This is the time of year for greetings, congratulations, optimism and hope. I’ve sent my Christmas cards, eaten my roast ham and welcomed in the New Year. But something is missing.
I feel the need to say something important, new and unknown – not just that tired old phrase Happy New Year.
I want to tell people about Romania.
You may be thinking: “What the hell does Romania have to do with the New Year? Why should we congratulate a corrupt East European country that floods us with immigrants?”
Let me explain.
Romania is perhaps the most courageous nation in Europe. They have managed to stand up to some of the most powerful lobby groups in the world: the Kremlin, the State Department, the Israeli and French governments and massive offshore investment funds.
Not only does the international community not recognise these achievements but their own people, the Romanians, have nothing good to say about their own governments – whom they tend to regard as corrupt mafia clans.
On the one hand, Romania does seem to be particularly badly led: poverty levels are among the highest in Europe; corruption in public life is endemic and over 10% of the population have emigrated. On the other hand, their economy has been growing from an incredibly low base, there is macroeconomic stability and they have remained stable when compared to some of their neighbours: Greece and Ukraine in particular.
It is also the only EU Member State to have elected a member of an ethnic minority to the presidency. This fact alone is an extraordinary achievement in a political climate where nationalism, xenophobia, prejudice and fear are winning at ballot boxes on both sides of the Atlantic.
Many people reading this article may assume that I’m in the pay of the Romanian government or some dubious EU project. Otherwise, why would I be saying such positive things about a country that even its own people condemn as hopelessly corrupt?
I can assure you that I am not in the pay of any government agency and am not getting any money from the EU or any other organisation with an interest in promoting Romania. Nobody asked me to write this article.
What I can tell you is that I’m starting to work for a little Belgian charity called Against Child Trafficking, an outfit that challenges the legitimacy of international adoptions. I’d also like to explain Romania’s key role in standing up to these traffickers.
Romania stopped selling its children
After Romania’s “Christmas” revolution of 1989, the world was shocked to see televised images of thousands of malnourished children suffering in grim institutions. People from all over Europe drove to Romania with aid and international adoption was touted as a handy solution to institutionalisation.
The adoption industry didn’t talk about sales, catalogues or prices and they certainly didn’t use the words industry or business. It all seemed so worthy: the front organisations were charities; it was presented to local authorities as an ideal “child protection” measure – poor families now had a way of getting a better life for their kids abroad. What the adoption agencies didn’t say was that they were charging western families up to $50,000 a child and some of this money was used to bribe local officials. They also didn’t say that papers were often falsified, identities were changed and the label “orphan” was often used when the child’s parents were alive and kicking.
The problem with international adoptions is that it is unaccountable. An estimated 30,000 children were adopted from Romania between 1990 and 1997 and nobody knows where they are or what happened to them. Some years ago, I asked the Romanian Office for Adoptions about these children: did they have any information about those kids and, to my amazement, they said “no – there are no records for international adoptions between 1990 and 1997.”
Romania has a model child welfare system
When presented with the evidence of this corruption, the Romanian government of 2001 imposed a Moratorium on international adoptions. This was backed up by a 2004 law on child rights and one of the most effective EU projects in Eastern Europe: the reform of its child welfare system. The network of children’s homes were closed down, foster care was introduced and it became illegal to institutionalise children under the age of two.
Rather than getting praise for reforming its disastrous child welfare system, Romania found itself under assault from the well-organised lobby for international adoptions. Highly placed Italian and French lobbyists (such as “mystery man” Francois de Combret) got their prime ministers to demand the re-opening of adoptions, and Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell and the Israeli Prime Minister piled on the pressure too.
Romania has destroyed the international adoptions industry
Against all expectations, successive Romanian governments have stood up to this global bullying effort. For this they deserve recognition, support and praise.
Romania’s stubbornness has been a disaster for the international adoptions industry, which preys on poor nations with easily corruptible institutions. This industry is used to manipulating countries that don’t comply with its business model and no other nation has managed to stand up to them like Romania.
Romania’s example has inspired other countries to follow suit. It is no longer possible to adopt children from Nepal, Venezuela and Guatemala – and the trade has been restricted in Russia, Congo and Ethiopia. International adoptions are down by over 70% and the business model is heading for an early grave.
Other examples of Romanian bravery
There are other examples of Romanian courage in the face of powerful lobby groups: unlike Hungary, Romania has managed to avoid the siren call from the Kremlin and is one of the most stable pro-NATO allies in Eastern Europe; they have stood up to a multi-billion dollar offshore investment fund which plans to make the biggest gold mine in in Europe, resulting in a vast cyanide lake that would ruin the unspoilt environment of Transylvania.
For all this the Romanians deserve a hearty congratulation: Happy New Year.
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