Monday, September 30, 2013

NYT: In Trial, Romania Warily Revisits a Brutal Past

By ANDREW HIGGINS
BUCHAREST, Romania — Remembered as a brutal sadist by inmates who managed to survive the prisons he once ran, Alexandru Visinescu bubbles with violent fury. “Get away from my door, or do you want me to get a stick and beat you?” the 88-year-old former prison commander screamed recently when a reporter called at his fourth floor apartment in the center of this capital city.

Like other onetime servants of the old Communist government, Mr. Visinescu — now a frail retiree with a hunched back — does not like being disturbed. Until recently, he was not. He was left alone with a generous pension and a comfortable apartment, surrounded by black-and-white photographs of his fit, youthful self in uniform. He passed his time with leisurely strolls in a nearby park.

His peace ended in early September, when prosecutors in Bucharest announced that Mr. Visinescu would be put on trial over his role in Communist-era abuses, the first case of its kind sinceRomania toppled and executed the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in December 1989.

The case has opened a flood of news media coverage here and raised hopes, however tentative, among victims and their advocates that Romania may finally be following most of its neighbors in Central and Eastern Europe in shaking off a national amnesia about its brutal past and re-examining a culture of impunity that has fed rampant corruption and constrained the country’s progress despite its entry into the European Union in 2007.

In the eyes of many here, the downfall and execution of Mr. Ceausescu merely removed the leader of the old Communist Bloc’s most intrusive dictatorship, leaving the system beneath largely intact. That continuity between the Communist and post-Communist elites helps explain why resistance to a serious reckoning with past crimes has been particularly strong in Romania, where there is still widespread nostalgia for the Communist era.

“We are coming from very deep and dirty waters,” said Laura Stefan of the Expert Forum, a Bucharest group that campaigns to strengthen the rule of law. “Corruption has a big link to the fact that we haven’t talked about our past,” she said. She welcomed the prosecution of Mr. Visinescu as an encouraging sign, noting that “to even think that these people are guilty and should pay is very new.”

A former work camp commander, Ion Ficior, is also under investigation and may face charges.

Still, Ms. Stefan doubts that the authorities are “really serious” about putting Mr. Visinescu and others in jail. “I am not optimistic at all,” she said.

Fueling those doubts is the fact that Mr. Visinescu has been charged with genocide, which usually applies only to efforts to liquidate, in part or entirely, a religious or ethnic group, not to political repression. And the crimes he is said to have committed stretch back more than half a century, predating the Ceausescu dictatorship, which lasted from 1965 to 1989 and remains a far more politically delicate period because so many members of Romania’s Communist establishment under Ceausescu maintained positions of power even after the fall of the old regime.

The difficulty of making a genocide charge stand up in a Romanian court — and then against any legal challenge at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France — has raised concerns among those who have long pushed for justice that the case could prove to be yet another false start in the country’s fitful efforts to come to terms with its past.

“They have charged him with genocide just so they can close this file without a result,” said Dan Voinea, a Romanian criminology professor who served as the prosecutor in the hasty Dec. 25, 1989, show trial of Mr. Ceausescu and his wife, Elena.

Romania’s political and economic elites, Mr. Voinea said, are still dominated by former Communists, their relatives and allies “who want to make sure that the crimes of Communism are never unveiled and never prosecuted in a serious way.”

Indeed, critics of the government say the prosecution of Mr. Visinescu was undertaken only because the prosecutor received a detailed file from the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes, a semi-government body in Bucharest that researches cold cases.

Romania under Mr. Ceausescu was the most authoritarian, Stalinist government in Eastern Europe, a paranoid nightmare in which one in 30 people worked as informers for the ruthless security agency, the Securitate. Mr. Ceausescu’s repression of dissent was so complete that Romanians were forbidden to own typewriters without a police permit.

The General Prosecutor’s office in Bucharest, headed by a former soldier who took part in the shooting of protesters, or so-called terrorists, during the 1989 uprising against Mr. Ceausescu, declined to discuss Mr. Visinescu’s case. It has not explained why it chose to prosecute him with genocide, a crime that will be very hard to prove but may offer a way around a statute of limitations on lesser offenses.

Still, for many here, Mr. Visinescu’s prosecution is significant for bringing a measure of accountability for the first time to a penal system that, according to researchers at the institute in Bucharest, not only subjected prisoners to physical and psychological abuse but, at times, also sought the extermination of the government’s opponents.

That was especially the case at Ramnicu Sarat prison, 95 miles northeast of Bucharest, which was reserved for political offenders singled out for harsh treatment. Mr. Visinescu commanded the prison from 1956 until 1963.

“Evil now has a face in Romania,” said Vladimir Tismaneanu, a University of Maryland professor who headed a 2006 commission set up by the Romanian government to examine Communist-era crimes in general. “It is one thing to have abstract evil, but the public needs to see an individual.”

Aurora Dumitrescu, who was arrested in 1951 at the age of 16 and sent to a women’s prison run by Mr. Visinescu in the town of Mislea, remembers him as “a beast.” She said he delighted in sending inmates to the “black chamber,” a dank, windowless concrete room used for beatings and psychological torture. “For him we were all just animals,” she said.

For his part, Mr. Visinescu, who is accused of direct involvement in six deaths, told the Romanian news media that he could not be held responsible for decisions made by superiors.

Insisting that he had “never killed anything, including a chicken,” Mr. Visinescu told Romanian television that he had merely been carrying out prison rules dictated by the General Directorate of Penitentiaries.

“Yes, people died,” he said. “But people died in other places, too. They died here, there and everywhere. The food and other conditions were all in accordance with the program. If I hadn’t followed the program I would have been thrown out. Then what would I have done?”

Even some of his victims have some sympathy for his argument and wonder why only a relatively minor figure from so long ago is being pursued.

“The chiefs are much more guilty than he is — it was the system,” said Valentin Cristea, 83, the only living survivor among the political prisoners sent to Ramnicu Sarat prison.

Mr. Cristea, a retired electrical engineer who once designed listening devices for Romania’s Interior Ministry, was first jailed in 1956, accused of belonging to a tiny anti-Communist group headed by his aunt and her husband. He spent six years in various jails, including Ramnicu Sarat.

Mr. Cristea said he was never beaten by Mr. Visinescu but, while held in isolation like all other inmates, heard the screams of prisoners who fell victim to the commander’s violent rages. While insisting he has no thirst for revenge, Mr. Cristea says he thinks it is important that the actions of Mr. Visinescu and his chiefs be remembered.

“There should be big photographs of these people in every town so that people can know they existed and remember those terrible times,” he said.

Far from that, with the exception of people directly implicated in the killing of unarmed civilians during the murky 1989 uprising, including the defense minister at the time, no significant figures in the organs of Communist power have been put on trial. Efforts to bar former officials from office have all come to nothing.

When Mr. Tismaneanu’s commission reported in 2006 that more than two million people were killed or persecuted by Communist authorities, President Traian Basescu endorsed the findings and said it was time to judge past crimes so as to lift “the burden of an uncured illness.”

Members of Parliament booed and jeered as he spoke. No prosecutions followed.

“They changed the name of the system and its outward features, but its nature remained the same,” said Anca Cernea, who runs a foundation dedicated to the rule of law and the memory of political prisoners. “The people who are ruling now all come from this system, so they don’t want to punish its crimes. They all say let’s forget and move on.”

Mr. Visinescu, she added, “is definitely a monster, but he is not the only one. They have thrown him to the lions to save themselves. He committed crimes but not genocide.”


George Calin contributed reporting.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

There's something rotten in Bucharest: protests turn political in Romania

Vlad Odobescu and Radu Ciorniciuc
September 27, 2013
A movement against plans for Europe’s largest gold mine is forcing the country’s leaders to rethink their plans.


BUCHAREST, Romania — What started earlier this month as a protest against plans to create Europe’s largest gold mine here is ballooning into a growing movement against government inefficiency.

Such is the public anger that when a police negotiator approached a group of protesters making a banner ahead of a demonstration in the city center last week, it was to express solidarity.

“I may even join you in my free time,” he said.

The banner depicted a green mountain intersected by a red, polluted lake — for use at one of many protests against plans for Romania’s Rosia Montana, or Red Mountain, a bucolic area in the region of Transylvania.

Gold mining there dates back to the late Stone Age. But environmental concerns are now prompting many Romanians to want to break with history.

Thousands of people have been regularly gathering for anti-mining marches in Bucharest — up to 20,000 last week, twice the number of protesters than two weeks earlier and four times more than the first demonstrations in early September.

Romanians have been shutting down major streets in the capital and other major cities chanting, "United we save Rosia Montana!"

The protesters believe they’ve launched a movement they’ve dubbed the "Romanian autumn."

"Our conscience is at stake,” says protest organizer Mihail Bumbes.

The protests’ main target is the Canadian company Gabriel Resources, which, together with the Romanian state-owned company Minvest SA Deva, plans to extract almost 250 tons of gold. The $2 billion project is at the center of a government investment program unveiled in July.

Although the companies won a license with no bidding as early as 2000, obtaining the necessary permits has taken 14 years.
The project promises to generate more than 2,000 jobs at a time the country is struggling to rebuild its economy since it was granted an international bailout during the 2009 recession.

The benefits would come at a high environmental cost, activists say: four mountains demolished, Roman-era archaeological sites destroyed and 12,000 tons of cyanide dumped into the ground annually.

Romania has a dark history with cyanide: 13 years ago, a leak of the highly poisonous chemical in the northern industrial city of Baia Mare tainted the Danube and four other rivers flowing through three countries. Fears of similar disasters are a main motivate for the protests.

"I came here so you could see that we're still alive," Rosia Montana resident Eugen David said at a rally earlier this month.

However, analysts say the protests have grown from an environmental movement into a venue for Romanians to vent their frustrations with the government’s overall poor performance.

"Rosia Montana’s story brings together the entire pathological corruption and incompetence in Romanian politics, and the illegitimate practices of some companies," says Claudiu Craciun, lecturer at the National School of Political Sciences and Public Administration in Bucharest.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s government approved a draft law that would enable the project to go ahead last month.

Since then, however, anger over what appears to be an inordinately sweet deal for a foreign company has helped fuel the unrest.

Even President Traian Basescu, the project’s former champion, now believes the law would unfairly benefit the Canadian-Romanian consortium. "You can’t create a law addressing a company,” he told reporters. “It will be rejected by the Constitutional Court."

Archaeologist and protester Radu Alexandru Dragoman echoes widespread skepticism.

"I don’t trust our politicians, regardless of the party they represent,” he says. "They all seem partisans of an aggressive capitalism. It’s not the first time politicians have tried to take over the voice of the street and manipulate it in their own interest.”

Last week, Rosia Montana Gold Corporation rejected assertions that it benefited from favoritism in a statement.

"According to RMGC policies and practices to prevent corruption (a document signed by all directors, employees, consultants and business partners), contributions to the political parties or political candidates are prohibited," the statement said.

Shares of Gabriel Resources listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange have plunged since the protests began.

Romania is only one of the company's problems. Earlier this month, the Swiss authorities raided the Geneva house of the company’s main shareholder, Israeli diamond billionaire Beny Steinmetz, during a probe into bribery and iron mining in Guinea.

Back in Romania, counter protests have added to the sense of chaos.

Thirty-three miners in Rosia Montana recently staged a sit-in underground. Mining union president Cristian Albu said they feared they'd lose their jobs without the project. Ponta convinced them to leave after five days of protest.

But anti-mining protesters aren’t letting the issue go. A recent survey found that 32 percent of Romanians oppose the project.

That proportion corresponds with the growth of a class of educated, skilled younger families who are becoming fed up with the government’s failure to grow jobs and improve public services.

Their participation in the anti-mining movement has helped galvanize a wave of popular sentiment that’s been rarely seen since the collapse of communism in the late 1980s, says Cristian Ghinea, director of the Romanian Centre for European Policies.

"We have a growing middle class keen not only in consumption, but also interested in seeing something new in politics,” he says. “It's similar to what happened in the West, in the '60s and the '70s.”

Basescu isn’t the only politician to have adjusted his stance on the projects since the protests heated up.

Ponta has become a target of satire after he announced he would vote against the company’s plan even though it was proposed by his own government.

The prime minister has also admitted that Gabriel Resources could sue the country if the parliament rejects the plan.
As the protests continue, the project’s fate remains uncertain. Parliament has set up a special committee to investigate the draft law and “facilitate a decision” by lawmakers.

The words of Senate President Crin Antonescu, co-leader of the governmental coalition, don’t bode well. "The project is producing a significant split in Romanian society.”

He also believes the draft law should be rejected.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/130925/romania-protests-gold-mining-environment

IMF board approves $2.7 billion stand-by deal for Romania

(Reuters) - The IMF's board on Friday approved a two-year $2.7 billion stand-by arrangement for Romania, providing the European Union's second-poorest economy with a much needed buffer against external shocks.

Under the deal, first announced in late July, Romania would not plan to draw on the funds, but simply leave them as a buffer to reassure investors. The country also plans to request another 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion) in precautionary aid from the EU.

Romania, which had two prior stand-by agreements with the IMF, has reduced its fiscal and external imbalances, but real GDP is still below levels prior to the financial crisis and the economyis vulnerable to shocks, Nemat Shafik, IMF deputy managing director, said in a statement.

"The new (program) will support policy continuity, provide a reserve buffer, and catalyze growth-enhancing reforms," Shafik said. "It will also put Romania on the path toward exiting from Fund support."

Under the new deal, Romania has committed to structural reforms, including updating its health system and moving ahead with the sale of state assets in the energy sector.

The IMF also called on Romania to implement banking reforms, including helping banks shed non-performing loans on their balance sheets and improving the governance of the non-bank financial supervisor.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

AP: Romanian court: Euthanizing stray dogs is constitutional; dog lovers protest at Parliament

BUCHAREST, Romania — A bill allowing stray dogs to be euthanized is legal, Romania’s constitutional court ruled Wednesday, prompting hundreds of dog lovers to block a main road outside Parliament in protest.

The ruling came weeks after a 4-year-old boy’s fatal mauling in Bucharest led the government to draft the legislation.

Protesters, who blew whistles and brought some of their dogs, yelled “Criminal court!” and “May you have the same fate as the dogs!”

The bill needs to be signed by the president before it can become law. Under it, stray dogs will be taken to shelters and — if not adopted or claimed within 14 days — they will be killed. The Vier Pfoten animal welfare group criticized the ruling, saying it ignored an appeal by the European Commission to Romania to protect animal rights. The group urged Romanian mayors and vets to stop the “mass killings” of dogs.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals criticized the ruling and called the bill “both inhumane and ineffective” and called on the court and the government to find a more “effective, sustainable and humane solution to manage the stray dog population.”

Bucharest City Hall says the capital has 64,000 stray dogs, while animal rights groups say there are 40,000. A hospital that handles infectious diseases has treated 9,760 people for dog bites in the first eight months of this year.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Romania's Fondul to launch buyback tender

(Reuters) - Romanian investment fund Fondul Proprietatea has offered to buy back roughly 4.4 percent of its shares at an estimated cost of 441.6 million lei ($133.2 million), it said on Wednesday, boosting its share price.

Fondul, a $4.9 billion investment fund set up by the government to compensate Romanians whose assets were seized under communism, is managed by Franklin Templeton and holds minority stakes in some state-owned companies.

Its shares traded at 0.738 lei ($0.22) by 0945 GMT on the Bucharest Stock Exchange, up 2.1 percent on the day.

The fund said in a statement it has requested approval from the country's Financial Supervisory Authority for the tender, which will be brokered by Banca Comerciala Romana and Wood & Co.

Earlier this year Fondul launched a buy-back programme, with daily purchases of shares from the bourse, in an attempt to lower its share capital and narrow the discount between its net asset value and its stock price. The discount stood at roughly 38 percent at the end of August. ($1 = 3.3153 Romanian lei) (Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Louise Heavens)

EU water law could sink mine plan in Romania

Globalpost

The fate of a Canadian gold mine project in the heart of Transylvania that has sparked public anger and massive protests hangs on a river protected by European law, Romanian Environment Minister Rovana Plumb said Tuesday.

Canadian company Gabriel Resources hopes to extract 300 tonnes of gold and 1,600 tonnes of silver over 16 years from Rosia Montana in north-western Romania but the plans hinge on diverting the path of the Corna River.

"The European directive on water, also included in Romanian legislation, stipulates that one cannot divert a water course unless it is for the sake of a project of exceptional public interest," Plumb told a parliamentary committee tasked with drawing up a report on the planned mine.

"So we cannot go ahead with the environmental assessment procedure unless parliament adopts a bill declaring the mine a project of exceptional public interest," she stressed.

The project cannot proceed without the environment ministry's permission.

Former environment minister Attila Korodi told AFP that the river could pose an insurmountable problem.

"If the mine project does not get public interest status, the river cannot be diverted, which means the mine cannot be built as it is planned today," said Korodi.

"The Corna River can indeed block the mine project for good," he added.

Romania's centre-left government last month submitted to parliament a controversial draft law declaring the mine a "project of exceptional national public interest."

This would clear the way for the mine to go ahead and allow Gabriel Resources to expropriate property and circumvent several laws.

However, it is far from certain the bill will be adopted in parliament with a key party in the ruling coalition saying it would vote against it.

Faced with massive opposition, lawmakers set up a special committee expected to submit a report by mid-November.

The project has sparked public fury, with thousands of Romanians taking to the streets every day in recent weeks.

Critics warn hundreds of families would be forced to move if the plan were to go ahead, and that four mountain tops and Roman-era mining galleries could be destroyed.

Gabriel Resources have promised a raft of benefits for Romania's economy, including 2,300 jobs in the two-year construction phase and up to 900 during the 16 years the mine operates.

But the Romanian Academy, the country's to scientific body, said the mine was "not a solution for long-term development and does not solve the region's social and economic problems".

Romania minister under pressure over mine project

BUCHAREST (AFP) – Romania's culture minister came under pressure to quit on Monday over his approval of a Canadian gold mine conservationists say threatens unique Roman ruins.

Daniel Barbu supported a draft bill that would allow Canadian company Gabriel Resources to mine for gold in Rosia Montana, a village in the heart of Transylvania.

The project has sparked public fury, with thousands of Romanians taking to the streets on Sunday in a fourth week of protests.

On Monday the Romanian archaeologists' association, ARA, said Rosia Montana was "one of the most important cultural sites in Europe and the world", and called for Barbu to go.

If the open-cast gold mine plan goes ahead, "80 percent of the Roman-era mining galleries will be destroyed by blasts," said ARA President Stefan Balici.

Nearly 100 historians, archaeologists and architects have signed a petition calling on Barbu to step down and accusing him of being "a danger to Romania's culture and national identity."

Barbu gave his green light to the draft law adopted last month by Romania's centre-left government which cleared the way for the Canadian project.

A recent interview in which he said mining "posed no problem" to Rosia Montana added to the ire of conservationists, who say four mountains will be levelled and irreversible damage done to unique Roman-era mining galleries.

Gabriel Resources hopes to extract 300 tonnes of gold and 1,600 tonnes of silver over 16 years.

It also promises a shower of benefits for Romania's economy, including 2,300 jobs in the construction phase and up to 900 during the 16 years the mine operates.

Minister defends expelling Roma, says their lifestyle is in ‘confrontation’ with the French

By Associated Press

PARIS — People of Roma origin have a lifestyle that is in “confrontation” with that of the French, the interior minister said Tuesday, insisting that they should return to Romania or Bulgaria.

Manuel Valls also defended the French government’s policy of dismantling the camps of the Roma, who are also known as Gypsies, and expelling them. Critics say the policy is racist against the more than 20,000 Roma in France — most of whom trace their origins to Bulgaria and Romania.

“I approved the dismantling of these veritable slums that represent a danger both for the people of Roma origin, but also of course the people who live in working-class neighborhoods” nearby where they are often found, Valls said on France Inter radio. Few, he said, could integrate into French society.

“These populations have lifestyles that are very different from ours, and are clearly in confrontation ...” he said.

There is widespread political debate about France’s treatment of the Roma, who face discrimination across Europe. Politicians in Sweden this week criticized police in the Nordic country for compiling a secret, possibly illegal registry of more than 4,000 Roma, including children.

France has been pushing to keep Romania and Bulgaria from gaining full access to Europe’s Schengen zone, which allows passport-free travel. The two eastern European countries are set to accede to the 26-nation zone on Jan. 1. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has called for a two-step admission process — first by air travel, then by overland or sea travel borders — though he did not specify a date.

The hard tack by the Socialist government comes amid pressure from the political right.

“It’s out of question for Bulgaria and Romania to enter the Schengen area as long as that problem is not solved at the European level,” Jean-Francois Cope, who heads the main opposition UMP party, said on France-Info radio.

Delia Romanesc, a director at the Roma Circus of Paris who has helped lead demonstrations against crackdowns on Roma in the past, said she felt “especially sad about all these attacks on Roma,” and insisted that Roma culture has inspired artists across Europe for centuries.

Many Roma “are ripped apart by misery, and are being pursued,” she said. “They have no way of defending themselves.”

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Romania Ramps up Its Public Diplomacy

http://www.huffingtonpost.com

Philip Seib
Director, Center on Public Diplomacy, USC

BUCHAREST --- When public diplomacy issues are discussed, focus tends to be on major powers that are particularly active in this field -- the United States, China, Israel, the United Kingdom, Russia, and a few others. But Romania has now announced that it wants to join the big guys' club, and it is taking purposeful steps toward doing so.

A new public diplomacy program has been created within the office of Romania's president, Traian Basescu, who has put his personal clout behind its efforts. At a conference in Bucharest last week marking the beginning of the new public diplomacy venture, Basescu said, "Romania is proud of itself," and he criticized the common depiction of Romania as the source of other countries' crime problems. This reputation is at least in part a product of racism directed toward Romania's Roma, or Gypsy, population, members of which are actively discriminated against throughout much of Europe.

Migration of workers continues to be a contentious issue within Europe, and to some extent Romania's new emphasis on public diplomacy is responding defensively to this, saying in effect, "We cannot let others define us; we must do so ourselves." That is merely a stop-gap approach, lacking the breadth of outlook that public diplomacy, like other elements of foreign policy, requires. To be fully beneficial, public diplomacy must be strategic, not tactical, and must convince European publics that Romania is a solid citizen of the community of Europe. Romania's public diplomats will need to work on this.

Former foreign minister Cristian Diaconescu, along with his colleague Dan Dima, is directing the public diplomacy effort, which he defines as "the management of external perception... that aims to offer to the international realm the necessary arguments for a solid structuring of our credibility and reputation abroad." For those tempted to think Romania just needs a new "brand" identity, Diaconescu said that perceptions of Romania "cannot be magically created out of imaginative promotion, but must be built on policy."

All this is encouraging, but Basescu's team is in the midst of domestic political battling that is far nastier than anything seen these days in Washington. The president and the current foreign minister belong to different political parties and are so at odds that the foreign ministry chose to send no representative to the kick-off conference. This needs to be fixed. In any country, successful public diplomacy requires a long-term commitment that transcends partisanship.

Keeping that cautionary note in mind, Romania's new emphasis on reaching out to foreign publics -- not just other governments -- should be considered a useful step forward in a number of ways. It is likely to benefit Romania's regional stature and it will widen the circle of public diplomacy practitioners. In Europe, the collective political blood pressure tends to reach dangerous peaks. Public diplomacy may prove a helpful antidote.

Romania's Petrom eyes 1 billion euro investment next year, shale gas

(Reuters) - Romania's top oil and gas company Petrom ROSNP.BX plans to earmark about 1 billion euros ($1.35 billion) for investment next year and could move into shale gas exploration if feasible, Chief Executive Mariana Gheorghe said on Monday.

Petrom is regarded as an indicator of the Balkan country's financial health and a robust investment program suggests the European Union's second poorest member is on track to achieve economic growth of more than 2 percent this year and next.

"To continue to stabilize production or to capture the growth, we really need to continue to invest," Gheorghe said at the Reuters Investment Summit.

"For the next year onwards, we have a guidance of between 0.8 and 1.2 billion again. But probably it will be over 1 billion euros again next year," she added.

Gheorghe told the summit held at the Reuters office in Bucharest that Petrom - which is majority-owned by Austria's OMV (OMVV.VI) - has three main ways to offset its reserves' natural decline, including increasing recovery rate for conventional crude oil, deep offshore in the Black Sea and shale gas.

"After the experience of the United States I believe no responsible market operators will refuse to look at this new territory ... We are at a very preliminary stage."

Petrom had said before it might expand operations to shale after 2021. In July, U.S. oil major Chevron (CVX.N) won approval to drill exploration wells in eastern Romania.

"We follow all the developments very closely because we have a frontrunner in Romania which is Chevron," Gheorghe told the summit on Monday. "Sometime at the end of our current strategy plan, around 2021, we intend to look at this market segment."

Asked whether Petrom might step into an exploration drive by acquiring shale acreage earlier than planned, she said: "We will look at all the bidings which the national agency for mineral resources will be launching in the coming years."

"If it fits our strategy, if it is feasible from a business point of view, meaning we have the resources, such opportunities will not be disregarded."

Petrom posted a second-quarter net profit of 1.06 billion lei ($319.4 million), slightly above market expectations.

Its shares outperformed the market on Monday, trading 4.2 percent up on the day at 4.4480 at 1255 GMT.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Romania Nuclearelectrica finalises IPO

(Reuters) - Romania's state-owned nuclear power plant Nuclearelectrica sold 10 percent of its shares through an initial public offering on the Bucharest stock exchange for roughly 282 million lei ($85.36 million), the energy ministry said on Monday.

The firm, which provides almost 20 percent of the country's energy output, also sold a 1 percent stake to investment fund Fondul Proprietatea, a minority shareholder, bringing the listing's value to a total 312.5 million.

In June, the leftist government of Prime Minister Victor Ponta set a price range of 11.2-15 lei per share in the IPO, which was tabled for early July but then saw several delays due to administrative issues.

The listing is part of wider privatisation commitments that Romania has agreed with the International Monetary Fund under a series of aid deals.
Nuclearelectrica is the first IPO of a state-owned company since the 2007 listing of a minority stake in gas grid operator Transgaz. ($1 = 3.3036 Romanian lei) (Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Radu Marinas)

Thousands protest for bike lanes in Bucharest

AFP - Several thousand Bucharest residents got on their bikes Saturday, criss-crossing the streets of the Romanian capital in a protest to demand the creation of bicycle lanes in the congested city.

"I have a car but I prefer to ride my bike," said a protester who gave his name only as Alexandru. "But sometimes that is very dangerous because there are no bicycle lanes. If there were, the city would be less built up, less polluted and more civilised."

The Organisation for the Promotion of Alternative Transport and the Bucharest Cyclists' Community, co-organisers of the protest, accuse authorities of promoting projects that worsen pollution instead of encouraging non-polluting means of transport such as the bicycle.

"Whether it's political parties, government bodies or the mayor... the authorities are unaware of or even fight against the citizens' need to reclaim the city for themselves, not for cars," they said in a statement.

Bucharest is one of Europe's most polluted capitals, with some 1.2 million cars clogging the streets.

Thousands of Romanians form human chain to protest gold mine project

AFP - Thousands of Romanians formed a human chain Saturday around parliament to protest against a Canadian company's plan to open Europe's largest gold mine in a picturesque Transylvanian village.

The chain stretched seven kilometres around the parliament building in capital Bucharest, with protesters chanting "United we can save Rosia Montana", the village where Gabriel Resources is hoping to extract 300 tonnes of gold and 1,600 tonnes of silver.

Critics warn that hundreds of families would be forced to move if the plan were to go ahead, and that four mountain tops could be destroyed.

"Only pressure on the streets can force the politicians to stop this project which is very dangerous for the environment," said Stefania Iordache, a retiree at the protest.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta's centre-right government last month submitted a bill to parliament that would clear the way for the open-cast mine, angering the population and sparking the biggest protests in Romania since the 1990s.

The bill would make it easier for the company to expropriate property and obtain certain permits from local authorities.

Under pressure from weeks of street protests, the government early this week delayed a parliamentary vote on the bill until November after Ponta agreed to set up a committee to examine the project.

The Canadian company promises 900 jobs in the 16-year extraction phase and says the mine would "provide substantial economic, environmental, cultural and social benefits to the region and... the local community".

Friday, September 20, 2013

Romania Is ‘Satisfied’ With Interest in Nuclear Utility Sale

Bloomberg News
By Irina Savu
September 19, 2013


Romania is “satisfied” with the interest in the sale of utility Nuclearelectrica SA before the country’s first initial public offering in five years ends tomorrow, said Gabriel Dumitrascu, in charge of state-asset sales at the government’s energy department.

The administration seeks to raise at least 284 million lei ($86 million) from the sale of 25.4 million shares, or a 10 percent stake in the nuclear-power operator, according to the Bucharest Stock Exchange’s website. The government set a price range of 11.2 lei and 15 lei per share in the IPO, which started on Sept. 9.

“We’re satisfied and optimistic about today and tomorrow,” Dumitrascu told reporters in Bucharest today. “We’re comfortable” with the level of demand for the shares.

The sale is part of the nation’s accord with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union to list minority stakes in its energy companies to raise funds to cover its budget deficit and attract investors.

The eastern European country, which sold a 15 percent stake in natural-gas grid operator Transgaz SA in April, plans to sell a further stake in natural-gas producer Romgaz SA by the end of November, Dumitrascu said today. It may raise as much as 220 million euros ($298 million) from the Romgaz sale on the Bucharest Stock Exchange and the remainder to about 600 million euros from shares wrapped up in global depositary receipts sold on the London Stock Exchange, he said.
Nuclear Expansion

Romania is one of the few countries in Europe, along with the Czech Republic, that still plan to continue nuclear power expansion. Nuclearelectrica holds the majority stake in a planned project to build two new nuclear reactors at its Cernavoda plant near the Black Sea. The project was abandoned by GDF Suez (GSZ) SA, RWE AG (RWE) and Iberdrola SA in 2011.

The government plans to sell 10 percent of shares in Nuclearelectrica’s IPO to small investors, 5 percent to large investors and 85 percent to institutions, according to the sale prospectus.

“Because the tranche for small investors is six times oversubscribed already and this is the first IPO in five years and external environment is favorable, my estimates are that the sale will be successful,” Dumitru Beze, chairman of the Romanian Capital Market Investors’ Association, said in Bucharest today. “This will pave the way for the next listings and I’m sure we will next see the 500 million-euro offer of Romgaz this year.”

Romanian brokerages Swiss Capital SA and BT Securities SA are managing the sale.

To contact the reporter on this story: Irina Savu in Bucharest at isavu@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Romania: Camp commander accused of 103 deaths

By ALISON MUTLER
Associated Press

BUCHAREST, Romania—A Romanian institute urged prosecutors on Wednesday to bring genocide charges against the Communist commander of a former Romanian labor camp, saying he was responsible for 103 deaths.

Ion Ficior, 85, was deputy commander then commander of the Periprava labor camp from 1958 to 1963. The camp in the remote Danube Delta village near the Black Sea held up to 2,000 prisoners.

Romania had about 500,000 political prisoners under the Communist regime, about one-fifth of whom died while in detention, according to historians, who say most prisoners were simply people who had fallen afoul of the Communist regime.

Andrei Muraru, head of the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes, handed the request to the country's general prosecutor Wednesday. He accused Ficior of being responsible for 103 deaths at the camp from malnutrition, beatings, a lack of medicine and from drinking dirty water from the Danube, which caused dysentery.

"It was an extermination camp," said Muraru. "It was a repressive, excessive, inhuman and discretionary regime."

The youngest person to die was 19 and the oldest 71, Muraru said, adding that he asked prosecutors to put a travel ban on Ficior since his son lives in the United States.

Ficior could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but in an interview with The Associated Press in June he insisted that only three or four people died under his command. He was unrepentant in saying that his former prisoners were militiamen—known as Legionnaires—who supported the Nazis during World War II and who deserved to be incarcerated.

There was no immediate response from the prosecutor's office in Bucharest to the filing.

The institute says it spoke to 21 former prisoners to build its case against Ficior.

"Ficior beat us every day with a wooden stick," former prisoner Ianos Mokar told the AP in June, adding that he terrorized inmates by "jumping over us on his white mare."

On Monday, institute investigators began digging to search for human remains in Periprava. They have already found five skeletons of former prisoners who appear to have been dumped naked into mass unmarked graves, Dan Talnaru, general manager of the institute, told the AP on Wednesday, speaking by telephone from the village.

There were no coffins, clothes or personal possessions next to the bodies, he said.

On Sept. 3, Romanian prosecutors charged another former prison commander, 87-year-old Alexandru Visinescu, with genocide for his leadership of the Ramnicu Sarat prison where Romania's elite were incarcerated.

Visinescu told reporters he was only following orders. He is free pending a trial, but no date for it has been set yet.

About 3,500 former Romanian political prisoners from the 1950s and 1960s are still alive, down from 40,000 who were alive when communism was overthrown in 1989.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Second-Poorest EU Nation Yields Best Bonds: East Europe Credit

Bloomberg News
By Radoslav Tomek and Irina Savu
September 17, 2013


Romania, the second-poorest member of the European Union, is lavishing bond investors with the best returns in emerging markets on prospects for interest-rate cuts and a loan from the International Monetary Fund.

An index of local-currency notes gained 1.8 percent since May 22, when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said policy makers may pare asset purchases, the biggest advance among JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s emerging-market local-bond index. The global composite gauge lost 3.8 percent in the period.

Romania, whose economic transition away from communism has been hobbled by graft and political instability over two decades, is luring bond investors as the nine-month-old government cuts spending and completes a 4 billion-euro ($5.3 billion) IMF stand-by loan deal. Inflation is the slowest in 13 months, allowing the central bank to lower rates to feed an economic recovery and the cabinet to shore up financing with a foreign-currency bond sale last week.

“There are not many central banks left in the emerging-market world who are still in an easing cycle,” Abbas Ameli-Renani, a strategist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in London, said by e-mail on Sept. 13. “Romania’s credibility stands in good shape among international investors.”
Budget Cuts

Leu debt has had positive returns in 19 of the past 20 months, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes. Poland’s zloty notes, the most-liquid fixed-income instrument among former communist EU members, showed losses in five of eight months this year, the data show.

The Balkan country of 20 million people, for decades one of Europe’s most restrictive communist regimes under Nicolae Ceausescu, is coming into the spotlight as the government carries out one of the EU’s biggest deficit-reduction programs. It envisages cutting the fiscal shortfall to 2.3 percent of gross domestic product this year from 7.2 percent in 2009.

Romania’s annual inflation rate dropped to 3.7 percent last month from 6 percent in January. It will fall to 3.1 percent in December, the central bank projected on Aug. 7 in a second downward revision of its forecast this year.

Slowing price growth is creating “more room” to reduce official borrowing costs, Governor Mugur Isarescu said on Aug. 5, when policy makers lowered the benchmark rate by half a percentage point to a record-low 4.5 percent. The rate will decline to 4 percent in December, according to the median forecast from a Bloomberg survey of 15 economists.
Russia, Chile

That makes the country one of three emerging markets, alongside Russia and Chile, where borrowing costs are set to fall by at least half a percentage point in less than four months, data compiled by Bloomberg show. While borrowing costs in Turkey and Brazil are set to rise, Poland’s interest rates will stay unchanged, according to separate surveys.

“Local-currency bonds should be among the best in a one-year horizon,” Martin Marinov, who helps oversee $1 billion of emerging-market debt at Raiffeisen Kapitalanlage in Vienna, said by e-mail on Sept. 12. He said he is overweight on leu bonds.

While Romania has attracted bondholders, the IMF still wants Prime Minister Victor Ponta to boost efficiency in the public sector, especially in health care, and tackle corruption, which according to Berlin-based Transparency International is the fourth-worst in the EU after Italy, Bulgaria and Greece.
External Sentiment

The IMF wants Ponta to sell stakes in utilities, including natural-gas producer Romgaz SA, hydropower plant Hidroelectrica SA and nuclear operator Nuclearelectrica SA, it said on July 31. Romania’s per-capita income, adjusted for purchasing power, amounts to 49 percent of the EU average, Eurostat data show.

The IMF’s board is set to approve the stand-by loan, which it will provide jointly with the EU, in the last 10 days of September, Budget Minister Liviu Voinea said on Sept. 5.

Yields on five-year leu notes may rise to more than 5.5 percent from 4.65 percent yesterday if the Fed’s stimulus rollback is “sharper,” weakening sentiment toward riskier assets, according to Erste Group Bank AG. That compares with yields of 3.83 percent on similar-maturity Polish notes and 5.48 percent on equivalent Hungarian securities.

“The price of Romanian assets will undoubtedly come under pressure if external sentiment takes a turn for the worse,” Erste analysts, led by Vienna-based Juraj Kotian, said in a research note two days ago. “This will make it more difficult for the central bank to continue the monetary easing cycle.”

Credit Ratings

Romania is rated Baa3 at Moody’s Investors Service, its lowest investment grade, and at BB+, the highest junk rating, at Standard & Poor’s, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The yield on the 1.5 billion euros of September 2020 notes Romania sold on Sept. 12 stood at 4.62 percent yesterday, compared with a rate of 5.22 percent on equivalent Hungarian euro-denominated debt and 2.46 percent on Polish notes.

Romania has 4 billion euros of debt maturing this year and 7.4 billion euros in debt due in 2014, data collected by Bloomberg show. Last week’s Eurobond sale signals external funding “is done” for this year, Raiffeisen’s Marinov said.

“Though I expect the realization of Fed tapering to exert pressure on emerging assets, Romania will be a regional outperformer,” Ameli-Renani at RBS said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Radoslav Tomek in Bratislava at rtomek@bloomberg.net; Irina Savu in Bucharest at isavu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net Wojciech Moskwa at wmoskwa@bloomberg.net Daniel Tilles at dtilles@bloomberg.net;

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Romanian gold miners end underground protest after PM’s visit

By Radu Marinas

BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romanian gold miners who staged a five-day protest underground against plans to halt development of the site ended their sit-in on Sunday after the prime minister went into the pit to meet them.

“I promised them a parliamentary commission to assess the proposed mine (before a vote in parliament),” said Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who wore a white miner’s cap and green overalls and was surrounded by cheering miners.

Thirty three workers had blockaded themselves into the Rosia Montana site 300 metres below ground and threatened to go on hunger strike over fears jobs would be lost if plans by Canada’s Gabriel Resources’ to set up Europe’s biggest open-cast gold mine did not go ahead.

Rosia Montana in the Carpathian Mountains in northern Romania is the site of Roman-era gold works where archaeological conservation works were being carried out.

The government approved a draft law to allow the mine project to go ahead in August. But Ponta said last week lawmakers were set to reject the Canadian company’s 14-year bid to develop the mine due to mounting resistance from the public and political leaders, who are worried about its impact on the environment.

Thousands of people in cities across Romania have staged demonstrations in past weeks against the mine project, including 10,000 in the capital Bucharest on Sunday, where they blocked a main boulevard.

Thousands also gathered in Rosia Montana on Sunday to support the mine development and protest against widespread poverty in the area, arguing the plan would create jobs.

The mine project would use cyanide to extract 314 tonnes of gold and 1,500 tonnes of silver. The company says the technology is safe.

“Save Rosia Montana,” read banners in Bucharest in protests attended by mainly young, educated people. “Save Rosia Montana people,” read posters in Rosia.

Ponta’s Infrastructure Ministry said on Thursday Romania would have a hard time defending itself in court if it rejects the plans by Gabriel Resources.

Gabriel, whose largest shareholder, hedge fund Paulson & Co, has a 16 percent stake, said it may resort to legal action.

Romania, which joined the European Union in 2007, resorted to IMF-led aid in 2009 after years of recession and is in dire need of investment, including in its mining, energy and farming sectors.

A vote in parliament on the mine has yet to be scheduled but political sources said it could be called as early as next week after the special commission has its say.

Romanian stray dog cull hits legal snag

By Radu Marinas

BUCHAREST, Sept 16 (Reuters) - A campaign to cull tens of thousands of stray dogs from Bucharest's streets after a 4-year-old boy was mauled to death has been held up by an appeal to Romania's highest court.

The boy's death two weeks ago triggered street protests demanding action against the capital's more than 60,000 strays, who bite dozens of people every day and are a deterrent for foreign tourists.

Last week, parliament passed a law allowing dogs caught in public spaces to be put down if they are not claimed or adopted within two weeks. But on Monday, the Constitutional Court received a challenge filed by 30 lawmakers from all parties.

"We have to avoid reacting en-masse through collective killing ... we don't want to see tens of thousands of corpses," one of the legislators, Haralambie Vochitoiu, was quoted as saying by the state news agency Agerpres.

The strays are thought to be a legacy of the late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's decision to bulldoze the pre-World War Two villas and houses of Bucharest's historic centre in the 1980s to make way for a gargantuan "House of the People".

In the process, thousands of guard dogs were abandoned by residents who had been forcibly relocated into small apartments.

In 2006, a 68-year-old Japanese businessman bled to death in central Bucharest after a stray dog bit him in the leg. Two years ago, a woman in her 50s died of multiple wounds after being attacked by a pack of dogs.

Animal welfare groups say the solution is not killing the dogs but sterilising them. The court said it was likely to make a ruling on Sept. 25. (Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Romania sending reduced number of troops to Afghanistan: defence minister

Romania is also going to deploy troops in 2014 for missions in Afghanistan, but their number will decrease to about 1,000 in the first half of the year, Defence Minister Mircea Dusa said on Monday.

"According to NATO planning, we will continue to ensure Romanian units and troops for fulfilling missions in Afghanistan, but certainly, starting with 2014, with a significant reduction," the minister told the opening ceremony of the Military Secondary College in Breaza, 100 km northwest of Bucharest.

Nearly 2,000 Romanian soldiers were serving in Afghanistan at the beginning of this year, as part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

Romania began to send troops to Afghanistan in July 2002. The operation was the country's first military mission abroad after World War II. More than 20 Romanian soldiers have been killed and at least 126 soldiers have been wounded in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is undergoing a transition process that started in 2010 and should end in 2014, when NATO forces are scheduled to withdraw.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Thousands march against Canadian gold mine in Romania

(AFP)

BUCHAREST — Some 20,000 Romanians took to the streets on Sunday protesting against a Canadian company's plan to open Europe's largest gold mine in the heart of Transylvania, in the biggest rallies since the mobilisation started two weeks ago.

Canadian firm Gabriel Resources hopes to extract 300 tonnes of gold in Rosia Montana with mining techniques requiring the use of thousands of tonnes of cyanide.

The decision by the centre-left government to approve a draft law speeding up the opening of the mine has been the trigger for protests.

In Bucharest, more than 10,000 people marched for several hours in the city centre chanting "United we can save Rosia Montana" and calling for the government's resignation.

Among the protesters were many young couples with children on their shoulders or in prams and people riding bikes.

"It is very shocking to see that a law is specially designed for the benefit of a private company. It could create a dangerous precedent," Sorin Jurca, a Rosia Montana resident, told AFP in Bucharest.

Jurca has been opposing the mine for years and fears his property could be expropriated by the company if the draft law is approved in Parliament.

Nearly 7,000 protesters turned out in Cluj, the largest Transylvanian city, almost 1,000 in Iasi, 850 in Brasov and several hundreds in Sibiu, Oradea, Timisoara and Craiova, according to police figures.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta Told Antena 3 TV channel that he would "seek dialogue" with the protesters.

On Sunday, Ponta went to the planned gold mine site to meet 33 employees of the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC) who were refusing to leave a former mining gallery.

The employees fear they will lose their jobs if the project is blocked by lawmakers.

Ponta convinced them to stop their protest in the gallery by promising a special parliamentary committee would be set up to examine the project.

"We will create a committee and will have its members come here to talk" to the employees, Ponta said, quoted by Mediafax news agency.

Outside the mine, hundreds of people cheered him, urging the government and lawmakers to back the Canadian mine plans.

"We want to work, not to beg," they chanted.

It is now up to the Romanian Parliament to vote on the draft law.

The date of the vote has not yet been set.

On September 9, after more than 15,000 people took to the streets, one of the ruling coalition parties said the mining project should be blocked.

Ponta then said that Parliament "will reject the project."

But since then, many of his ministers have defended the draft law saying it will benefit Romania.

"We don't trust the promises of the politicians, that is why we will keep on protesting until the mining project is really blocked," Ionut Butu, a 28-year-old architect, told AFP.

Gabriel Resources, which owns 80 percent of the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, acquired a mining licence in 1999 but has been waiting ever since for a crucial permit from the environment ministry.

The company promises 900 jobs during the 16-year extraction period and economic benefits.

Scientists and opponents warn the mine will threaten the area's Roman mining galleries.

The project requires hundreds of families to be relocated.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Struggle to Save Rosia Montana is the Struggle for Democracy

http://internationalpoliticalforum.com
By Joey Ayoub
September 10, 2013


Fifteen years ago the Canadian gold mine company Gabriel Resources approached the Romanian government with its intentions to mineRosia Montana, the small commune in the heart of Transylvania, and its surroundings. If approved, the project will destroy 4 mountains, 3 villages including Rosia Montana itself and leave a giant cyanide pool in the area. It will also be the largest open-pit mine in Europe.

To gain influence and popularity, Gabriel Resources has resorted to numerous tactics; it has bought off many locals and relocated them to nearby villages; it has hosted parties with big corporate flags declaring “we are saving Rosia Montana” on it; it has screened movies showing peaceful life of villagers living next to a mine in New Zealand.

But their efforts weren’t enough.

Over 100 residents of Rosia Montana have refused to sell their property, preventing the project from going forward. Among them is Eugen David, founder of Alburnus Maior, one of the major NGOs leading the opposition. A former miner turned farmer and guesthouse host, Eugen David, was advised by president Traian Basescu to leave the area. But he refused, and his subsequent activities would end up inspiring the largest protest in the history of post-communist Romania.

Eugen David, his fellow residents and their supporters are trying to prevent what they believe to be a catastrophe. And they have reason to be worried: Gabriel Resources wants to mine 314 tonnes of gold and 1,500 tonnes of silver in Rosia Montana according to its own website. And to make things worse, it will own 80.69% of the profits, with the remaining 19.31% owned by the Romanian state.

The most powerful card played by Gabriel Resources is, as one would expect, the economy one. The general scenario has become well-known and has often been repeated. Those in favor of the project, the company and the government, cite job-creating and general it’s-good-for-the-economy reasons. In fact, Roşia Montană Gold Corporation (RMGC) reminds us that over 80% of the people of Rosia Montana are jobless and that 3,600 Romanians will have a job again as a result of the mining project. On the ‘other side’, we have the environmentalists and activists who cite the environmental and health consequences. And so we are lead to believe that we have to choose between two options ‘create jobs = destroy environment’ and ‘protect environment = destroy jobs’.

But Eugen David and his supporters reject this black and white view that’s being advocated by the proponent of the project. Eugen has turned his house into a guesthouse in 2007 and, together with his family, built a farm approximately 50 meters away from his home. Both he and his wife left their jobs in the mining sector and have focused their efforts on tourism and farming which they believe to be more reliable and long-term sources of income. And they’re not alone. The FânFest festival is Romania’s largest activist concert, drawing thousands of artists and activists each year to promote the Save Rosia Montana cause and sustainable development in the region.

And as though confirming Eugen David’s choice, the contract signed between the Romanian government and Gabriel Resources was leaked online in 2011. The leak revealed that the Romanian government would receive only 2.2 percent of royalties. Scandal soon followed and the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest calculated that, after the environmental cleanup costs and repayment of loans, the project would generate nowhere near the $4 billion claimed by RMGC, but instead bring, and I quote, ”nothing to the region but a long term sentence to poverty.” Around the same time, the blog Respect Rosia Montanareleased a three-part video of Rosia Montana locals including Eugen David meeting with President Basescu. The videos can be found here, here and here. A year later, in 2012 Alburnus Maior released two campaign videos featuring Maia Morgenstern and Dragos Bucur, both famous Romanian actors.

The controversy behind gold mining is centered around the potential environmental and health effects of a practice that uses Cyanide, a highly toxic chemical, in the process of removing Gold (Gold Cyanidation). In the eventuality of a spill, the environmental and health consequences would look similar to the 2000 Baia Mare cyanide spill where a leak near Baia Mare, Romania, reached the Tisza and Danube rivers, killing all wildlife affected – including 68 species of fish of which 20 were protected – and contaminating the drinking supplies of over 2.5 million Hungarians. A number of countries, including Hungary, would end up banning the practice.

Another aspect of Rosia Montana that activists want to preserve is its archaeological and historical heritage. Indeed, The Roman mine galleries bear witness to Rosia Montana’s privileged importance in Roman history. The gold that came out of Rosia Montana financed the Roman Empire’s greatest periods of prosperity. Activists have the support of The Romanian Academy, the country’s highest independent scientific body. In 2003, and then again in 2011, it condemned the project, stating “the initiative should be abandoned before producing disastrous, irremediable consequences.” The head of the National Museum of Transylvanian History, Ioan Piso, joined them, lamenting that ”we are losing unique archaeological monuments.”

But what protesters in Romania are also fighting for is democracy. In a country still young in its experience with democracy, activists are leading the way in the fight against government corruption, which is quite significant. To try and silence all opposition, the government of current prime minister Victor Ponta proposed last week a law that would grant Gabriel Resources the right to expropriation. In other words, the Canadian company would be legally allowed to kick out the residents of Rosia Montana. The law also postulates that Gabriel Resources would be granted rights outside the country’s national legislation, court rulings or public participation requirements. If passed, this will literally mean that Gabriel Resources would have rights above Romanian citizens. What may even seem more shocking to some is that, while in opposition, the Ponta government opposed the project, highlighting extensive unchecked corruption in the country.

Victor Boştinaru, member of the Social Democratic Party of Romania and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats of the EU, has condemned the project. In an interview with Der Spiegel, he described the project as being “another symbol of Romania selling out its economic interests for individual gain” and further stated, ”We need sustainable development to rebuild Romania’s economy and, as it stands, Rosia Montana in no way offers that solution.”

And so the struggle to save Rosia Montana has turned into a struggle for democracy. Protests are increasing in recent years. In 2011, Occupy Conti was born against giving private companies the right to expropriate and in January 2012, protests against the privatization of medical system drew tens of thousands of protesters.

On Tuesday the 2nd of September 2013, thousands of Romanians took to the streets of Bucharest to protest the proposed gold mine. Between 4,000 (according to police) and 7,000 (according to organizers) walked between the central University Square and the government building, shouting slogans demanding that the proposed project be dismissed. Bigger protests are were called for the 8th of September.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

huffingtonpost: Saving Roşia Montana from International Trade Law

Adam Cernea Clark

Adam Cernea Clark, a student at Northeastern University School of Law, is currently in Romania, where he is completing a law co-op (internship).

Saving Roşia Montana from International Trade Law
Posted: 09/12/2013 

After years of struggle and, most recently, historic protests throughout Romania and abroad, over 20,000 people took to the streets in Romania last week to protest a mining project in the western commune of Roşia Montana. Among the charges brought by the protestors were irrevocable harm to a historic location (the Romans mined gold there two thousand years ago), environmental harm through the use of over 13,000 tons of cyanide (for which there are now far cleaner alternatives for "green gold"), political corruption, and a lack of transparency. At issue is the state's decision to sign a secret contract with Canadian mining company Gabriel Resources while at the very same time attempting to use its sovereign authority to take private property under the guise of serving the "public interest."

On Monday morning, leading government officials announced that the project would likely not go forward. As a result, Gabriel Resources stocks plunged on the Toronto stock market. Gabriel Resources has threatened to sue the government of Romania for $4 billion dollars in damages for breach of various international trade agreements and provisions of international trade as set out by the World Trade Organization and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

For every cry against cyanide and every call for solidarity and peaceful protest among the cheers and chants of the protesters, the bottom line issue is the extent to which government (in Romania and elsewhere) allows corporations to dictate national policy. The roots of this predicament run deep: in the last decade of Communism in Eastern Europe and the USSR, the Western world, under the leadership of Thatcher and Reagan, found itself deregulating, trusting in the markets, forcing states to back off of the economic reigns in what would be called the Washington Consensus. As the revolutions of '89 and '90 caused Communist states to fall one after the other like dominos, the hold of neoliberalism was almost absolute in places like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and many of the most powerful international actors.

In response, Romania, like many other countries, liberalized its economy. Following the advice (often attached as mandatory requirements to development loans) of the West, many countries opened up and deregulated their economies, privatized industries, and clamored for foreign direct investment. In Romania's case, foreign corporations gobbled up domestic businesses and closed them down while opening up new businesses that sent profits to shareholders and states abroad. Certainly, there was government corruption involved, but many of the deals may have been technically legal at the same time.

Last week's protests succeeded in halting the travesty in Roşia Montana, but negotiations may well shift to a courtroom abroad, where those same voices are mute. The contract between the Romanian subsidiary of Gabriel Resources -- previously hidden from public view -- will be disclosed in the next few days, and then we'll likely know more about how far the Romanian government has gone in contracting away its sovereign power.

This conflict clearly illustrates the increasing tensions between free market trade principles embodied in bilateral investment treaties and WTO/GATT law and the rights of citizens to enjoy the promises of democracy. Just today, parliament walked back its promise to hold an emergency vote, electing instead to open a special commission to debate the law that would be passed for Gabriel Resources, effectively buying time in the hope that the protests subside. But clearly, the protests -- in this case and others -- will continue. It remains to be seen whose interests will be promoted in the social contract between a state and its people.

huffingtonpost: Who is Roşia Montană?


Oana Romocea
Communications Specialist and Researcher in Migration and Media Studies


Who is Roşia Montană? - or the Dawn of A New Generation
Posted: 13/09/2013


'Who is Roşia Montană?' a passer-by on Kensington High Street asked me last Sunday. He had seen the inscription both on my t-shirt and on the banners we were preparing for our demonstration: 'Save Roşia Montană'. Although she has her own captivating charms, Roşia Montană is not a person but a place. Not a well-known place. It is a small picturesque village hidden in the woodland heart of Transylvania. It is the epitome of what Romania represents in the Western European mind: a world where time stopped long ago, where man is still closely connected with nature, where signs of 21st-century civilization are hardly detectable. This image is disseminated by the Western media who so often refer to Romania as 'one of the poorest countries in the European Union'. Nevertheless appearances can be deceiving.

This little village sits on a gold mine. Literally. The 300-tonne gold deposit under Roşia Montană is currently considered to be the largest in Europe and the third largest in the world. However, its riches are not a new discovery. The gold and silver of these Transylvanian mountains have been mined for over two thousand years. The Romans were among the first who took part in a gold rush as they stretched their empire as far as these mountains. Not long after they occupied these territories, they founded Alburnus Maior, a village known today as Roşia Montană. They built a labyrinth of galleries as they extracted the gold which was much needed to support their conquering army. Astonishingly, these Roman shafts survive and can be visited today. But perhaps not for much longer. The Romanian authorities have failed to endorse local residents' campaign to include them in the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Curious, you think? The reason is that the Roman mines are in the way of a lucrative mining project which has been laying in the Government's drawers since 1999.

The industrialists and investors of the 21st century are greedily casting their eyes on all the gold, silver and numerous other precious metals which are hidden under the lavishly-forest-covered mountains. Canadian registered company Gabriel Resources, founded by the controversial Romanian-born and London-based businessman, Frank Timiş, has been negotiating with the Romanian state on the opening of an eight square km opencast mine at Roşia Montană for the last fourteen years. The project met opposition at local level when a handful of residents from the small village refused to sell their properties to the corporation. It is thanks to their perseverance and commitment that the gold mining has not yet started.

All seemed about to change. At the end of August the project reached a key milestone when the government drafted a special law which grants the mining company a set of unconstitutional rights meant to speed up the beginning of the gold exploration. If the law is approved by the Parliament and the project goes ahead, four gold-laden mountains will be replaced by a lake which will have an annual intake of 13,000 tonnes of cyanide waste. Needless to say that in the process, the two-thousand-year-old Roman mines will also be destroyed and three villages will be relocated.

The contract between the Government and Gabriel Resources has not been released publicly since 1999 until last week when under the pressure of the civic society the Romanian Government released some documents but not the whole agreement between the state and the Canadian company. No wonder. If the information leaked online is to be believed, the Roşia Montană mining project oozes corruption. The lack of transparency is accentuated by the national media's indifference towards any concerns regarding the project. It continues to deny air time to the opponents of the mining project, but instead abounds with Gabriel Resources' publicity which misinforms the Romanian population.

The passing of the draft law which includes a number of unconstitutional clauses has reached the tipping point of civic society's tolerance towards a corrupt political class who has disregarded and looked down on the public opinion for the last 23 years . Since 1 September, thousands of Romanians have been taking to the streets in 24 major cities in Romania and another 34 around the world. Every day the crowds who gathered to protest against the mining project have grown larger and larger, reaching 20,000 last Sunday, and with even bigger protests announced for 15 September (including in London in front of the Houses of Parliament). They have promised they will not stop until they reach their ultimate aim: ceasing the practice of cyanide mining in Romania and thus prevent any future ecological disasters such as the one which happened in Baia Mare, a city in the northern part of Romania in 2000. But in the short term, they want the Romanian Parliament to reject the draft law proposed by the Government and have Roşia Montană included on Romania's UNESCO heritage list. The 'Save Roşia Montană' campaign is now regarded as the largest civic movement in Romania since the 1989 revolution.

Roşia Montană has survived under numerous waves of conquerors and owners over the last two millennia and its gold provided vital resources for generations of armies, expending empires, and totalitarian regimes. Gabriel Resources now plans to terminate in 15 years what has lasted 2,000 years. Their legacy will be equally lasting - a cyanide lake which will probably spread poison for the next two millennia. The gravity of this legacy has awakened the new generation of Romanians who are tired of putting up with political deceit, corruption, and economic fraud and are ready to protect Romania's heritage as well as its place in the European Union and the world.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Romanian spring or Carpathian autumn?

Published on openDemocracy (http://www.opendemocracy.net)
Mihai Gotiu 

11 September 2013


After more than a decade, the fight to save Rosia Montana has entered its final phase. It would be an incredible lack of responsibility if the government and parliament went forward with the mining project.


The Romanian Parliament's committee for UNESCO, along with the Minister of Culture Daniel Barbu, arrive in Rosia Montana, ostensibly to collect information on the proposed mining plans for the area. The opposition, and a few independent journalists (well, about three) have recorded and distributed online the highlights of this visit, which show clearly how the entire visit has been directed by Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, for the purposes of propaganda in their favour.

Committee members refused to meet with representatives of the local opposition, while experts of cultural heritage, who have monitored Rosia Montana for many years, were not invited. In the midst of this a local resident, Sanda Lungu is filmed "telling" a journalist that she is "fucking the owl" (a Romanian expression meaning "doing nothing", "wasting time"), the clip of which becomes a hit on Romanian websites.
The lady who is "fucking the owl"

Sanda Lungu is a local resident from Rosia Montana transformed into a media star by the Gold Corporation through seemingly endless broadcasts of an interview she had done in support of the mining project. In the interview, Sanda Lungu is seen complaining, although she has tried all sorts of jobs, including crocheting socks, that she has no way of supporting her children, which is why she is waiting for the mining project to start - so she can get a job there.

More than the dirty language, what angered people the most was the lie that "thousands of jobs" would be created for "locals in the area". In fact, the number of jobs is more likely to be in the hundreds, and they are not destined to those who, indeed, would need them in the local area. Most locals who "support the project" are just a publicity screen whose real job on the payroll of the company is to "fuck the owl".

As it happened, the visit of the UNESCO committee, and the hubbub around Sanda Lungu, came just two days after FanFest, the largest cultural and social festival and forum in Romania, which had drawn over six thousand of civil society's most active and informed persons to Rosia Montana. At this moment, the intrigue surrounding Rosia Montana could not have been higher.

27 August 2013

The Romanian government announces the approval of a special law, allowing Gold Corporation to forcefully expropriate property in Rosia Montana and ignore any oppositional court orders, and sends it to Parliament. The first facebook group announcing a mobilization of forces in Bucharest against the Rosia Montana protests was made just a few hours later. This was followed the next morning by facebook groups regarding other Romanian cities, and abroad. One day before the day of protests (1 September), Rise Project - an investigative journalism outfit - published the act giving Gold Corporation exploitation and expropriation rights for Rosia Montana (one of the most closely "guarded" documents of the affair).


1 September 2013

Over 20,000 people have flooded the streets of Bucharest, Cluj and other cities and towns. A week of contradictory statements by politicians, including Victor Ponta (who as Prime Minister supports the project, but as a deputy voted against it), as well as new documents surfacing (including a Ministry of Justice report disparaging the bill, and yet ignored by the government) had added fuel to the flames.

Furthermore, old documents exposing the corruption surrounding the Rosia Montana case, which had been ignored by the mainstream media, began circulating online. The media blockade imposed on the press by Gold Corporation, who had "invested" tens of millions of dollars on "publicity", was being swiftly undermined. A week later, the protests had doubled in size. "Official" media gave figures that day of 10,000 protesters in Bucharest and 6,000 in Cluj. Photos and videos from the scene suggest perhaps double that.
A little history

From the very first day, the Rosia Montana case started with a big lie: the so-called auction. On 5 September 1995, the state-owned company Regia Autonoma a Cuprului Deva (later called Minvest) announced that it was interested in forming a partnership with a foreign company for exploiting precious metal deposits in Rosia Montana.

According to the announcement, offers could be made in the next 30 days. As it was proven later, the contract between Gabriel Resources and RAC Deva had already been signed, making the "30 days" pronouncement effectively fraudulent.

The lies and deceit continued. Apuseni Mountain deposits were suddenly, spuriously, listed on the stock exchange, propaganda about "thousands of jobs" was promulgated, there were claims that the cyanide used in the mining was "harmless", documents were falsified or dismissed (especially the lugubrious impact assessments made by the Ministry for the Environment), annoying court orders were breached and politicians from all levels were mysteriously "won over" by Gold Corporation.
The emergence of resistance

Enough was enough. The blatant corruption and misinformation led to an unprecedented civic mobilisation in Romania. In 2000, the Alburnus Maior association was created by Rosia Montana residents to defend their rights. Two years later, they were joined by a loose-knit collection of environmental, cultural and civil rights groups, all united under the "Save Rosia Montana" banner.

By 2012, the group had grown to an extraordinary coalition of professors, artists, members of the Romanian Academy, environmental activists, religious figures, atheists, Romanians, Hungarians, football fans and even employees of multi-national corporations, all disgusted by the campaign of lies and illegal activities perpetuated by Gold Corporation.

In 2007, following the fourth successive FanFest which drew 15,000 young participants, I wrote that this movement represents the birth of a real civil society in Romania. In 2011, a group of activists occupied the building of the former Conti Hotel in Cluj, and unfurled a banner which said "The revolution begins at Rosia Montana". Analysts and commentators ridiculed this. A week of protests in Bucharest and Cluj followed.

What I am getting at here is that the Rosia Montana protests did not come out of the blue, but were part of a predictable and organic progression of civic resistance that had built up over the past decade. Unprecedented in recent decades, this movement has the ability to generate a mental and social readjustment in Romania.
Solidarity

Regarding the history of the Rosia Montana case and its subsequent opposition movement, we can understand where this unprecedented coalition of extremely heterogeneous groups has come from. The number of abuses and illegalities is so great that is affects every kind of group in some way.

"United! We save! Rosia Montana!" is the slogan most often chanted on the streets of Romania these days, coupled with "Solidarity!" These two slogans represent the essence of the protests: a civil society united in solidarity with the people of Rosia Montana, defending their rights against systematic abuses.

After more than a decade, the fight to save Rosia Montana has entered its final phase. It would be an incredible lack of responsibility and humility if the government and parliament went forward with the mining project. The number of truly informed citizens grows by the day. Each day, week, month increases the irritation and anger of the people. If the announcement of the expropriation law drew tens of thousands to the streets, I do not want to imagine what would happen when images of Rosia Montana residents forcefully evicted from their homes begin circulating.

The fight for Rosia Montana is more than about just the fight for Rosia Montana.


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Romanian minister says Canadian gold mine case could be hard to win

By Radu Marinas

BUCHAREST, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Romania will have a hard time defending itself in court if it rejects plans by Canada's Gabriel Resources to set up Europe's biggest open-cast gold mine, the infrastructure minister said on Thursday.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta has said legislators are set to reject Gabriel's 14-year bid to build the mine due to mounting resistance from the public and from political leaders, and that parliament should prepare for an imminent vote.

Ponta says Gabriel may sue for up to $2 billion in damages if the mine project, which would use cyanide to extract gold and silver, is rejected. The company says the technology is safe.

The EU's second poorest member has needed international aid since 2009 after years of recession, and is in dire need of investment including in the mining, energy and farming sectors.

A vote in parliament has yet to be scheduled but political sources said it could be called as early as next Tuesday.

"If we block this investment, they will sue us. In case of a litigation, we won't have an easy position at all. This gold mine should be done," National Infrastructure and Foreign Investment Minister Dan Sova told a news conference.

Thousands of people in cities across Romania protested for days against a draft law submitted to parliament last month following a deal to raise gold royalties and lift the country's stake in Gabriel's Rosia Montana Gold Corporation project.

The protests have dwindled since Ponta spoke on Monday but hundreds of demonstrators are still gathering in central Bucharest each evening.

Dozens of miners trapped themselves in pits in Rosia Montana on Wednesday, some threatening a hunger strike to protest against the development possibly not going ahead.

Gabriel, whose largest shareholder - hedge fund Paulson & Co - has a 16 percent stake, said it may resort to legal action.

"Because Gabriel is listed in Toronto, all their business plans are certified. So that's pretty difficult a position for us ... they have invested $550 million so far," Sova said.
A member of Ponta's Social Democrat Party, which with the coalition Liberals controls two thirds of parliamentary seats, Sova said he would vote 'yes' to the project but, if his party decided to reject it, he would toe the party line.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Paulson-Backed Gabriel Threatens $4 Billion of Claims in Romania


By Thomas Biesheuvel & Irina Savu - Sep 11, 2013 

Gabriel Resources Ltd. (GBU), backed by billionaire hedge-fund manager John Paulson, threatened to seek as much as $4 billion of damages should Romanian lawmakers vote to oppose its gold mine project in the country.

“We have a very, very robust case, and we believe we have claims up to $4 billion that we can send to the Romanian state,” Gabriel Resources Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Henry said today in a telephone interview. “We will go ahead and do that if the vote is against.”

Gabriel Resources, also backed by Newmont Mining Corp. (NEM) and BSG Resources Ltd., has spent more than a decade trying to build the $1.4 billion mine amid opposition by campaigners to the use of cyanide to extract gold. It agreed last month to increase the government’s stake to 25 percent from about 19 percent and accept a jump in mining royalties to 6 percent from 4 percent.

The company slumped 54 percent in Toronto trading on Sept. 9 after Prime Minister Victor Ponta said that parliament should “quickly” vote on whether to abandon the Rosia Montana project because of levels of opposition. Crin Antonescu, head of the junior ruling coalition National Liberal Party, and opposition leader Vasile Blaga called for the development to be terminated.

“If parliament rejects this, they are leaving themselves exposed as a country to a significant lack of foreign direct investment,” Henry said. “I can’t see why other foreign investors would see Romania as the destination of choice. Romanian politicians have to take that on board.”
Possible Actions

Gabriel Resources said Sept. 9 that it would “assess all possible actions open to it” including litigation should draft legislation making way for the development be rejected. Ponta yesterday responded by saying that the country “wouldn’t want to pay anything” and was ready to defend itself in court.

Last month, the government said the gold development was of “exceptional national interest” in a statement on its website.

Gabriel, which estimates that the site holds 17 million ounces of gold, will also need an environmental permit before starting to raise the $1.4 billion it needs to develop the mine.

Government spokesman Andrei Zaharescu declined to comment.

To contact the reporters on this story: Thomas Biesheuvel in London attbiesheuvel@bloomberg.net; Irina Savu in Bucharest at isavu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Viljoen at jviljoen@bloomberg.net

Romanian govt wobbles over stand against controversial gold project

Business News Europe
Bogdan Preda in Bucharest
September 11, 2013


A controversial mining project backed by a Canadian company and a handful of billionaires to extract gold and silver from an old quarry in Romania’s Transylvania region is causing splits in the governing coalition.

A parliamentary vote scheduled for this week that was expected to give the 2016 start date for the 15-year-old project a further boost will probably now be being postponed or if it is held, rejected by lawmakers. The unexpected turn occurred as tens of thousands Romanians protesting against the project prompted one of the two governing coalition leaders to speak openly against the project to extract more than 300 tonnes of gold and 1,600 tonnes of silver, which plans to use cyanide to separate a gram of gold from a ton of rock.

As many as 8,000 mostly young people took to the streets of the Romanian capital Bucharest on September 8 to protest against the project. They were joined by another 6,000 protesters in the city of Cluj in the Transylvania region, plus thousands more in other major cities. Protesters refused on several occasions to speak to Romanian media representatives, claiming that too many newspapers and television outlets were flooded with paid-for advertising by Gabriel Resources in favour of the project. They carried banners reading, “The Romanian press is full of lies!”

Local authorities in Alba county, where the project is located, also staged their own show of force on a stadium near Rosia Montana, where they organized dances and open-air picnics in order to underscore the project’s importance for the future of the community.

Protesters claim that the use of cyanide poses a huge risk to the environment, a danger they claim nobody has seriously assessed thus far, while charging politicians with hidden financial interests in the project. Leading Romanian business daily Ziarul Financiar repeatedly reported that behind Gabriel’s project in Rosia Montana stand international billionaires such as John Paulson, Beny Steinmetz and Thomas Kaplan.
Similar environmental fears have prompted official protests from neighbouring Hungary.

As if that weren't a big enough headache for the government, the project’s developer, Gabriel Resources, vowed in a statement on September 9 to “commence litigation for multiple breaches of international investment treaties,” if the draft legislation were to be rejected before debate by the parliament’s two chambers. Gabriel Resources' share price has taken hammering following the twists and turns in Romania. On September 9, the shares plummeted to end the day down 54%.

Man apart

The brouhaha kicked off when, following a weekend of protests over the project, Crin Antonescu, head of the Senate, made a statement on September 9 in his own name declaring that, “the Rosia Montana mining project cannot be sustained… It should either be withdrawn or be rejected.” He explained that the project could only be considered if additional studies show it poses absolutely no threat to the environment.

Antonescu’s statement took the government by surprise, coming as it did just as parliament was preparing to debate draft legislation for the project issued by the government on August 27. This would open the way for a revival of the project after years of litigation and arguments over the project’s permits, which the authorities have so far been reluctant to award.

The current government is led by Victor Ponta, head of the Social Democratic Party, which together with Antonescu’s National Liberal Party forms the Social-Liberal Union. The coalition has a 70% majority in the country’s parliament. Visibly riled by the comments made by his coalition co-leader Antonescu even before any vote could take place, Ponta stated on television that “the project is closed”. “A decision on such a controversial project must be reached by the country’s supreme institution, the parliament, and that’s why I sent it to parliament to decide,” Ponta explained. “But taking into account the fact that a parliament’s majority is against it, the project shall be rejected.”

Ponta previously also indicated he would vote against the project, but explained that his government had opted to have parliament decide in order to avoid facing legal action by Gabriel Resources.

A day later, on September 10, a Senate commission rejected the gold mining project, raising even more question marks over its fate. The same day, Antonescu followed up on his previous statements by publicly asking Ponta in a live broadcast on Antena 3 channel: “We all and the public opinion should know about what kind of damages we’re talking about if this project won’t happen… Who and when has engaged the Romanian state to the extent that we don’t have the power to decide today in our country and over our resources under the threat of having to pay damages?”

In his turn, Ponta said he knew that Gabriel Resources and its partners might seek damages totaling as much as €2bn if Romania doesn’t allow the project. Although he accepted that Romania might be sued internationally if it doesn’t approve the project, he also said, “it’s out of question that Romania would accept (to pay) such amounts.”

What lies ahead

Ironically, Antonescu’s move to speak out against the project that has caused at least its postponement, could give Gabriel Resources yet another chance to revive the project if a proper public debate is organized.

The minister for water, forests and fisheries, Lucia Varga, also spoke openly against the project, saying she would not award a permit to the project under the current circumstances, with no clear proof that procedures and standards planned to be used in the gold and silver mining in Rosia Montana are in line with those of the EU.

In a similar statement, Romanian Academy President Ionel Haiduc said that such mining should only take place if all environmental hazards that could be caused by cyanide are totally excluded. Moreover, he claimed that the gold extraction royalties the Romanian state is entitled to in the project, currently set at 6% of the total amount of gold and silver that would be extracted, should be considerably higher. Haiduc said Romania should rather wait until it can secure a better deal or start the mining for precious metals in the region itself without the use of cyanide.

Various mining experts in Romania have suggested the project could still be possible if the gold- and silver-rich ore excavated from Rosia Montana is transported to another site or country for cyanide-treatment in order to avoid any environmental impacts. Others argue that would increase the costs to an extent it would make the project unviable.