by Catalina Tudor, April ’14
For the past 7-8 years, ever since I gained political consciousness, the most widespread protests in Romania have been on environmental/ecological themes. Although in the beginning of 2012 there have been some protests against the president, Traian Băsescu, the events were arguably manipulated by the press. That is not to say that people who came to the streets were not motivated by genuine discontent with the head of the state, but there were quite a few television anchors who called for people to come out to the streets and voice their grievances against the ‘dictatorship’ of Traian Băsescu.
In contrast, environmentally-themed protests have had bigger amplitude in the number of people who came out to the streets and their duration. These demonstrations started from a nucleus of informed NGOs and civil activists and they covered themes from mining gold in Roşia Montană, to drilling in the Black Sea, to exploiting shale gas in many locations in Romania. Although quite a few of the protest started rather late (after the negotiation and signing of the contracts between the state and the foreign companies), they did leave a lasting impression on the public opinion and had some impact on the political decision making.
But why is that the biggest protests in this country are on environmental themes when many are complaining about the corrupted political class and the partnerships between local mafias and the political parties? Do not misunderstand this question- I believe that it is very important that people voice their opinions, no matter the subject. But wouldn’t protesting the current political class and getting more of a hands-on attitude towards decision making have spared us of these events we are protesting in the first place?
Unfortunately, in Romania, civic and political participation resumes to voting every 4 or 5 years and complaining to your neighbors and friends about how bad the situation is. The many years of communism has depoliticized the population, which is finding it hard now to get to that middle ground between being affiliated to a political party and merely going to vote (or not even that). There were places in the East Block (think Czech Republic, Hungary),that have had just as harsh of an experience with communism, but they still managed to resurface in the early ’90s with a strong civil society and a population very much interested in the future of their country. Romania hadn’t had a political culture or strong urban centers to facilitate the population’s education and interest in such issues.
In my opinion, the main issue in Romania is not that people are disagreeing with gold exploitation in Roşia Montană, but that there are little or no protests against the current political class and (lack of) system. In ’89, when there was the ‘bloody revolution’ in Romania, there was the assumption that once the Ceauşescu couple (the dictator and his spouse) would be gone, everything would magically improve. The problem is that there was no change in mentality and no education of the masses about civil and political engagement and extensions to voting in a representative, liberal democracy.
Although a spur of the moment solution, and not all that efficient, recent protests do provide some hope. The fact that people are going out into the streets shows Romanians are shaping the future for a more informed and involved civil society, ready to call out future misconduct of the political class.
Catalina is a MitOst alumni through her participation in Balkans Let’s Get Up! in 2013. Catalina is a graduate of Peace and Global Studies, currently living in Braila, Romania.
The Culture of protesting in Romania von Catalina Tudor (MitOst e.V.) ist lizenziert unter einer Creative Commons Namensnennung – Nicht kommerziell – Keine Bearbeitungen 4.0 International Lizenz.