Main speech delivered at the Reunion of World Justice Project, organized by American Bar Association, European Lawyers Association and World Lawyers Association, Prague, July 12, 2007
All of us accept that the liberty and justice are eternal ideals of the mankind. We are proud of the great masterpieces of literature, music and art inspired by love, fight or death for liberty and justice. We are less willing to admit that the same great ideals have inspired doctrines headed for destroying of some communities and peoples. These doctrines put into fact with enthusiasm or fanaticism had as end at the humiliation or even the disaster of the nations that had adopted them. It exists a way of think, of feel and of live to help us to surpass this overwhelming dilemma of the human being? Could we hope in the dawn of the third millennium that we could make it viable?
Leafing over a French newspaper, at the cultural page, my attention was drawn by a drawing of Rodin’s famous nude “The Thinker” changed so that its original apolinic figure would become, in the same meditative position, the typical accessories of the modern intellectual: boldness, some belly and eye glasses. Something else also appeared in the drawing: a cannon ball, gripped through thick chains by the foot of this strange thinker. FREEDOM was written on it in capital letters.
Could be the liberty a problem difficult to solve by contemporary intellectual elites after 200 years from the French Revolution? Freedom, as a problem difficult to solve by the intellectual elites, would have seemed to me a paradox hard to accept if my own experience and the recent one of my nation’s would not have undergone through it in a tragical manner.
17 years ago I have participated, along with my students and my children, at the popular rise against the communist dictatorship. Bare handed facing the army and the Securitate’s tanks we were spontaneously roaring: freedom, democracy, free elections. When the soldiers started to shoot, the young people have continued to shout: we will die and we will be free. One thousand people were killed and over three thousand were badly hurt those days; among them, many were close friends of mine.
Even if my country was the only one being subject of a bloody separation from the communist dictatorship, it was not the only one which has gained its freedom then. The huge crowds that have occupied, in a sudden attempt, the squares in Berlin, Prague, Warsaw, Sofia, Riga, Vilnius have not asked for land, jobs, salaries or revenge. They have shown an astonishing solidarity for freedom, democracy, justice, crowds with that the huge communist repression forces facing them proved weak and helpless.
By all means, 1989 will remain in the history as one of those miraculous years when people were willing to fight and to die for an ideal. Yet, ungrateful and painful was the fight during the years that have followed.
We were to understand very fast that the free elections have brought into power the 2nd echelon of the communist nomenclature and political police, that the so-called market economy allowed to be set up an oligarchic system lead by the former security mafia, that freedom and democracy were used to urge a part of the population against the other and in order to reactivate the inter-ethnical conflicts frozen under the communist dictatorship.
I were about to find the answer to my own frustrations and also to others’ frustrations not in the western books of politology, sociology or psychology, but in the Old Testament. I realized that there is no better explanation for the post-communist transition avatars but the Jewish migration after the liberation from the tyranny of the pharaoh of Egypt. The forty years of peregrination in desert, the exacerbation of conflict between people, the harsh fight for power, the worship the golden calf had prevented us with millenniums above of the fact that the essence of a transition is the change of mentality and that a major change in mentalities takes a generation time. The MIGRATION offers the solution, too: a new society can be built only on the basis of a table of law index and on imposing to observe of the law.
The New Testament was to bring an essential revision through Jesus’ words: “Give the Caesar’s what belongs to the Caesar”. Only today we understand this revision’s importance: separating the state from the religion as religion offers eternal truths, while the law adapt to the social progress.
If only after seventeen years the former communist countries in Central and South-Eastern Europe have accessed to the European Union, it was not only because the social and political transformations happened very fast, but also because of the unquestionable role that projects of international and American non-governmental organizations, among which ABA – CEELI excelleled through its activity, have had in establishing the rule of law, within this part of the world.
Those who, in their way from Central and South Eastern Europe to the West pass through Vienna, could read above the gate of Franz Josef”s Palace Cicero’s sentence: Justitia fundamentum regnorum. Justice, the fundament of states is the very principle that marked the limit between the stabile Western societies and the Eastern unstable ones, that could have returned anytime under the reign of arbitrary. Through the treaty of accession to the EU, the former communist countries in Central and South eastern Europe has gained the statute of functional democracies. Does it mean the end of their efforts in setting up the complete rule of law? Absolutely no. However, it means that their experience is now interesting not only for the countries in transition, but also for the advanced democracies which could sometimes hide unexpected frailties. .
During a meeting I had at the beginning of 2001 with the President of Hungary, Ferenc Madl, we have discussed about his book “The Post-communist Change through Legislation”. I have shared with him some observations I had made during the first ten years of transition: that as time went by, we paid the price for some stale events from our history, when the idea of observing the law and the judicial independence were lacking. The surpass more rapid or more slow of the post communist transition could be thus explained. Regarding the future it is clear to me now that the progress and welfare are not related only to the GDP, the inflation rate or to the balance deficit. And that in the century that has just started the countries’ hierarchy will be dictated not by technology, management, nor even by creativity but by the way human communities will know to assimilate the rule of law and, eventually, the legislative way of living.
It is quite clear to me now that an opposite direction is also possible, which risks no longer come from the history, but much further, from the very nature of man. One of the reasons for which the democratic government must be a constitutional government based on legal norms, as the authors of the American Constitution enacted, is the necessity to settle specific restrictions in front of absolute will, whatever if this will belongs to one individual, to some individuals or to many individuals. As John Adams and the other founder parents of the American democracy well noticed, the absolute rule of the majority could lead to mass tyranny.
When the community of values and interests disintegrates, when there is no mutual understanding regarding the fundamental principles and goals, when the participants no longer try to integrate themselves within the state, but try to become the very state it is possible to obtain even the collapse of the democracy.
That is why a democratic government is only the constitutional government based on the separation of the powers within the state.
During my presidential term, I profoundly and strictly observe the independence of the judicial power. I kept myself away of influence the justice and I rejected any possibility to intercede in the process of justice. This attitude has attracted the contempt of an important part of the public opinion, inclusively of many democrat intellectuals who considered there was the time, even not for long, to suspend the independence of the judiciary in favor of some rapid intervention for restoring the justice where there were made evident abuses and illegalities. My answer that a single tiny infringement of separation of powers opens the way for endless abuses did not convince too much or too many.
When you are obliged to take decisions you understand better the sense of the notions than you approach them only virtually.
When the revolution started in the street in Romania was confiscated by the second echelon of the communist nomenclature I stayed to protest in the street because I understood that individual freedom ended where it reached someone else’s freedom and that the freedom of a nation was a form of solidarity which couldn’t realize between oppressors and oppresses.
You can understand more profoundly the sense of some notions when you are obliged to take decisions for others. As chief of state I understood the difference between fairness and justice. It was true that those who have committed the crime during the communism and those who have robbed the country’s goods to be punished, but regaining the dignity of the nation demanded that this to be make observing some rules even this seemed a slow course and “the time is out of joints”.
That is why I believe that the lack of respect for law and justice, as well as the proliferation of the theft and improbity in general, can not be solved only by President, by Government or by Parliament. Not even by courts of law, police or jails. It has proved that private property and the democracy are not sufficient. The lack of a profound respect or trust in an justiciary or legal horizon is still grave and profound rooted in collective mentality. Until the family, the school, the church, the opinion of street, of the village, of the neighborhood will not intervene, this dangerous reality could not be changed.
In a discourse delivered at 2006 ABA Annual Meeting President-Elect Nominee William H. Neukom proposed a multidisciplinary forum on the rule of law, where jurists all over the world to work together with personalities of different domains: clergy, professors, workers, doctors, journalists, engineers, architects and leaders from governmental sphere, from civil society and from business milieu. I believe this is a necessary measure because there are enough disappointed intellectuals who tend to think that if the principles of law are imperfectly put into practice, than these principles are a trap and a cheating. They seem not to find any balanced term between an excessive optimism and a pessimism, equally excessive. The intellectuals become cynical if they could not be idealist any longer. The bitterness of their cynicism often betrays the profoundness of their disappointment.
A recurrent fashion in intellectual milieus insists on the fact that the rule of law is only an arbitrary convention. That eventually, only the brute power could solve the conflicts between our preferences. If we do not accept there is a forum of reason and conscience to which we could subject for judgment the differences between us, than it could be no longer any alternative than to submit them to the test of force. In this fight, not the wiser reason would prevail, but the stronger fist.
The rule of law as a way of living imposes a permanent vigilance towards its infringement by any citizen. “So what?” some could say. “By now this is not my problem, it does not concern me”, many of us could think. I remind them the verses of a popular song at the time when the Nazism set up in Germany: “When one of my neighbors was arrested, I did not protest because I was not a Jew/ When another neighbor was arrested, I did not protested because I was not a social-democrat/ When I was arrested, I had no longer any neighbor to protest”.
I started this speech with a confession, I will finish it also with a personal avowal. I was born in 1939, when the Second World War broke out, in Tighina, a romanian town located on the very western border of the former USSR. In that time, if someone would have traveled along a virtual line connecting Tighina with Tokyo in the East and with Lisbon in the West, he would have crossed from the Pacific to the Atlantic only states with military, fascist or communist dictatorships, which conflicts have generated wars and repressions which have provoked millions of casualties. I have lived under the vicissitudes of many dictatorships: royal, legionary-fascist, military and communist, where the lack of rule of law had destroyed many lives and destinies. I participated to a revolution paid with blood and to the convulsions of a post-communist transition marked by violent events.
I wish to believe with all my heart that World Justice Program would allowed the young generation of today to live in a better and safer world.