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The Romanian executive vs. the legislative on education – the Tower of Babel?

Precisely when the education fairy seems to have finally heard the demands of teachers and university lecturers in Romania, i.e. when the Parliament passed, at the beginning of October the much awaited law (221/2008) on the increase of education and academic staff’s salaries with up to 50 percent, the newly granted wish became the bone of contention in a stark constitutional conflict between Romania’s executive and legislative branches. The boost in pay represents a major achievement for the education sector in Romania, after years of waiting and repeated strikes that never led to more than one-digit percent raises.

Thus, at a first look, the Romanian legislative seems to have done a wonderful job – the teacher and university lecturer professions are becoming financially attractive at last. In contrast, the government claims that the measure, as justifiable as it may be, is just economically unsustainable and would have a catastrophic impact upon the Romanian economy. It accused the parliament of passing laws with the purpose of obtaining electoral gains as general elections will be held this year in Romania. Consequently, the government took an emergency decision to postpone the implementation of the law until 1 April 2009, when the new government should have been formed, and to grant an increase of nearly 28 percent, a decision which was eventually declared unconstitutional by Romania’s supreme judicial authority - the Constitutional Court. And still, the executive seems determined to do the impossible to prevent the application of the law in its initial form, fearing the economic implications - for which it would, sooner or later, be held accountable.

In the current situation, where the government, the parliament and the teacher unions speak different languages, it seems almost impossible to say who will hold the victory torch, in the long run. One thing is for certain - we haven’t seen the end of this conflict, which further perturbs the already troubled Romanian political scene.

Law 221/2008