Marius Niculae

Last night thousands of people hit the streets of Bucharest in a rally against the decision of the Romanian government to allow the start of a long debated mining project that plans to use cyanide for the extraction of gold and silver. More details here:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/01/us-romania-goldmine-idUSBRE9800FU20130901. Defining for the ways in which the actual left-liberal government understands to rule the country is the following phrase: “Prime Minister Victor Ponta strongly opposed the project before he took power in May last year yet voted for the draft law enabling the mine, only to tell a local television station that he would vote against the project in parliament”.

In these circumstances, the Romanian civil society opposing this controversial project might be forced to look for help outside the Romanian borders. More exactly, the Hungarian government is strongly opposing the intentions of Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (RGCM, part of the Canada’s Gabriel Resources Ltd), by putting forward the huge environmental risks of such a project. Many of the rivers from the Rosia Montana region flow directly into the Tisa river which, at its turn, flows into the Danube. In this way, cyanide mining becomes a problem of cross-border governance as it can affect people living on both sides of the border.

By looking at the big picture, one might argue that any problem potentially endangering the Danube’s natural environment becomes an issue that should be tackled at regional level. The latter approach calls for the involvement of all the central and regional governments from the Danube’s basin. This can be done only if politicians understand that issues affecting the border areas cannot be solved through traditional top-down approaches. The complexity of borders calls for horizontal approaches, institutional flexibility and common legislation.

Consequently, we might assist to the emergence of an “an-unorthodox “coalition ready to say no to this project. Put differently, the Romanian civil society and the Hungarian civil society/government should join their forces and oppose the plans of the RMGC and the Romanian government. In the awake of the Hungarian Parliamentary elections and taking into account that in Transylvania lives a strong Hungarian minority that has the right to vote in these elections, the Rosia Montana project can, and should, become the topic of a regional political debate. At this point, the course of the events will force the EU Commission to mitigate the debate.

In a previous post I’ve talked about some of the best practices put in place by the local authorities of the Rhine Basin in their fight against the floods affecting cross-border regions. The EU had a lot to learn from these joint actions. Starting with 1997, based also on this experience, a new dimension of the EU cohesion policy emerged: trans-national cooperation. Thus, the EU has the necessary experience and the mechanisms to act as a referee for such a potential dispute. In my opinion, moving the discussion from national level to regional and European level represents the only way in which this mining project, caring the burden of a potential environmental disaster, can be stopped.

Update

We should all remember the cyanide pollution of the river Tisa that happened no longer than thirteen years ago and involved both Romania and Hungary:

http://reliefweb.int/report/hungary/hungary-summary-environment-catastrophe-caused-cyanide-pollution-river-tisza

update 2: As predicted, the Hungarian MEPs are asking the EU to intervene and stop the Rosia Montana mining project. More details here: http://www.romania-insider.com/hungarian-meps-urge-european-commission-to-intervene-and-stop-romanian-gold-mine-approval/105895/

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