Se scrie iar despre 'La Europa', de data asta in The Scotsman. 
Dincolo de aprecierile de principiu la adresa sitcom-ului romanesc, articolul ofera o 
noua ocazie de protest impotriva superficialitatii scandaloase a ziaristilor 
occidentali care n-au alta treaba mai buna de facut decit sa ne ponegreasca tara la 
cafeaua de dimineata. Articolul e doar un pretext ca ziaristul sa aduca vorba despre 
educatia maselor cu televizorul, narav mostenit de la Ceausescu, ca si despre 
Dallas-ul de Slobozia si despre popularitatea lui Larry Hagman in Romania - o tara in 
care, se arata in articolul din The Scotsman, vrajitoria este o ocupatie legala, 
oamenii isi tin animalele in camerele din fata si existenta vampirilor este acceptata 
de o minoritate numeroasa. Cititi si protestati - insa, dat fiind ca e vorba de 
Scotia, s-ar putea sa avem mici probleme cu directionarea sa: la Edinburgh, la 
Glasgow, la Londra sau direct la Bruxelles? 

*

Two litres of lager and a pocket of euros 

CLARE CHAPMAN 

http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1013092004

WITH its directives on the correct shape of fruit, production quotas, wine lakes and 
butter mountains the EU is baffling at the best of times. 

So now Brussels is funding a sitcom to explain the finer points of membership of the 
trading bloc to the Romanian public. 

The TV show's simple tales of how to slaughter a pig to EU regulations, how to use 
barcodes and breed goats in the best traditions of European Union approved animal 
husbandry, has made The Winding Road to Europe an unlikely smash hit in the former 
communist state. 

Bureaucrats backed the show in an effort to educate the country where witchcraft is a 
registered trade, people keep farmyard animals in their front rooms and the existence 
of vampires is taken as fact by a large minority. They hope the sitcom will improve 
the understanding of the modern world and the organisation. 

Romania is hoping to join the EU in 2007 when another expansion of the now 25-member 
bloc is planned. But together with Bulgaria, the country is also one of the poorest in 
Europe, and in many regions the EU is a distant organisation that people know almost 
nothing about. 

Set in the fictional La Europa (To Europe) pub with a cast of uneducated rustics, 
villagers pop in and out of the bar with a frequency that staff at the Queen Vic or 
Rovers Return could only dream of, and Romanian viewers are watching with undisguised 
fascination as they tell each other how wonderful their lives will be in the EU. 

Halfway through the 12-episode series Romanians already appear not to be able to get 
enough of the show. Gabriel Giurgiu, creator of the series, said the humorous 
stupidity of the characters was the best way of getting across information about the 
EU to those who would otherwise find it hard to understand. 

"Not just people in rural regions, but also those in urban areas watch it simply 
because it is funny and easy to understand," he said. 

"The characters speak in their own, fairly simple language that is easy to understand 
and explain what's what with EU rules and regulations. 

"We decided that all these characters should have a chat in the local pub. People 
don't go to the town hall or church to chat and discuss news, they go to the pub." 

The use of television to educate the masses is nothing new in Romania. In the 1970s 
former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu broke with the Communist tradition in banning 
broadcasts of Western TV programmes and allowed people to watch Dallas to distract 
them from their troubles. The show and its actors still enjoy cult status today in 
Romania with Larry Hagman one of Romania's favourite stars. 

Viewers have warmed to the antics of the characters in the show, who are seen as 
stereotypes of rural Romania, including the eurosceptic, the youth who wants to get 
out and make a name for himself in the big city, the businessman and the cynical 
drunkard. 

It has an audience that includes 60% of Romania's rural population, according to state 
TV which broadcasts the show. Every Sunday they sit down to watch The Winding Road to 
Europe, with the episodes having such exciting titles as 'Breeding Norms', an episode 
in which farmers are told how their goats, pigs, cows and other animals have to be 
bred to EU standards. 

In another episode, a man called The Professor, who set up a snail farm to cash in on 
capitalism when the Iron Curtain fell, explains to fellow drinkers about barcodes, 
computers and the internet. 

In each episode the characters discuss the opportunities of the EU and what being part 
of the economic bloc could do for them. 

Some at first may not understand - "I'll give you a barcode so big you won't be able 
to carry it," says one villager. But doubters are won over and the confused 
enlightened as the wonders of life in the EU are explained. 

And if anyone is still wavering after that the omniscient barmaid-cum-pub-owner 
Bonguta sets them straight with dark warnings of what will happen if they don't 
embrace the EU. "If not, at Christmas we'll be eating yoghurt and mashed beans," she 
says in one episode. 

EU officials even appear as cameos in the shows, including Britain's EU ambassador to 
Romania Jonathan Scheele, to reinforce the message. 

The show, which only costs 17,000 per 15 minute episode to make and was partly funded 
by the EU's office in Romania, was produced at relatively low cost by Western 
standards because of the cheaper wages that Romanian actors command for domestic 
series. The average monthly wage in Romania is around 100, and even leading TV stars 
cannot command Western fees for appearing in shows. The state TV, which airs the 
programme, admitted that the money provided by the EU went to pay the actors' 
salaries. 

The producers believe the show's message seems to be getting through. 

Constantin Vasile, 47, from Albesti, a village in southern Romania, said: "I do like 
the sitcom because it speaks my language and I got tired of those pompous statements 
from politicians who never know how to put things so that people like me can 
understand. 

"Now I know, or at least I know more about, how I should sacrifice my pig at Christmas 
and my lamb at Easter. I still have some issues about the vegetable norms but at least 
now I know there are some norms." 

Ana Amoraritei, 52, from Tomsani, a village in southern Romania, added: "It may be a 
bit too late for someone like me to remember all these rules and stuff they tell us in 
the show, but at least my two sons who watch it can make use of it. 

"We always watch it because we're around the television at that time on Sunday and we 
can all do with a good laugh."

DEEP IN THE HEART OF SLOBOZIA

THE popularity of Dallas in Romania during the Ceausescu years was so great that even 
today - almost 15 years since the regime was toppled in a bloody revolution - Larry 
Hagman, who played villainous JR Ewing, has a massive following among Romanians. 

A Romanian businessman, Ilie Alexandru, was such a huge fan, he created Southfork 
Land, a theme park and resort based on the Ewing ranch in Dallas in Slobozia, 
south-east of Bucharest. 

Special TV programmes dedicated to Hagman and his career are aired at regular 
intervals on Romanian TV, and in the late 1990s JR could be seen plastered on giant 
billboards at the side of Romanian roads advertising east European oil companies. 

Hagman himself has said he still gets bags of fan mail from Romanians and once 
described himself as "killer" popular among Romanians. 

When asked about Hagman, people of all ages speak in excited or awed tones about the 
man many regard as the greatest soap actor of all time. "He may have been a villain 
but he was the one we wanted to watch all the time," said Nicolae Nan, 63. "Larry 
Hagman as JR was fantastic. If I met him now I'd shake his hand and say thank you, 
you're the greatest." 

Bucharest student Nadia Ciofu, 22, added: "I was barely born when JR was on the 
screens here but we all know about him. If I could pick any one actor to have a dinner 
date with it would be him."


______________
EuroAtlantic Club
monitoring Romania's efforts to join the EU
http://www.europe.org.ro/euroatlantic_club/
mail to: P.O.Box 13-166, Bucharest 70700
e-mail to: [EMAIL PROTECTED]



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