Chevron Moves Forward in Romania Following Establishment of Special Security Zone
As a result of the recent events in Pungesti, including the destruction of the fence surrounding Chevron’s land by protesters and several confrontations with riot police, the situation is finally under control following the establishment of a ‘special security zone’.
Protesters have accused riot police of violence however the accusation has been denied.
NGOs including ActiveWatch, APADOR-CH, Militia Spirituala and Funky Citizens have asked Romania’s Interior Minister Radu Stroe “to order an investigation about the actions of the gendarmes who have acted in Pungesti village since Monday night... there is evidence that cannot be ignored that the riot police committed abuses.”
Prime Minister Victor Ponta expressed his disapproval of the destruction of private property to Stroe at an official meeting. Ponta supports the police in applying the law.
“As ascertained after analyzing the recent events, in the area for which the order was given there is a risk of serious disturbance of public order,” stated Vaslui County Police media representative Alina Tonica.
“At each house there is a gendarme. We are not allowed to go out to the road without explanations to the riot police. We do not understand whom they are defending, for whom are they acting”, said a villager of Pungesti to Agerpres.
Environmental activist Georgeta Ionescu said: “Even working to meet their daily needs seems to be difficult right now, and children were restricted from going to school some days. Media access was restricted when riot police intervened with force. Both central and local authorities were denied any dialog with the local community about a project that did not gain social acceptability.”
She pointed out that the cause of the conflict was insufficient explanations by the authorities with respect to the events in question. “The lack of balanced arguments, and totally avoiding public sources of information like the European Commission and Parliament studies and reports, will not bring more confidence in such public campaign of the authorities. In an era of intensive circulation of information, the public has alternative sources. And people can easily access larger consultations such as the one opened by the European Commission, where they could clearly participate in expressing their most important concerns.”
The decision of the police allows for the safe continuation of works by Chevron, without the risk of further delays.
Before announcing the security zone, Cam Van Ast, Chevron’s External Communications Advisor for Onshore Europe detailed the company’s position: “Chevron can confirm that it has resumed activities in Silistea, Pungesti commune, Vaslui county. Our priority is to conduct these activities in a safe and environmentally responsible manner consistent with the permits under which we operate. While we respect the right of individuals to express their opinions, it should be done within the law.”
As protests are not possible in Pungesti, hundreds have gathered in Bucharest and Cluj to show support.
The fight continues in the courts and in the media: “consider that the Internal Affairs Ministry has established this special area by abusively enforcing the provisions of the Order no. 60/2010 regarding the organization and execution of activities for maintaining public order and security,” according to APADOR-CH and ActiveWatch.
Lawyer Simona Niculescu has filed a request with the Vaslui Court House for the immediate reestablishment of the right to free travel in the area and for observing ownership rights of citizens who have lands in and around Chevron's perimeter.
“For over 50 years we have not seen abuses so serious in Romania as those that are happening in Pungesti these days. I am shocked, Europe must know that in Romania the law is disregarded,” said Niculescu for Vremea Noua.
Florea Oprea, Secretary of State for Internal Affairs Ministry, told the prefects during a conference to intervene swiftly if participants in public gatherings are breaking the law.
Most of the protests did not have legal approval from the authorities and disregarded the law.
George Epurescu from Romania without Them considers that “it is a right to defend their life and their future. The law says that an action that can be considered a crime is not punished if it is done in order to stop another crime in progress. Here the situation is critical because we are talking about armed assault of the state against its own citizens. In Pungesti there is established a military dictatorship.”
“We have permits for a single exploration bore in the Barlad block, which can be moved in 3 locations” stated a Chevron representative for the newspaper Gandul.
The establishment of the security zone in Pungesti seems to be the solution to guarantee the safety of drillers and Chevron’s property, even if it represents a violation of civil rights in the eyes of NGOs.