Thursday, 19 September 2013

Basescu's Green Failure

Anti-green talk is becoming a common act of despair for a certain quality of East-European leaders who have long lost the battle for decency in politics. By piling up false and ungrounded accusations against the Green movement, [Romania’s] President Basescu is in fact publicly resigning from his duty of serving the public’s interest. Just alike a myriad of post-socialist politicians of the past two decades, he is openly betraying people’s dreams for democracy, good governance, local entrepreneurship, health and clean nature. Instead, they have been turning Romania and other countries of Central Easy Europe into dirty lawless extraction fields for the profits of multinational corporations and local oligarchs, mostly controlled by the criminal structures around the former regimes’ secret services like Securitate. It is their shady deals, non-transparent business practices, and dirty technologies exploiting the pristine natural resources of Romania and the rest of  the region, that Basescu is trying to back, not the interests and prosperity of his fellow citizens.  In vain! For Romanians, just like all European citizens today, have the right to protect their natural environments, and the power to stand up for it against their untrustworthy political representatives, and move on without them in a green, sustainable and equitable Europe.

Earlier this week Romania's President Basescu made the following statement, translated by Bucharest-based of environmental journalist  Raul Cazan:

  "You know, this is, if you wish - I do not want to offend anyone - a sort of delayed environmentalist reaction. Environmentalists were extremely vocal, in the ‘70s and ‘80s in Europe. They have lost the battle against the need for development, be it in Italy, France or Germany. Therefore they are not very strong today, because they are not very credible. We can not remain as in the eighteenth century, we can not preserve everything, because development obliges us to find solutions that will allow us, on one hand, to go forward, and on the other hand, to affect the environment as little as possible with this advancement of ours. I would say, for example, what would Italy have done if environmentalists had been successful, because the whole country of Italy is a protected monument, right? They would not have built any highway. What would have France done with its nuclear power plants? It has 80% of the energy generated by nuclear power plants. The ecologist idea is overdue and I do not exclude the possibility that environmentalists that failed in the rest of Europe to find Romania as an area in which to practise what they could not achieve in their countries. So I think things are extremely complicated, in the way we approach them now."

Basescu's comments were made after over 10 days of environmental protests on the streets of Bucharest. The rallies, reportedly of unprecedented scale, are against the government’s controversial decision to greenlight the construction of an opencast gold mine near the Transylvanian town of Rosia Montana.  Over 8,000  marched across the capital on Sunday, carrying signs reading “I love nature, not cyanide” and “Corruption equals cyanide.” According to police, 6,000 demonstrators also rallied in the major Transylvanian city of Cluj and 900 people gathered in Brasov, reported.The controversial project of Canada's Gabriel Resources Ltd intends to extract over 300 tons of yellow metal and 1,500 tons of silver from the gold mine that has been known since Roman times. According to the campaigners, the quarries would destroy four mountain peaks and three villages out of 16 in the local municipality, and will involve the use of around 12,000 tons of toxic cyanide per year.

These events are in striking similarity to what is happening in neighbouring Bulgaria. Environmental protests against a controversial amendments to the Forestry Act lead to mass scale protests in June 2012, which then escalated by the year's end, causing the resignation of the centre-right government of Boyko Borissov in the spring of 2013 and preliminary elections. After taking a narrow win in them, a new government was formed, backed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the Muslim-minority based Movements of Rights and Freedoms, and nationalist-populist fraction Ataka - just to  be confronted in turn by ever larger protests, as soon as it appeared to serve a shady industrial and media mogul's interest. Disillusionment from traditional political parties whose leaderships act in favour of industrial and economic interests and ignore the public ones, is common for the region of Central and Eastern Europe.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Support for Genka Shikerova

Photo: BTV
Genka Shekerova was one of the most interesting and inspiring participants in my PhD research back in 2010 when I performed participant observation in BTV's newsroom. She was also the only one who agreeed to be cited for the purposes of my research with her name, as her work identifies her perfectly: she is the author of The Concrete Gardens documentary, the best and most acurate dissection of the rotten processes that turned Sunny Beach from a green result to a jungle of concrete, lawlessness and crime. I had an opportunity to express support to Genka about two weeks ago, when she and her co-host of BTV's morning show were pressurized by Lutvi Mestan, the chair of ruling coalition member DPS - which stands for Movement of Rights and Freedoms in Bulgaria.

Less then a week later I received another alarming information about Genka. The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), expressed concern about a reported attack on a vehicle owned by Genka Shikerova. Shikerova’s car was set on fire on Monday evening in what is suspected to have been arson. Shikerova told viewers of her show on Tuesday morning that the vehicle was parked in front of her home in the Geo Milev district of Sofia when it was set ablaze and that the vehicle was destroyed, SEEMO's press release reads.

SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic commented: “This is not the first time that the car of a journalist or a media company has been damaged in Bulgar11ia. Such incidents are used in the country as a means of threatening journalists. I urge the state authorities to investigate this case.”
He added: “I also call on authorities in Sofia to solve the cases of previous attacks on journalists. As we know, no one has been charged in relation to a number of cases of violence against journalists in Bulgaria in recent years.  Further, I urge all EU institutions in Brussels to do more to protect the security of journalists in Bulgaria. Attacks and pressure on journalists in any EU country, including Bulgaria, are not acceptable."