“Ponta do not forget, Romania is not yours”
That chant was amongst the protestations against shale gas development that continued Sunday in Romania’sVaslui County, following a large gathering on Saturday.
Over 1.000 people protested in Barlad and over 700 in Pungesti against shale gas exploration and exploitation by unconventional technologies, despite an annoucement by Chevron that they would be stopping it activities in the region.
Concerned citizens and environmental activists travelled upwards of 500 km to attended Saturday’s march. Reports indicated that the police prevented additional participants from reaching Pungesti.
The participants called for the resignation of the Government, with particular anger directed at Environment Minister, Rovana Plumb.
Prime Minister Ponta acknowledged the right to peaceful protests, but talked about a red line that must not be crossed, referring to the Culture Minister, Daniel Barbu, who was attacked after participating in a debate regarding the controversial Rosia Montana gold mine.
“As long as these protests are peaceful and do not affect the normal way of life of the society, you saw that nothing happened. You saw that everyone may protest, that everyone may say their point of view. But when the red line is crossed and they become violent, aggressive and laws are being breached, than I said it very seriously, and I assume this responsibility, that all governmental institutions, Gendarmerie, Police have the duty to act immediately, according to the law, to sanction any violent or aggressive action that might remind us of the 30’s in Romania or of any type of anarchy which I think is very dangerous for the country”, said Ponta.
Interior Minister, Radu Stroe, held a similar position: “I appeal to the protesters not to change their attitude displayed in the last weeks. I wish the situation would not change even if some feel that violence is a solution. At no time is violence a solution!”
Protesters have paired the issues of fracking and the development of Rosia Montana mining project. At Campeni, in Alba Iulia County, a protest against Rosia Montana ended with the Proclamation of Campeni, read in the presence of 2.000 people who came from neighboring villages.
The participants called on Parliament to "reject all legislative projects that have special measures to expropriate Romanian citizens, as well as other measures to waive the legal provisions for protection of the environment, cultural heritage, waters, meadows and agricultural lands, other public goods and so on, in favor of mining companies of any kind”, as well as: “banning by law, hydraulic fracking technology for shale gas exploitation and abiding by the sovereign voice of the citizens in the areas where such exploitations are possible.”
Speaking on a television programme, Liviu Dragnea, the deputy Prime Minister, said: “In those areas, in the last months, many public debates took place where citizens attended and received from the representatives of state’s institutions all information, required ones and ones that the institutions felt necessary to send, explaining in detail that the risks mentioned are not real and giving examples from other countries. […] (the protesters – editor note) were helped to get scared by the ones opposing the project.”
He further said: “We complain we have no investments and on the other hand we don’t want to make any investments”.
Thomas Holst, manager of Chevron Romania, in an interview for Adevarul said “we have a motto we work by – “Do it safely or don’t do it!. During the events in Pungesti we concluded that these operations cannot be done safely. Thus, we announced a suspension of the works. This because the area is not safe for our workers nor for the villagers. This situation will last until we and the local authorities will reach the conclusion that the area is safe. The operations were not shut down, only delayed.”
Holst continued that he was convinced that misunderstandings can be solved by sharing science based information that will surpass their fear of (fracking) technology.
"I am confident that Romanians will understand the oil and gas extraction industry because it has existed for 150 years.”