In the incestuous and byzantine world of Romanian domestic politics, it is very hard for a politician to stand out in the European Parliament, with an activity that is close to zero, while playing for the public audience (mostly pensioners) back home.
Yet, this is exactly the achievement of Mircea Diaconu, one of Romania’s 32 MEPs and one of those Eastern European actors whose fame is based on an amorphous popular consensus incomprehensible for outsiders.
Romania (the country of origin of the founders of the Dadaist, pre-Surrealist movement) is famous for having sent, in the previous EU legislature, extremely exotic figures to the European Parliament, such as: the rabid caricature of a far-right ultranationalist politician (Corneliu Vadim Tudor); a dyslexic daughter of president Basescu, a former botoxed model (Elena B.); a millionaire, but inarticulate, shepherd, who did time in jail for fraud (Gigi Becali); or a corrupt, nominally Socialist, MEP who refused to resign from the European Parliament even when caught red-handed in a “cash-for-amendments” affair (Adrian Severin).
Then came the actor, Mircea Diaconu. Cabotin, say the French. Diaconu was a moderately popular second-rate actor in Communist times. At that time, his baby face was bringing something candid and naive to the roles he interpreted.
Technically an ALDE member, Mircea Diaconu landed in the EU Parliament in 2014 as an opportunistic “independent”. Since then, although a professional actor, he did everything to keep his mouth shout (he doesn’t speak any foreign language, anyway), or do anything, for that matter, except attacking at home everything European, or smacking of Western mores.
Unbeknown to the higher echelons of the eternally indignant Guy Verhofstadt, Diaconu has been for years, inside ALDE, a mole of the populist Romanian government, directed from behind the scenes by the Socialist boss Liviu Dragnea, about whom we appropriately wrote here.
In one of the rare moments when he spoke in a plenary, Mircea Diaconu even took Dragnea’s defense, pleading that Romania be left to “find its way” alone.
To “find its way”, indeed. Whining, complaining, Mircea Diaconu metaphorically called himself a “criminal” too, because he, like Dragnea, was “unjustly persecuted” by the Romanian justice system, cunningly backed by Brussels.
Why would he be a criminal? Well, as head of the prestigious Nottara theatre in Bucharest, Diaconu was forced to resign after having hired his own wife as stage director, although she was merely an actress, with no directing experience. He himself headed the examining commission and awarded her the maximum mark of 10.
He was then a senator for the National Liberal Party, and, for a short while, culture minister. Of course, it didn’t bother him to be simultaneously senator and director of the very theatre Nottara that would come under his own jurisdiction as culture minister.
When forced to resign, he took it as a huge injustice and a personal affront. He then decided to run for the European Parliament, but when he was declared incompatible and was stopped from running in the EU elections, he quickly set up a friendly network of signature-gatherers, mostly among pensioners, the elderly from the suburbs and the countryside. Pensioners are a redoubtable force in Romania. He gathered the necessary 100,000 signature in order to become an independent candidate, and in the elections he got 6,81% of the national vote, more than the party of the Hungarian minority (UDMR).
Oh, and he is also a member of the EU Parliament’s Delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula. Has he ever spoken about what goes on there? The war in Yemen, the Saudi support for the Islamic State in Syria-Iraq, the beheadings, the killing of the journalist Khashoggi etc? Does he at least know how many prayers per day do those enturbaned gentlemen down there? No need for that, he keeps playing the victim, as unconvincingly for outsiders as he did it on screen. But it works: Romanian pensioners, his public and electorate, don’t make any distinction between life and cinema.