Around the world citizens are increasingly standing up to authoritarianism, wide-spread abuse of power by elected officials and bad governance, and demanding rational policies that don’t only benefit the few or foreign corporations. Linked to this are calls to end corruption, and the demand that citizens be treated with respect. Romania is the latest front in this global movement for good governance, democracy, and dignity, and it’s the people of Romania – with creativity, solidarity and commitment – that are standing up, holding their government to account, and demanding a better future for their country.
Romania is a country of extraordinary culture, incredible natural beauty, and a rich if often tragic history. Many people who’ve looked beyond headlines abroad and taken the opportunity to travel to this country have quickly fallen in love with it. Unfortunately, the warmth, culture, hospitality and amazing energy, innovativeness and creativity of this land are far to rarely seen abroad.
At home, for nearly 20 years Romanian citizens have experienced varying degrees of bad governance and wide spread corruption. Even after entering the European Union, basic services and infrastructure are failing in many parts of the country while for thousands of children in rural areas and poorer towns the education system is effectively collapsing at elementary and secondary levels. Millions of Romanians have gone abroad to find work.
Yet this is only part of the picture. Citizens, people at every level of society, have been wrestling with what’s happening to their country, their society, and their lives, trying to make sense of it. While there has never been a broad-based, open, inclusive dialogue in the country – about what happened to Romania, what’s happening now, and what type of society, what type of country, people want for the future – thousands of discussions are springing up all across the country. Discussions – and action.
Slowly – and as a result of the engagement and work of many, from artists to civil society organizations, entrepreneurs to unions, journalists and others – Romanians are beginning to realize that they can build a better future. And that it’s up to them to do it.
Anyone who has spent time in Romania has come across a warm and wonderful people. A people of intelligence, integrity and engagement, a country in which artistic and cultural expression are developing and flourishing, in which civil society organizations – sometimes in challenging contexts – are active and engaged. While governance on the whole is often poor to terrible, there are many – from local authorities to national ministries – who are doing the best they can to address specific challenges and work to make things better in the country. On the whole, it’s a country that is definitely developing – through the energy, creativity, innovation, hope and hard work of its people. The glaring and most obvious gap though, is the continuing absence of integrity, honest, and good governance from the country’s political leadership.
It’s up to us…parents, artists, entrepreneurs, students, workers, political leaders, citizens of this country
That’s what makes the recent demonstrations taking place across the country so important. The core of the Salvati Rosia Montana (Save Rosia Montana) campaign has gone on for more than a decade. Its main objective has been the protection of the historical and naturally beautiful area of Rosia Montana, which the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC), majority-owned by Canada’s Gabriel Resources Ltd, have been seeking to destroy through large-scale open pit mining (including the use of cyanide for gold extraction). RMGC’s project has shown a stunning legacy of corruption, bribing of journalists for positive coverage, ‘influencing’ of political leaders, and failure to abide by national and international legal and environmental standards. While many of these past mistakes have been somewhat addressed, the stunning display of arrogance, disrespect for the people of the country, and rampant abuse and corruption have made RMGC and Gabriel Resources Ltd. no longer welcome in the country.
For this reason, and sickened and appalled by continuing displays of incompetence, arrogance, and lack of basic good governance from their country’s political elite, Romanians of every background, profession and political persuasion have been taking to the streets and social media to protest and oppose the government’s recent measures to move the project forward. Their demands are at once simple and profound:
To be treated with respect by political leaders elected to serve the people;
To protect Romania’s natural and historical heritage
To build a better country
Demonstrations on September 1st witnessed tens of thousands of Romanian citizens taking to the streets in cities and villages across the country. Parents could be seen with their children, and pregnant mothers with their unborn babies still in the womb, wanting to protect the country’s heritage for future generations. People walked their dogs. Grandparents and passers by joined in. Importantly though: everybody knew what they were there for. These are people, well informed, who are making a choice – and a demand. A choice to become involved, to work for something better in their country, to hold elected officials to account, to shut down RMGC and Gabriel Resources in the country. A demand to be treated with respect.
Romania is finding its way. Conversations once filled with complaining, cynicism and despair are turning instead to people discussing what they are doing and what they want to do. Hope is becoming visible daily in new businesses, new cultural events, and new engagements. By people choosing to live their lives in a different way – to be the change they want to see in their country and in the world. The people of Romania have decided to stand up. This Sunday there were tens of thousands on the street. Next Sunday there will be tens of thousands more. The country is tired of abuse, corruption and incompetence in its political leadership. Fortunately, it has an incredible wealth, in its millions and millions of citizens, now getting involved to build a better future – for themselves, and all the generations to come.
People around the world join Romanians in standing up for the environment and dignity – “Romania, we’re with you! Save Rosia Montana!”
In Aarhus and Copenhagen, Denmark; Amsterdam and Maastricht, Holland; Berlin, Bonn, Munich and Freiburg in Germany; Bruxelles, Belgium; Budapest, Hungary; Chișinău, Republica Moldova; Fair Isle and London, UK; Geneva, Switzerland; Helsinki, Finland; Madrid, Spain; New York and Washington, USA; Prague, Czech Republic; Warsaw, Poland; Vilnius, Lituania; Oslo, Norway and elsewhere, tens of thousands of people around the world have joined in support for the people of Romania and Rosia Montana in their demand for dignity and good governance and opposition to the exploitative and abusive practices of the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RMGC) and the Canadian Gabriel Resources Ltd.
“Dirty Gold” by Der Spiegel
“If the mine is stopped, it will be an environmental victory against all the odds. With an increasing number of groups across Europe fighting similar battles against mining giants, the Romanian example would set a precedent for what can be achieved even with the most limited of means.
Its that prospect that has kept Victor Bostinaru fighting through the years. “This is a pioneering project. If we don’t stop it, who knows what it will mean for the future of gold mining in Europe.”
Tens of Thousands More Joining In
Next Sunday, September 8, tens of thousands more will join in a second series of demonstrations and celebrations for Romania taking place across the country. People who care about the environment, human rights, good governance and dignity around the rest of the world are also asked to raise their voices and join in, and demand Romania’s Parliament to end the RMGC and Gabriel Resources Ltd (Canada) project in Rosia Montana.
Note from the Author: Kai Brand-Jacobsen
I have had the extraordinary honour and pleasure to live in Romania for the past nearly 12 years. I consider it my home. Yesterday, to see the joy, commitment, dedication and engagement by thousands of people here in Cluj, and to see photos of similar events in Bucharest and across Europe and around the world, was inspiring. To the people of Romania: this is a beautiful country. You are a beautiful people. You have the right to stand up – for yourselves, for a better future, for the life and society you want. No one can take that from you – except yourself. And, if you do stand up, you will be standing together with tens of thousands, and eventually millions, more. With people who believe in and want a better future for this country – and who want government and elected officials who use their time to serve and benefit Romania, not the interests of an incredibly abusive and illegitimate foreign extractive company. For you, for your children, and grand children, come out on September 8th. Bring friends, neighbours, grandparents, children. Even if you’ve never taken part in a public demonstration / celebration before, come join now, and be part of making your country’s future. And…thank you, for the last 12 years and more of falling in love with your country, and for much more to come.