to draw a line at the bottom and to say ‘no lower than this, swing your fist all you like but if you hit another person’s nose you’ll go to jail’, only to prohibit behavior that causes another direct or nearly direct harm. Other forms tried to impose higher minimum standards leading to the misuse of power and generating oppression and extortion.

      The problem to be solved is how does a democracy reward morally virtuous behavior? The only social tool history has known has been to punish unwanted behavior. Today we have popular songs with titles like ‘Only the Good Die Young’. Following that recipe will win you the Darwin Award.

      • Scott Pennington :

        “What the Patriarch didn’t appreciate is the democratic government’s approach to morality is to draw a line at the bottom and to say ‘no lower than this, swing your fist all you like but if you hit another person’s nose you’ll go to jail’, only to prohibit behavior that causes another direct or nearly direct harm.”

        Yes, he probably missed the moral libertarianism exhorted by the Fathers. He seems fairly explicit in rejecting Western moral values.

        “Other forms tried to impose higher minimum standards leading to the misuse of power and generating oppression and extortion.”

        . . . as well as the general prevalence of Christian morality – – which no democratic government tolerates, much less preserves.

        Democracy itself is the mortal enemy of Christian values everyplace, without exception, where it is the form of government. Western style democracy and Christian morality enjoy an almost perfect inverse relationship.

        “The problem to be solved is how does a democracy reward morally virtuous behavior?”

        Actually, the essence of the problem is, “How does democracy decide what constitutes morally virtuous behavior?”.

        It does so by reference to the popular will, not eternal verities. Therein lies its inherent evil. Western democracy is an abysmal, horrific failure – – and Eastern Orthodox clergy in the emerging Eastern European countries, to varying extents, understand that fact. Hopefully, “Eastern European democracy” will owe no more to Western democracy than “Chinese communism” (actually a state controlled mixed market economy) owes to Marx. To the extent that the Orthodox Church authorities and laity can subvert the spread of Western style democracy, rather than a shallow “democratic” veneer that protects tradition, the better off these countries will be.

        • Scott.

          You know I just don’t buy the argument that democracy and Christianity are incompatible. Democracy does not punish those who choose not to aspire. It’s for Christianity to inspire the majority to aim higher than the lowest possible allowed by the law.

          • Scott Pennington :

            Western democracy has utterly destroyed the institution of the family. Divorce rates are around 50%. The patriarchy is dead. No one is in charge in most households which makes divorce and misbehavior more likely. About 70% of African American births are out of wedlock, over 30% in the Caucasian community. We abort over 1 million unborn children each year. Homosexual sexual conduct is normalized in the mass media, the courts and the schools. And rates of reproduction are at all time lows. It’s worse in Western Europe where even the vestiges of Christianity we have here are mostly dead.

            I could go on.

            Nothing remotely like the above picture has ever presented itself in an authoritarian Christian society, only democracies and communist governments (peas in a pod). In fact, regarding family life, although abortion was more rampant in Soviet Russia, there was less acceptance of deviant sexuality and a greater retention of the patriarchy de facto, if not de jure.

            If you don’t realize that democracy and Christianity are enemies, you’re simply engaging in willful blindness.

            “Democracy does not punish those who choose not to aspire. It’s for Christianity to inspire the majority to aim higher than the lowest possible allowed by the law.”

            First of all, you ignore a major facet of the problem. It’s not really that the law just sets a minimum. It actually explicitly forbids men from being the head of the household. It mandates that public providers of health services provide abortion. In places it forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual “orientation”, mandates the availability of homosexual “marriage” and mandates the teaching of aberrant lifestyles in schools. It’s not a question of a low standard that people are free to rise above. It’s also a question of evil standards that people are not free to violate. The law is all too often evil, the product of an evil electorate and/or evil judges. How could it be otherwise in a representative government?

            Human beings are simply not capable of self government.

            The die is cast. If people want to continue to believe that Christians can make Christian morality popular by persuasion, then so be it. It’s not happening in this country and has not happened in any country in the world, ever. The only – – I repeat, the only – – countries where Christian morality has been established are those countries where it has been done by force. Apart from cases of residual inheritance of Christianity (like the United States inheritance of it from imperial England), there are no exceptions.

            The good news is that it really doesn’t matter what anyone believes. If I’m right, it will continue to self destruct no matter what anyone does; i.e., so long as it remains a democracy. Hopefully, due to economic realities with which democracy apparently can’t cope, as well as moral realities that have destroyed the fabric of our society, either by revolution or evolution we will begin to move decisively away from democracy before it demoralizes and bankrupts us further.

          • Scott, while the statistics you cite are all true– it is what the people choose, while leaving those who deem it wise to choose better. What is it about Christianity that they are not inspired to choose differently?

            Also, it must be said, authoritarian cultures, even those that featured Christianity, generally got themselves involved in forcing people into the military service for the purpose of attacking neighbors. I remember the story of a young man, the son of a Greek priest, who while young in Greece was totally shocked to learn from his father that the Bulgarians and the Greeks were fighting one another, though both were Orthodox authoritarian countries.

            I wonder how you explain the Christian authoritarians coming to be in a position of governing– restricting yourself to the ones who didn’t use methods abhorrent to Christian teachings so to do?

            Last, you overlook the USA in the earlier and middle parts of last century, and prior, when the moral pendulum had enshrined in law much you complain it lacks now. Much of that overdid it and so we got treated to the 1960’s anti-Vietnam efforts where the neo-cons of the day were opposed by those who didn’t think much of forced military service against overseas countries not attacking us. I think it will swing back in the next decade or so as the ‘baby boom’ passes on and we who remain inherit mostly a fantastic great debt. Moreover, the ‘gay agenda’ will act much like the union agenda– they do not have the ability to know when to declare victory and to stop. There will be a reaction to the over-reaching.

          • Scott Pennington :

            “Scott, while the statistics you cite are all true– it is what the people choose, while leaving those who deem it wise to choose better. What is it about Christianity that they are not inspired to choose differently?”

            Actually, no. I did not choose any of the above policies. Nor does the Catholic Church choose to shut down hospitals where they would be otherwise forced to allow abortions to be performed. Nor would I choose, if I had any children, to have them subjected to liberal indocrination in the school system. Nor would I choose, if I were married, to allow my wife to leave with the children for no reason whatsoever other than she got bored and wanted to try something new.

            It is not a question of being inspired. It is a question of commitment. Democratic government is government by the passions. It schools the public to follow their “inspirations”, whatever they may be. That’s the problem, not the solution.

            “I wonder how you explain the Christian authoritarians coming to be in a position of governing– restricting yourself to the ones who didn’t use methods abhorrent to Christian teachings so to do?”

            I don’t warp Christian teaching on how kingdoms rise and fall to suit modern 21st century sensibilities. Because I distinguish between totalitarian governments and authoritarian ones, and because I am willing to admit that no government is perfect, but some are much worse than others, I have a much higher tolerance for undemocratic forms of government than you do. I just can’t go on believing that democracy is the best we can do in the face of such utterly clear evidence to the contrary. Especially when – – face it – – democracy is really foreign to Orthodoxy. If you disagree, cite some passages from the Fathers to the contrary. They assumed empire. It wasn’t a question.

            Remember our old friend St. Vladimir of Kiev. Would you prefer the Rus had not been forcibly converted? It is the largest Orthodox country on earth now. Modern America drafted its own young men to go and fight in Korea and Vietnam, Vietnam having a considerable Catholic population. Moreoever, in WW’s I and II, we American Christians were fighting historically Christian countries (Germany and Italy).

            I don’t believe there is a pendulum. America has not always been as democratic as it is now. To be specific, the franchise has expanded considerably during the 20th century. Moreover, we had a period of noteworthy licentiousness in the 1920’s, long before flower power. Given the universal, exceptionless experience of democracies on earth; i.e., that they always degenerate into licentiousness – – always – – it makes more sense to reject the pendulum proposition.

            It is very wishful thinking to believe that there is some Christian revival on the horizon. Even if it were so, all previous revivals, however strong they might have seemed, have led us to the present state of decadence. There was some upswing in the prominence and popularity of Christianity (the evangelical variety) in the 1990’s, but that has largely petered out and has been coopted into apostasy by the Jim Wallis types and, increasingly, by the “Emergent Church” which strays farther and farther from anything (little “o”) orthodox, even by protestant standards, as the years roll by.

            Western style democracy is an acid which eats away at traditional Christian mores. There’s no serious evidence to the contrary and much in support. So, comically, many conservative Christians swear by democracy and actually support its expansion and imposition by force throughout the world. It makes no difference that these little expeditions tend to end on one of two ways: Destruction of the traditional culture and imposition of modern Western democratic, decandent mores or the ascension of radical Muslims whose election to power is the last free election.

            We really have a profound blind spot. We have been so relentlessly and successfully propagandized regarding democracy that we would rather believe the ideology than our own two eyes.

          • James the Thickheaded :

            Scott – while not denying our blindspots or our sins, I’d like to suggest that the next generation is full of wonderful kids. Some of them are mine… more are someone else’s. I think if you can’t see that… we’re toast. But to the extent that they have problems, you and I are directly the cause.

            If you really believe the pendulum never swings, then do you believe every forecast and analysis… especially only yours? Like the forecast when I was in college… the absolute scientific certainty that we would run out of oil by the mid 1980’s ? Trends almost always go to an extreme and then reverse. Almost always. Even the trends you seem to be forecasting will do the same.

            FWIW, renewal will come not because it is automatic, but because enough people rise up to do something about it and are willing to take the heat. If you’re not that sort of person, then as TR said, you really aren’t entitled to throw mud on those who a least put themselves in the ring. You can… we all do of course… but it rings hollow in some respect.

            Say what you will… the reason the “other side” is winning the day is because they ARE willing to put themselves in the ring. They love the others they represent more than you love to stand up for others who think as you do in this process, and until that changes, they will win the day. If today christianity is weak, it isn’t because of we have too much love, but because we have too little for others and too much for ourselves. But just think how all it took was 12 nice Jewish boys from Palestine to crack the Roman Empire – something so unthinkable in its day. So renewal can come in ways you cannot expect. Don’t you think God loves the world more than this? Renewal will come… maybe not in my lifetime… my time is increasingly short, but perhaps in yours if you’re willing to step into it. What is your plan ? Find the king of your choice? Move to the moon? or work with what we have here? We need you man… step up and take the heat. You have to take the first step. Maybe not now, but tomorrow or the next day. We need you – even in the smallest way. If you’re already doing something.. fine, forgive me. Thank you for your efforts.

          • Scott Pennington :


            You presuppose there is something that can be done in a democratic government to make the government adopt Christian morality as public policy. I don’t believe that’s possible.

            Politics aside, the thing to do is to commit to orthopraxis, to making a traditionalist Orthodox subculture. We all work in the world, I’m not advocating separating like the Amish. But creating a traditionalist subculture would make a clear distinction between traditional, valid Orthodoxy and the Americanist religion of which American Catholicism and modernist Orthodoxy are little more than sub-sects. We interact with non-Orthodox at work, in charitable venues and, perhaps, in non-denominational Christian cultural events where a genuine Orthodox presence might be useful. But it needs to be genuine. If it’s just a Byzantine Americanist sect, it will not be taken seriously. In point of fact, that’s not Orthodoxy at all. You can tell by the effect, or lack thereof, that it has on the “faithful”.

            This is vital because our children, the ones you have great faith in, are being taught by the culture with which we are all in bed, that traditional morality is optional, that feminism is valid, that religion is something to incorporate partly into ones life to the extent if fits modern sensibilities. We are teaching the children precisely the same thing by bringing the culture into the Church. I’m sure the parents of the baby boomers thought highly of their children too, and the parents of the “greatest generation”. Nonetheless, these children grew up to push the culture toward perdition.

            This is why I see the whole American experiment ending in an economic and moral crisis which leads to some morphing of government, if not revolution. It really is just a matter of time. I can’t say the hierarchy, by and large, is not on the side of the corrupting influences of the world.

            In this context, it is also vital to be optimistic. When all else fails and it becomes clear that the faithful, to the extent that they actually do remain faithful in more than name, cannot do much to change the escalating decadence, we have the example of Scripture and Christian history to assure us that eventually God will get tired of being mocked and act to right things. Americans always want to “make a difference”. If there’s something too be done that looks the least bit promising, this is not a bad impulse. But sometimes when things go quite awful, you just have to circle the wagons and let God straighten it out. Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic in nice neat rows will not satisfy God. That just serves to deny the immanence of the collision with the iceberg. God made the world to operate in certain ways and America is paying the price for its disregard of these ways. It will pay a much stiffer price in the future – – and it doesn’t make one whit whether the majority likes it or not.

            May God judge us and correct us as mercifully as effectiveness will allow.

  2. Macedonia74 :

    And then again, two “Orthodox EU” countries – Greece and Bulgaria continue to hinder another Orthodox country, Macedonia, from entraning into both the EU and NATO with their own demands: That Macedonia change her name and identity prior to entering.

    However, I do believe that the post-modernist / secular element in the EU deepened these “gulfs” between Orthodox nations. They may have even created them in some psychotic way. The irony being in as much as these nations have differences, I believe they have more in common. At least this is my opinion. A positive in all three, I believe, is that more and more they are understanding that the “values” being exhibited by the EU are definitely NOT Orthodox values and that they really do not mesh well with this mentality…

    I believe that the complete restoration of Orthodox communion in the Balkans would squash any EU dominance and aspiration (perhaps it would destroy the EU altogether), which is why it is hasn’t happened yet.

  3. Anyone care to share what is meant by the phrase in the video ‘EU Conditionality’? I have a sense it has a known meaning in that world, but I only have hunches about it.

    • Scott Pennington :


      I have some vague recollections of European Union law from a class I took in law school back in 2000 or so. The EU has standards that all candidate countries have to meet (approximately) for entry and further standards that apply to member states. By standards, I mean policies the candidates and member states have to put in place in order to gain membership or remain members in good standing. The EU treaties that form its “constitution” supercede national laws. These conditionalities can involve religious tolerance, “human rights”, economic policies, social welfare, etc.

      Boiled down, the article kind of implies that the EU is civilizing certain Orthodox countries due to their membership in the EU and the consequent necessity for them to abide by EU “conditionalities”. In the case of economic liberalization, frankly, there are other non-EU Orthodox countries that have instituted a flat tax and reaped the resulting economic boon associated with that. In the case of “human rights” and “religious tolerance”, the EU is probably not doing Romania and Bulgaria any favors by “civilizing” them.

    • Macedonia74 :

      Harry, “EU Conditionality” goes something like this, “We understand and respect who you are, what you stand for, what you believe, but you have to think about what is best for the people of your nation and find the common denominator with the 21st Century, what it means to be truly free, to be in the EU. Do you want to be truly free, or do you want to keep your people isolated, unemployed, uncivilized?”

      Something like this …

      • Scott Pennington :


        Actually, part of what it means is, “We respect your quaint little traditional takes on morality and culture but we need you to sanitize your cultural and religious sensibilities in favor of our progressive, secular, feminist values if you want to trade with us.”

        That’s the problem with being in the EU, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet to lose his soul?”

    • From Wikipedia:

      European Union

      The European Union also employs conditionality with respect to enlargement, with membership conditional on candidate countries meeting the Copenhagen criteria and adopting the acquis communautaire.

      The Copenhagen criteria are the rules that define whether a country is eligible to join the European Union. The criteria require that a state has the institutions to preserve democratic governance and human rights, has a functioning market economy, and accepts the obligations and intent of the EU. These membership criteria were laid down at the June 1993 European Council in Copenhagen, Denmark, from which they take their name. Excerpt from the Copenhagen Presidency conclusions[2]:
      “ Membership requires that candidate country has achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, respect for and protection of minorities, the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union. Membership presupposes the candidate’s ability to take on the obligations of membership including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.

      The Community acquis[1] or acquis communautaire (English pronunciation: /ˈækiː kəˈmjuːnətɛər/, French: [aki kɔmynotɛr][2]), sometimes called the EU acquis, and often shortened to acquis,[2] is the accumulated legislation, legal acts, court decisions which constitute the body of European Union law. The term is French: acquis meaning “that which has been acquired”, and communautaire meaning “of the community”.

      • Macedonia74 :

        The EU has set the standard of Copenhagen and then does not follow them.

        Question: What sort of democratic standard do we expect from a body that is made up of unelected officials?

      • Scott Pennington :

        Yes, the devil lies in what the EU considers human rights and its attitude toward religion and traditional mores.

    • Thanks for the insights. Seems like the ‘big negotiation’ occurs when deciding at what rate to accept EU currency and retire the local currency. If a country accepts the EU practices, the country’s economic possibilities seem pretty fixed for a couple decades at least depending on how equitably that process occurs.

      In a ‘micro reflects the macro’– I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard stories from people whose roots are in Greece and who were born there, own property there and so forth as adults. They come to the USA and live here for a while, travel back there for a month a year at least, eventually retire. They have to decide whether to live here or there, and owing to family they try there for a time. Then as the years pass by they start coming back here for longer, and longer and longer and eventually mostly stay here again. The reason: the Greek word for it is ‘Taxi’ , they really in the end appreciate how all the little things ‘just work like they are supposed to’ all the time, without the bribes and ‘stuff’. Acuna Matata– hassle free is the way to be.

  4. Video: “Corruption is quite the typical problem in the Orthodox Christian Group of Countries”.

    Let’s deal with that one forthrightly. It is an observation that refers generally to the practice of individuals and businesses paying those whose authority is licensed by the government (government workers, doctors, etc.) extra money, beyond their government pay, often called bribes in the west, to do, or not do, their jobs. Think of everything Chicago is notorious for, except prevailing everywhere and accepted as normal and not the exception.

    Is it a legacy of Communist times, the flight of the folk in former communist countries who liked order and had skill out of there to other countries, leaving in those who remained the ‘something for nothing’ ‘patronage’ attitude. (Patronage meaning you give your loyalty with moral blindness to a politically superior person in exchange for long security and short if steady money). Is Orthodoxy is a historical but unrelated fact? Or is there something about how the modern Orthodox church worked in those countries that is different than previously in history?

    • Scott Pennington :

      Same thing occurs today in Italy. They even have an Italian name for it. It’s an accepted part of the culture, tradition even.

      • Scott, I agree. Occupying a job for which the government provides license and protection is thought of as a mini-monopoly property right to be mined economically from those who need the functionary’s sign-off. It is a job for which the base pay from the government, if any is understood to be only a token, not enough. What does the church do to combat exploiting trust in this way? In Orthodox countries– the church defacto participated in the corruption by encouraging the priests to charge money for sacraments.

        You see, it’s all about modelling. The doing over against the seeming and the saying.

        • Scott Pennington :

          My point was that it has little, if anything, to do with communism or Orthodoxy. It is only in a modern government which has an extensive state regulatory scheme in place to root out “corruption” that you do find it less than common. For example, in the US, the IRS collects something like over 98% of all taxes due. In Europe it’s something like 40-60%. Tax evasion is a sport over there.

          In the old world, it was the normal. That’s why the Italians consider certain practices we would consider flat out corruption to be age old customs. It is only in the modern world where we have become puritanical about such things because of the negative effect they have on business investment that it seems out of place.

          • I wonder how much of the US tax collection success is about a sense of citizenship in the people. Rather like the police here who generally speaking in the US are broadly supported and respected.

  5. parinteledavid :

    I lived in Romania from 1993-2002. I converted to Orthodoxy in 1998 and was ordained in the Romanian Orthodox Church by Archbishop (later Met) Bartolomeu in 1999. Yes, corruption is endemic, absolutely unavoidable, systematic… and no, not everything that would be considered corruption in the west is even considered corruption in the East.

    There is a big difference, however, between the petty systematic corruption seen in such practices as having to “bribe” functionaries to do their job (for you in particular, in a particular situation, at a particular moment in time), and the moral confusion that prevails in western politically correct societies. (Fr. Hans has been speaking eloquently about the latter on another web site). The Orthodox are righteously indignant at the insistence of Western Big Brother that his moral code become the new norm, as though it were more civilized.

    My own thoughts, by the way, are that Communism was just another form of governmental corruption that was already deeply rooted in the East. Whether that older corruption came via Ottoman/Austro-Hungarian oppression, as some insist, or by way of the Byzantine Empire itself, I don’t know. We are sinful. How can our governments and societies not be marred by imperfection?

    • I wonder, what’s the incremental step in that culture to even-handedness and fairness? That’s the real heart of the problem of paying off functionaries– you know someone it’s free, you owe someone a favor it’s free, someone wants a functionary to make it hard, the bribe is more. It’s completely corrosive of cooperation, burdens teams of people trying to offer something or make something.

      And, there’s a certain sense of instituionalizing ‘the lie’. ‘The technician is busy this week, can’t install your cable TV. ‘ Same thing every week. They leave it to you to comprehend they’re looking for a payoff.

      • parinteledavid :

        Yes, “the lie” is certainly an institutionalized part of the system where “favors” are expected as a guarantee of good service. Or as they call it in Romania, “a little attention”. But only outsiders like western expatriates “dont’ get it”… I laugh when I think of some of my experiences in this sense.

        But in answer to Harry and Michael both, the “bribe” or “favor” or “attention”, or whatever it’s called is truly a “necessary” part of the economy, when people are not paid real salaries, where the state keeps the salaries below the cost of living, and people are forced to resort to “supplementing” however they can. Thus the problem is so systemic that an individual can hardly break it by means of a personal decision to do otherwise.

        Also built in to the system is the idea of honor. In America, customer service is considered a matter of course. In Romania, if you don’t come with some kind of gift, it can be seen as cheeky, denigrating….

        • Scott Pennington :

          Really, I don’t see why anyone gives a rat’s tail besides business investors who don’t like to get shaken down in order to be able to open enterprises in a country where “private tariffs” are the norm. If they don’t want to do business there, stay home. If the country where these practices are dominant decides it’s hampering business, they’ll stop it. Compared to the moral decadence of the West, it’s a non-issue.

        • Now we are getting somewhere. And why are the salaries not enough to accomplish the employment task honorably? Because the people who set the salaries generally sit at the top of a chain of government employees each of whom lower down pays a part of their ‘attention/bribes’ up the power chain into the pocket of the person/people who ensure their jobs.

          The thing is, could you address the issue of fairness? ‘A little attention’ varies depending on who you are and who likes whom. This deepens the corruption. The rules are not seen to apply to those who make them, conforming to the law is a sign of being lower on the food chain. It is exactly the opposite of what the gospel calls for— and has a scary echo in what we see in clericalist churches like the RCC and some of the Orthodox.

          • parinteledavid :

            No, Harry, I don’t think there is any fairness anywhere, most definitely not. I’ve seen a widow, at the bottom of the heap, throw out her houseplants because she couldn’t afford to water them. No fairness, no equity. As you say, those in control have no intention of making life fair or reasonable for the little people for whom God holds them accountable.

          • So, let’s light a candle. What is a first step that would be acceptable in that culture, that would seem natural and organic in that culture, that in due course would bring an end to that way of treating people and ‘doing business’? Only people who’ve lived in it and have also an outside perspective are likely to be able to see the right way through.

            (P.S. This is the classic ‘hero’ pattern. A person on the inside learns the ways of what works, and also sees that everyone is also somehow stuck. He/she leaves and gains altitude and perspective, then comes back offering a way for the stuck to gain.)

          • parinteledavid :

            Yes, candles are being lit, but they are on the nature of compassionate relief to the poor and marginalized, rather than systemic change. An ambulance or two (now and again) at the foot of the cliff, rather than a guardrail at the top.

            Orthodoxy (other than the politically expedient kind) doesn’t seem to have pierced the skin (or heart) of those who would be in the position to make systemic change for the better of the people.

            All sorts of people rail against the system and its corruption, but nothing changes….

          • All sorts of people rail — they look for the hero, the one who can articulate a path to a good future. Only someone who has lived there who really ‘gets’ what’s possible and how people think, and at the same time sees what changes will help can do that.

  6. Scott Pennington :

    “There is a big difference, however, between the petty systematic corruption seen in such practices as having to “bribe” functionaries to do their job (for you in particular, in a particular situation, at a particular moment in time), and the moral confusion that prevails in western politically correct societies.”


    Corruption has been with us since the Fall. It isn’t of recent vintage. Redefining evil as good, which is the result of Western democracy, driven exclusively by the passions, is quite different.

    • parinteledavid :

      The Orthodox recognize their corruption for what it is, and decry it themselves. Western humanism calls some evil good… and wants to impose it on others.

    • Michael Bauman :

      Sounds like the free market at work to me rather than “corruption”. Where an entity (either a private monoply or a government monoply) ration goods, services and income below what supply and demand would otherwise create, a black market is created. The ‘bribes’ are simply the market determining the correct price IMO unless real coercion is used. That is something else.

      The more management that is in any economic system, the greater the propensity for black markets to be created. The conceit of the west is tha our ‘free market economies’ make black markets obsolete is just that a conceit since our market is far from free especially in the global realm. Just another form of economic colonialism which strips the colonized country of its wealth, impovrishes its peoples and creates an oligarcy of welath and power to rule the natives. The indiginous religion is attacked, local economic activity is supressed for the ‘global maket’ and real corruption sets in. The corruption of entitlements and dependency. The consumerism and secularism of the west is best avoided to the extent that it is possible.

  7. parinteledavid :

    Also, having lived in Romania pre-EU, I agree with the generally held perception (by Romanians) that the EU does not bring only economic advantage to Romania. The suppression of the local economy in favor of the idea of becoming a slice of the global economy (i.e., a market for it, more than anything else) seems to be to the detriment of the average Romanian citizen, as well as to the country as a whole. But of course I know nothing about economics.

Care to Comment?