Remembered as a brutal sadist by inmates who managed to survive the prisons he once ran, Alexandru Visinescu bubbles with violent fury. “Get away from my door, or do you want me to get a stick and beat you?” the 88-year-old former prison commander screamed recently when a reporter called at his fourth floor apartment in the center of this capital city.
Like other onetime servants of the old Communist government, Mr. Visinescu — now a frail retiree with a hunched back — does not like being disturbed. Until recently, he was not. He was left alone with a generous pension and a comfortable apartment, surrounded by black-and-white photographs of his fit, youthful self in uniform. He passed his time with leisurely strolls in a nearby park.
His peace ended in early September, when prosecutors in Bucharest announced that Mr. Visinescu would be put on trial over his role in Communist-era abuses, the first case of its kind since Romania toppled and executed the dictatorNicolae Ceausescu in December 1989.
The case has opened a flood of news media coverage here and raised hopes, however tentative, among victims and their advocates that Romania may finally be following most of its neighbors in Central and Eastern Europe in shaking off a national amnesia about its brutal past and re-examining a culture of impunity that has fed rampant corruption and constrained the country’s progress despite its entry into the European Union in 2007.
A generation ago, the Romanian township of Rosia was primarily known for its hiking trails and ancient caves. Today, it is the intended site of Europe’s largest and most environmentally destructive mine.
For over a decade, the project designed by Canada-based Gabriel Resources Ltd., lacked a green light from Parliament, but a few weeks ago the Romanian government approved a draft bill that, if passed, would effectively commence the bulldozing.
If permitted, the company will conduct a highly destructive form of mining that would level four whole mountains and accumulate 200 million tons of hazardous waste material.
The mine has very few supporters, mostly owing to the fact that the annual use of 14,000 tons of cyanide is a key component of Gabriel Resources’ business plan to extract the mountains’ gold and silver deposits.
This sort of mining is not without precedent in Romania, nor without incident. In January 2000, the waste storage containers of another gold mining company burst, resulting in the worst European environmental disaster since Chernobyl.
On Sept. 8, protesters took to the streets of Bucharest and other Romanian cities in vast quantities. Though the estimates vary according to source, all put the number in the thousands. If the anti-mine movement continues in this manner, it would constitute the most significant popular movement in Romania since the 1989 revolution.
Clearly the carrying out of this mine as intended would almost surely result in a massive environmental calamity. As global citizens and human beings, let us do all in our power to prevent it.
Jack Feinberg lived in Bucharest during 2012–13 and is a regular contributor to the Romanian newspaper Dilema Veche.
Romania’s spy chief says his agency has been spying on a planned Canadian gold mine project for years, monitoring protests that he said were manipulated by people who were not genuine protesters.
Spy chief Gheorghe Maior told a parliamentary committee Monday that his agency had sent 500 memos to decision-making authorities from 1999 to 2013 about the planned gold mine in northwest Romania, which has drawn large street protests in recent weeks.
Maior said the agency’s actions were legal because the mine was “a problem of national security.” He said some protests had been manipulated by people he called “eco-anarchists.”
The disclosure was surprising because it was reminiscent of Romania’s dreaded Securitate secret police, which once used an estimated 760,000 informers from all walks of life.
Romania’s economy may be on the slow road to recovery, but its real estate market continues to languish. Home values have been falling for the past four years and the year ending in August saw prices fall another 5.89%, according to real estate firm imobiliare.ro. Prices were on the rise prior to 2007 when the country looked forward to becoming a member of the European Union, but membership did not slow corruption and investors kept their money clear of the country. Then the European debt crisis further weakened things, leaving Romania in its current state of decline. For more on this continue reading the following article from Global Property Guide.
After four years of severe house price declines, Romania’s housing market is still in deep trouble, despite its slowly improving economy.
The average selling price of apartments plunged 5.89% during the year to end-August 2013, to €910 per square meter (sq. m.), based on figures released by real estate firm imobiliare.ro. House prices dropped 3% quarter-on-quarter during August 2013.
During the year to August 2013:
- In Bucharest, the capital, the average selling price of apartments dropped 6.6% to €1,054 per sq. m.
- In Brasov, the average selling price of apartments fell 4.2%, to an average of €814 per sq. m.
- In Timisoara, the average selling price of apartments increased 1.5% to €802 per sq. m.
- In Constanta, the country’s oldest city, apartment prices rose by 0.6% to an average of €869 per sq. m.
- In Cluj-Napoca, Romania’s second most populous city, apartment price increased 0.1% to €904 per sq. m.
From 2002 to early-2007, property prices and demand rose in anticipation of EU accession, which took place in January 2007. But investors were disappointed by non-implementation of promised economic and political reforms. Corruption is rife, and largely ignored (or tolerated) by the government.
Then came the Euro-crisis:
- In 2009, house prices plunged by 20.62% (-24.22% inflation-adjusted) from a year earlier.
- In 2010, house prices fell by 15.88% (-22.08% inflation-adjusted) from a year earlier.
- In 2011, house prices dropped again by 4.07% (-6.99% inflation-adjusted) from the previous year.
- In 2012, house prices fell by 1.31% (-5.96%) from a year earlier.
The construction sector remains depressed. In June 2013, the total number of residential building permits dropped by 7.6% to 3,564 units from the same period last year, according to the National Institute of Statistics (NIS). Likewise, the total useful area of residential building permits plunged by 15.8% to 629,364 sq. m. over the same period.
In 2012, the country’s total dwelling stock increased by 7.6% to about 8.5 million housing units from 2000, according to the NIS.