Treason – black on white
An article by Cornel Vilcu, translated in English by Irina Turcu
There is no doubt about it: Romania is a colony, a source of cheap workforce and raw materials for whoever can give a joint interest to its politicians. One important difference though is the recent self-selling-for-basically-nothing-in-return that has been taking place these last years: there is a depletion in resources that can be exploited without critically harming the environment and the health and future opportunities of the population. This is the particular significance of the Ponta-Băsescu coexistence, one that is highlighting the profound nature of these two persons and of many people around them: their utmost recklessness, their strength of pursuing the depredation while showing no regard whatsoever to the new types of consequences.
Below is one of the documents pertaining to the new law – the project of the Agreement that should be signed between the Romanian state and the foreign investors. What I will not do will be feigning impartiality or limiting myself to a few quotes – it would be a shame. Everybody knows where I stand and I believe that this text gives me the best arguments of all. What stands written in the document must be viewed and understood in context and if we manage to do this, we will discover one of the most precious “testimonials” about how this country is being kept on her knees by its corrupt leaders in front of the occult interest of… well, probably of whoever is willing to pay a commission. Be reminded that we never got the chance to view contracts like the one with Bechtel, and we have been asking ourselves how calamitous could they have been compiled. Well, now we have this extraordinary opportunity of reading a draft, the lecture of which will be more than sufficient to understand why, in a certain way, we have been collapsing unceasingly ever since the Revolution.
Article 1 talks about an increase in the Romanian state’s participation quota up to 25%, in two stages – which sounds good, if we’re not taking into account the conditions that Romania has to meet in order to acquire such a ‘favor’: it simply must exempt RMGC’s Project from all legal requirements (environmental, patrimony protection, honoring the constitutional regime of private property etc.) that the company couldn’t even get close to observing in the last fourteen years. In other words, the State is being told: here, how much do you need to keep your eyes closed? to keep your mouth shut?; it is being given assignments, and only if it is ‘behaving nicely’ (to be read: admitting and legislating the infringement of its own laws) it will be awarded 5.69 more, plus 2% of the participation.
Thus, it is truly fascinating the part that stipulates not only that Romania must provide the environmental Consent, but also that only in case this consent “doesn’t hold significant changes to the Project that was presented and proposed in the EIM Report and the Feasibility Study and therefore allows for the advancement and implementation of the Project as it was described” is the participation going to change. Why am I finding this fragment to be so interesting? Because merely two months ago the environment minister Rovana Plumb was stating on all TV channels that there is no way the project is going to get authorized considering the documentation they currently had at hand… and I also expect that the coming days the Ponta government will come out with a lie that the information regarding environmental protection has seriously changed. However, it is exactly this condition, which is enforced on Romania by the foreign investor, showing that there has been no significant change.
Lower (Article 1, 4) it’s said: “The Romanian state and the minority shareholder of RMGC controlled by the Romanian state aren’t obliged to financially contribute at increasing the social capital of RMGC, except the case in which such a capital increase is imposed by law. In the absence of financial availability of the Romanian state’s or of the minority shareholder of RMGC controlled by the Romanian state, GBU is committed to offer a loan with interest for achieving the contribution to the social capital and maintaining its corresponding participation quota.” What the public knows less is that all capital increases that have been done so far have been imposed by law in cases when the company would have reached insolvency in the absence of the increase. Today Romania has significant debts to GBU, issued precisely from previous loans – which made the experts of ASE (Academy of Economic Studies) in Bucharest, led by prof. dr. Afrodita Iorgulescu, to talk about the ‘state being captive at Roșia Montană’.
In Article 2, the extraordinary benefits that Romania will gain from this business with RMGC are presented in an extremely emphatic (and rhetorical) way. To cut the long story short (as the English say), I suggest looking only at the evaluative number that the company itself is providing, as a total amount that the state will gain from the Project: over 5.2 billion USD. It is assumed that all calculations have been maximized as much as possible to reach this sum of money, apparently large. What is very easy to do though is to compare this sum with the value of the ore, value that can be estimated from the documents published by Natural Resources Holding. Thus, considering the gold only (without taking into account the silver that is fully exploitable according to the protocol between the state and RMGC, or the other metals, that the investor promised solemnly not to touch), 18.500.000 ounces at the price of 1.200 USD/ounce means 22 billion and 200 million USD.
With your permission, I will try to make an analogy – that works to a certain point, as we will quickly see. Suppose you have in your pantry 22 bags of flour and you are told that you do not have the capacity (the expertise and the technology) to carry them to the kitchen. Someone comes and carries them for you. The price for the transport is… 17 bags. There is even more. During the ‘operations’, the man destroys your pantry, irreversibly clutters your kitchen, and poisons your tap water and the air you breathe. Here is why this analogy is not perfect: wheat grows every year, so you can restock the flour supply; but not the gold one.
This is, in its simplest and most definite numbers, the Roșia Montană “affair”. All the rest (the fact that we are not capable ourselves, that there is a recession and that we have special needs etc.) is a guff. Of course, because of the immense noise made around the fact that we are already ‘dancing’ with RMGC, no one thought asking: why would we do such a thing? Because the answer is, indeed, scary in its plainness: we are about to be deceived/robbed by some impostors, some sold politicians and a double-tongued press.
Article 5 in its wholeness is presenting the majority investor as some kind of great benefit society, dedicated to save the Romanian culture and patrimony. Indeed, impressive numbers are being mentioned, claiming that an enormous effort has already been implemented for Roșia Montană and that astronomical amounts of money are still going to be spent. Again, the questions that need to arise are, on one hand, what has RMGC truly done so far and, on the other hand, what is expected in exchange of the promised money? The fact is that in all these 14 years (especially at the start, when they were hoping to quickly ‘settle’ the business and any house or monument was simply an obstacle in the way of development… in a word, when there wasn’t the huge dissimulation that we see now) the company has left, if not helped the buildings fall apart. On the other hand, the investment of 70 + 30 million dollars for the patrimony is conditioned by relegating the Cârnic massif and by receiving archaeological discharge for every monument entering the project’s perimeter. As in Article 1, but now adapted to the domain of historical inheritance, we are witnessing (promises of) large amounts of money for obtaining the claim that ‘under’ the mining project’s location there ISN’T anything of importance. We are talking here about a lot of money paid to various citizens and specialists, in exchange of accepting the destruction of real values and their replacement with cardboard replicas.
We mustn’t ignore the fact that archaeological-patrimonial sites like the exceptional sites at Roșia Montană cannot simply drop in value, cannot naturally ‘decay’ from their status of historical monuments. Such a lie, such madness can only be imposed through political decision (to be read: un- and anti-professional).
Near page 7 of the document that you can see below, things become… I would say funny, if they were not so criminally severe. Thus, according to article 6, 2, f, the amount agreed upon for environmental assurance consists in 25 million dollars. As a comparison, Kyrgyzstan is currently trying to fine Centerra Gold with 467 million dollars for pollution generated by the Kumtor mine. Moreover, that case does not concern a decantation lake situated behind a rock dam 180 meters tall and above 1 km in length, as the one planned above Abrud. And while we’re discussing the price taken into account by the Romanian state regarding ecological catastrophes – at what amount should we estimate the several thousands (5, 6) of lives that would be lost in the first minutes, in case this dam would break?
Sure enough, according to Gold’s documentation, the dam is simply indestructible, there is no financial guarantee required for something that flawless. Moreover, the Cornei valley is impermeable; no single drop of water is going to be contaminated by heavy metals. Naturally, the Romanian Geological Institute officially states, through the voice of its scientific director, a completely different story – that is, RMGC’s entire documentation is ludicrous… but who are Romania’s political negotiators to trust – their own specialists, or those they should actually ‘fight against’ in negotiations?
This number of 25 million dollars as an environmental assurance is an insult addressed to any Romanian person’s intelligence. Nevertheless, we could have foreseen it, considering the entire project is so insane in its dimension and technical conditions that Gold itself, although searching for many years, could not yet find an insurer for it…
Article 8 is very short and it is actually the most painful: the Romanian state is literally promising to infringe the constitutional right to property of the Roșia Montană ‘resistants’, sweeping away from the investor’s path the most important obstacle – persistent human dignity.
Other interesting issues are yet to be discovered in Article 10, especially in section 3, 3 – which mentions from the beginning the possibility of transferring the operation license. In fact, everyone knows an elementary thing about RMGC: it is a junior company, a sort of apartment society of limited responsibility that clearly does not own the competence of operating by its own means the business it is undertaking. As soon as they will have a free path ahead, they will sell the business. The document speaks about the possibility to take a decision with the agreement of the one that holds 85 percent of the capital; this theoretically implies the agreement of the Romanian state for such a transfer. However, considering the dignity/consistence demonstrated by Romania in the rest of the document, who can even hope of stopping the sale of Roșia Montană ‘turnkey’?
Another proof comes in Article 10 (5) where we find a completely hilarious statement: “In case RMGC shares owned by GBU are alienated to a third party, the new owner will expressly assume all rights and obligations and will offer all guarantees which the former owner entered through the current agreement. Should it be otherwise, GBU will not be discharged of its own obligations and/or guarantees.” Any logico-grammatical person would say here that we are witnessing a pearl of, how Creangă would say, atrocious craft of imbecility: you cannot simply use so firmly the statement “will expressly assume” just to start the next phrase with “should it be otherwise”. It truly saddens me to see the Romanian state in the position of a retarded-ungrammatical victim of a cunning aggressor, bristling up to it only to later realize that the situation is out of its control.
Finally, if you have had the patience (or the growing perplexity) to follow me to this point, you will be rewarded – as the page and Article numbered 12 manage to crown this entire hallucinating parade of corruption and unlawfulness with an astonishing condition: “The parts confirm the fact that the present Agreement is being established essentially and considering the legislative and/or fiscal framework that exists in Romania at the date the present Agreement has been signed. In case there is a modification in the legislative and/or fiscal framework applicable in Romania after this Agreement is settled, that would be applicable for RMGC or GBU and that adversely affects or might affect in a significant way the benefits of any Part, the Parts commit to exercise due diligence and to take all necessary arrangements to resetting them to the situation where such modifications wouldn’t have happened.”
I really do not know if these last rows need any comment. Maybe it is best, instead of any interpretation, to let you, to ask you to read it again. To convince yourselves that these words are actually written in a project contract belonging to Romania – assumingly a ‘state subject to the rule of law’.
As I see it, the conclusions are few and they are sad.
We have in front of us a document where we can easily read the frightening level of unprofessionalism and corruption reached by the policy makers in Romania.
- For one of the first times, we have the opportunity of witnessing these things before they happen, and not post-factum in a secret contract that we cannot reach despite all our efforts. Therefore, we have no palliative for not taking action; we will not be able to say that we did not know.
- We are once again proven, if need be, that Roșia Montană is not just a local or regional problem, but it is maybe the most symptomatic affair for today’s Romania. Moreover, its resolution in one way or another will give a conclusive signal for our entire future, in its entire economic, social and most probably democratic complexity. Because what is in danger today are essentially the elementary principles of democracy and the rule of law.