In February 2017, around one year ago, I was living my EVS life in Craiova, Romania. One day, it was late evening, I was chilling in the kitchen talking with my flatmates, when we heard a lot of noise from outside the window. When I had a look outside I saw a huge crowd of people down the street, protesting for something. I immediatly understood that it was something more than a regular worker's strike.
At the time, protests took place throughout the country against ordinance bills that were proposed by the Romanian Ministry of Justice, Florin Iordache, regarding the pardoning of certain committed crimes, and the amendment of the Penal Code of Romania, especially regarding the abuse of power. The decree would actually have spared politicians from criminal prosecution for receiving bribes of up to $48,000. After analyzing the provisions in the bills, the judicial institutions (including the Public Prosecutor's Office, the Superior Council of the Magistracy and the National Anticorruption Directorate) issued negative opinions on the bills, generally stating that the laws would not achieve their stated goals and would rather undermine both the criminal justice system and the fight against corruption.
The ordinance was intended to help the decriminalisation of government corruption, and to help hundreds of current politicians to escape criminal investigations or prison sentences. The government's excuse was that prisons were overcrowded and that the bills were intended in order not to pay a fee to European Court of Human Rights for the conditions in prisons.
Now, it was clear to everyone that this ordainnance was made from the governement to the government, as it happens often all over the world: in Italy we faced and we still have to face a very similar situation, with a huge criminal organisation having a lot of interests and business, and corruption all over our political class. That's why I was really impressed when I saw Romanian people's reaction: in my country, I always hear people complaining about politicians and corruption, but most of the time they are not really informed about it, and noone really feel that civil society has the power to change the situation somehow. Also, in the manifestations and protests I partecipated to, even if there were several reasons to protest, most of the partecipants didn't know exactly why they were there, and anyway in my city (that counts around 1 million people), I never saw huge manifestations and people, politicians or newspapers taking it seriously.
In Romania, something different happened. The people seemed to be aware of their power, and they used it, in the only way it has to be used: pacifically. The big protest started on On February 2, when over 200,000 people took to the street. On February 3 and 4 over 300,000 people continued, and on February 5 between 500,000 and 600,000 people came out to protest, thus making the protests the largest in Romania's history: this led to the withdrawal of the contested ordinance and to the resignation of Florian Iordache. After that, protestors were still going out asking for resignation of the government itself and for early elections.
From what I could see from my window, a lot of people went out also in Craiova. On 4 and 5 I was in the city of Arad, and also protests were very partecipated; I am talking about small cities, that probably didn't count a lot for the final result, but I could see how everyone was really involved and informed about what was going on. Walking in the streets of Arad, I found a paper with some informations about the ordinance and the goverment's plans: 2 faces of one sheet full of important news and technical stuff, written by a romanian judge.
This was to me another good reason to appreciate Romanians: talking with people and going in the streets I really experienced the feeling that unified the whole population in those days. And as a human being, I can only be proud for every little step against corruption and injustice, no matters where in the world.