Towards Europe, With Skirts Up

Beyond the feature stories of guaranteed success, prostitution is an economic phenomenon: objective, measurable, analyzable. The data are incomplete and scarce, but the conclusions can be significant and multiple.

Irina of Chisinau (Moldova) is one of the many Natashas. Just like Natasha of Rostov (Ukraine) is one of the many Irinas. And why wouldn’t Lenuta of Dorohoi (Romania) be one of the many Natashas and Irinas who solicit with a smile, from a window in the Red Lights district of Amsterdam, or offer themselves on a sidewalk of Hamburg’s Reeperbahn.

That’s about how Western newspapers begin their economic features on prostitution - with the stories of Irina, Natasha or Lenuta, sent to school at the age of six, after enduring abuse from an alcoholic father; and the reader overlooks the lack of statistical data about the extent of the phenomenon.

Yes, we don’t have much figures, either, but if the OECD reached the conclusion that prostitution contributes 0.2% to the yearly economic growth of Poland, it means that for Romania, where the GDP is skimpier, the contribution should be more significant. And if the Romanian women hustling in the streets of France and their pimps send more than  by Western Union each year, the resulting amount on the banks of Seine, in Italy, Spain, Austria, Greece or Germany should reach 30 million each year, i.e. 0.3% of our GDP.

Well, these are just suppositions; more importantly, we go towards integration into the European Union alongside our girls, who will be allowed to work legally in Amsterdam or Hamburg - unlike in Bucharest! - and thus will come up the opportunity to close the gap to Poland, Czechia or the Baltic countries who joined the big community world before us. So what if we’re no longer exporting manufactured goods, like we did before 1990s, or soccer players like in 1990-1995, timber like in 1995-2000? Romania still has abundant resources!

In other words, the Germans are struggling in vain for a car with a consumption under three liters per 100 km, or the Dutch for a bus with the consumption of a car, which they could then export to Romania to cover their expense. We can compensate heavy industry with the light one: Alina of Botosani, Malina of Barlad, Geanina of Constanta and Sabrina of Bolintin...

 But don’t you mistake the above for a mere bedtime story. Since the Czech, Hungarians and Poles got higher GDPs, better machinery and more foreign investors, their girls seem scarcer in the Sankt Pauli or Sankt Georg neighbourhoods of Hamburg or in the famous Red Light District of Amsterdam. Some 10 years ago, they swept the out the market the Columbians, which on their turn had prevailed over Nigerians, Thai or Filipinos. Now, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says there’s export demand especially for girls of Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, Russia and Bulgaria. Moreover, the few statistics keep getting better for Romanians. The French poll where I got the €5m figure sent back home each year also says that in 2002 our girls stood third in the ranking of remissions who cover our huge crrent account deficit; now they’re first, having left behind the Bulgarian and Ukrainian.

But let’s analyze the prostitution in Europe, where we are responsibly integrating. Germany is the leading power of the EU, so it’s only natural it has most prostitutes: 400,000. Germans still prefer the Poles and Czech, but ours are coming up, next to Bulgarians, preparing to take the shift from the first expansion wave. Not only they have set foot firmly between the Elbe and the Rhine, they also begin challenging the lead of Spain’s 300.000 - the second market in Europe. In Barcelona, where they became most visible, the police is struggling to root them out.

In Italy, the third in terms of sidewalk beat with 80.000 to 100.000 prostitutes, Romanians are since long on the barricades. Not worth to waste a word on France (fifth: 20.000 - 40.000 prostitutes). In the Netherlands (25.000) there are some problems, also with the Poles and Czech, but as neighboring Belgium, or Austria and Greece, the five friendly nations (Albania, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine and Romania) rule, so will eventually happen on the Dutch field. I have intentionally left the United Kingdom last; ranking fourth, with 80.000 prostitutes, it’s a special case. Johns insist on dirty talk in English during sex, thus most of the suppliers of erotic pleasure are natives. But no worry: Romanians learn fast, and they probably won’t be bothered by the measures to curb immigration, as they will swim across the Channel.

More important than these figures, it’s worth knowing we don’t have to trust the polls 100%, because if pollsters got answers in sweet Romanian, while the girl is from Chisinau, they would say she’s from Romania. According to the IOM, Romania and Moldova are first,, but 45% of the human traficking comes from the latter. And the girls across the Prut River don’t only speak Creanga’s language, they also know Pushkin’s, so they might be counted indiscriminately as Russians, although we should correctly identify 7-11% of the total as Ukrainian, 3-5% as Russian, and 1-3% as Lithuanian and Latvian.

No matter what, Romania is still the champion, because it is the main hub of human trafficking, feeding pleasure both into Southern and Western Europe. The most compelling proof is that Romanian speakers are no longer spotted in Athen’s Omonia Square, in Montenegro, Bosnia, Kosovo or Turkey, like five or six years ago, but they got as far as the Place Pigalle in Paris. To be more accurate, women smuggled from Romania are 51.6% Moldavian from across the Prut, 36% from our side of the border and 12% Ukrainian.

In terms of traffic volume, the U.S. Department of State calculated that the 800.000 to 900.000 persons exported each year to work for the sex industry bring $7bn to smugglers. And as120.000 women are sold each year to Europe, and Romanian trafficker are well established in the “union”, it seems there’s no need for shipbuilding and tractor manufacturing to have a prosperous industry.

Nevertheless, beyond the international extent of the phenomenon - which ultimately is only a result - we should identify the national cause. In one of his best columns, Tudor Octavian noted: “I bump into whores at each step, on streets, in glossy magazines and in most high-audience TV shows. Scandals with national coverage that are not also about harlots with national-size chutzpah are so rare they’re not even rated as scandals anymore, but as reflections of Europeanization.  Also rare are the general interest situations where expensive prostitutes are not invited to put in their two cents for the benefit of the whole country. I don’t know, however, how to write about the proliferation and nerve of whores and about their decisive role in the post-1990 Romanian society. Perhaps because they should have a status well-defined by professional, relationship and tax laws. Just like me, Romania has no clue about handling the natural growth of whores, way above the average growth of the population. This is the confusing situation where a nation stimulates the supply, but fails to take seriously the demand.”

But we can go further from Tudor Octavian’s lines and see how - despite its poverty - Romania has bought foreign luxury cars, planes, frigates; it has paid off historic debts or made advance payments for motorways, all with public funds. The fact itself is not as bad as the way of making many of the purchases we cannot afford. Romania bought limos, planes or warships as indulgences, using the same slimy mechanism that made Martin Luther sick in the 16th century, when he asked for Reform. Our politicians choose immoral compromise to have their sins forgiven and the gates of the Euro-Atlantic area opened; on economic criteria only, we would not have passed through.

So after buying all kinds of indulgences, we were found healthy enough to get all kinds of visas - for tourism, for NATO or for the EU - previously denied after the first glance to our economy. Somehow, Romania came to exporting to the West the compromise as one of our few “merchandise” its administrators are good about.

Unfortunately, in such a hostile management, no signal to the contrary received from Western officials - united to their Romanian counterparts by the resemblance of politics and vice - cannot get serious investors to Romania. If you disagree, do you see Walmart, DuPont, Berkshire Hathaway, Johnson & Johnson, General Motors, General Electric having important interests in Romania? On the contrary, honorable companies of the world - those who do not bribe and do not subscribe to party and state protection - are staying away. They’d rather lose business on a market over 19 million buyers than buy off. This stance is more eloquent than any aggregate index, any complex calculation based on criteria, subcriteria and harmonic means. The TVs spout in vain proclamations like “we liquidate corruption, evaluate the number of raids, arrests, indictments” - so what? Bull! The number of convictions is what matters, and especially its fair distribution over the whole gamut of politics-business scheming. Only then the business will become clean enough to persuade the companies on the honorable axis to invest in Romania.

As long as this doesn’t happen, we will be at the mercy of Community charity and speculative capitals. We will send our girls to beat abroad, meaning the very frail base of Romanian economy will make impossible finding solutions for the issues of macroeconomic balance and living standard in the near future. And without investments of top companies, which can change the situation while expanding their business, we can equate the deficit of competitiveness with whores’ advance.

We can indeed pretend slyly in the shadow that the Germans make strong cars in vain, as long as we have the “accessories”. That, based on compromised, we will have succeeded to survive unconcerned as a European nation - as we are becoming integrated into the EU. Honestly, we should admit the truth of the proverb about the origin of the stink. In fish, it’s the head; in economy, it’s the Government. Meanwhile, instead of a healthy growth of the economy, the GDP rise is paid with STD.


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