Thou­sands brave cold to cel­e­brate Ro­ma­nia’s 100th birth­day

Some turn out to protest over na­tion’s rule of law

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - NATION | WORLD - By Ali­son Mutler

BUCHAREST, Ro­ma­nia — De­spite freez­ing tem­per­a­tures, tens of thou­sands of Ro­ma­ni­ans turned out Sat­ur­day to cel­e­brate 100 years since their na­tion be­came a mod­ern-day state, with some not­ing con­cerns now about the rule of law and the state of democ­racy in the Balkan na­tion.

Ro­ma­ni­ans wav­ing the coun­try’s flag at­tended huge mil­i­tary pa­rades in Bucharest and Alba Iu­lia, the Tran­syl­va­nian city that sym­bol­izes Ro­ma­nia’s 1918 re­uni­fi­ca­tion. Crowds braved tem­per­a­tures of 23 de­grees Fahren­heit to watch tanks and mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles drive un­der the Tri­umphal Arch built af­ter World War I.

While most con­sid­ered the event a na­tional cel­e­bra­tion, some booed an­tiriot po­lice who par­tic­i­pated in Sat­ur­day’s pa­rade. That anger comes af­ter po­lice clashed in Au­gust with anti-cor­rup­tion pro­test­ers, leav­ing 450 peo­ple in­jured.

Mem­bers of the rul­ing So­cial Demo­cratic Party were booed at a cer­e­mony in Alba Iu­lia, where Pres­i­dent Klaus Io­han­nis, a po­lit­i­cal ri­val, called for Ro­ma­ni­ans to build a “dig­ni­fied and pow­er­ful coun­try, in­te­grated through ed­u­ca­tion, cul­ture and cre­ativ­ity into a Europe of val­ues, pros­per­ity and free­dom.”

More than 1,000 Ro­ma­ni­ans gath­ered Sat­ur­day even­ing out­side gov­ern­ment of­fices in Bucharest to protest high-level cor­rup­tion, yelling “Re­sign!”

Elec­tri­cian Gabriel Ene said he was glad that Ro­ma­ni­ans had “a free voice” but said the laws that the So­cial Demo­crat gov­ern­ment wanted to pass “will sup­port liars and thieves.”

Other Ro­ma­ni­ans cel­e­brated the day with the tra­di­tional dish of cab­bage rolls stuffed with minced meat and rice and po­lenta.

The U.S. and the Euro­pean Union are among those crit­i­ciz­ing a ju­di­cial over­haul in Ro­ma­nia by the So­cial Democrats that they claim will un­der­mine the fight against gov­ern­ment cor­rup­tion.

U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo thanked Ro­ma­nia for con­tribut­ing to global and Black Sea se­cu­rity as a NATO mem­ber and par­tic­i­pat­ing in mis­sions in Afghanistan and Iraq. His state­ment said Wash­ing­ton stands with Ro­ma­nia “in its ef­forts to up­hold demo­cratic val­ues and the rule of law … which are … the foun­da­tion of eco­nomic growth and pros­per­ity.”

Ro­ma­nia en­tered World War I sid­ing with Bri­tain, France and other al­lies in 1916 but ca­pit­u­lated to the Cen­tral pow­ers led by Ger­many. It re-en­tered World War I in 1918, and dou­bled its ter­ri­tory af­ter the end of the war.

That was partly thanks to Ro­ma­nian Queen Marie, the grand­daugh­ter of Bri­tain’s Queen Vic­to­ria and of Rus­sia’s czar, who warned the Al­lied vic­tors there could be an up­ris­ing if Ro­ma­nia didn’t re­unite with Tran­syl­va­nia, which un­til the war had been part of the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian em­pire.

The end of World War I brought about the end of the sprawl­ing Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian em­pire.

Vadim Ghirda / As­so­ci­ated Press

Thou­sands turned out to Bucharest, Ro­ma­nia, to watch a mil­i­tary pa­rade cel­e­brat­ing 100 years since the coun­try be­came a mod­ern-day state.

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