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February 3, 2023

Political and aviation meeting in Cluj

Although he should have been accompanied by Prime Minister Victor Ponta, Crin Antonescu, Senate Speaker, was left to face the dissent of protesters who made their way among aviation acrobatics fans alone. In Cluj, authorities marked the completion of the first stage in building the new landing strip by inviting the co-chairmen of USL and several delegate ministers to an aviation meeting. However, compared to the official version, the group from Bucharest altered the prime minister’s schedule (who was expected to arrive from Gorj) so the prime minister was replaced by Deputy Prime Minister Liviu Dragnea, who had come to Cluj one day before and joined Antonescu. An otherwise good publicity opportunity, the festivity was interrupted by booing. At the end of the ceremony, USL leaders were even keen on ‘taking pictures’ for the press with an airplane in the background, despite the irritating uproar that rendered any chance at conversation impossible. The objects of protests were financial compensations for expropriations conducted in the area of the airport (much below market levels, as those in question argued) and the Rosia Montana project. Protesters against the latter topic (Cluj being one of the major centers for recent protests) only managed to display a banner hung on an apartment building under construction, on which a bland ‘Resign!’ was written. Protests failed to meet expectations. When pressed by reporters, Crin Antonescu seemed willing to discuss with protest representatives (the expropriated, in particular), but it turned out to be just a momentary rhetorical reaction that did not lead to any concrete results, as the Senate chairman generally minimized the protests and invoked the celebratory dimension of his presence. The current County Council Chairman of Cluj is a Liberal – albeit for a short time and despite a project initiated via old legislature – and the investment was one of the largest in the area, placing the airport in direct competition with the airport in Otopeni. Due payments amount to approximately RON 50 million, but Deputy Prime Minister Dragnea committed in Cluj to offering his support in allocating funds at the next budget adjustment. Another obstacle in way of continuing work at the landing strip (currently 2,100 meters long with a target length of 3,500 meters) is the regularization of the river Somes, planned to be carried out in two stages, the latter of which in partnership with Cluj town hall. In fact, mayor Emil Boc said he was satisfied with the result of discussions had with Deputy Prime Minister Liviu Dragnea, particularly because of Dragnea’s positive reaction to his request to find legal solutions enabling local authorities to invest in the restoration of several cultural institutes that are part of the Ministry of Culture heritage, work that is covered by the government’s decentralization strategy. Emil Boc’s main concern is compiling the candidacy file to propose Cluj for the title of European capital town. According to the prime minister’s initial visit schedule, one of the objectives of this short trip was a visit at the recently built Orthodox Theological Seminar (situated behind the County Council building) as a sign of good relations with the majority cult, especially in a town painted in a different political color. In this festive context, the Orthodox metropolitan and the Greek Catholic bishop, surrounded by pious politicians, sanctified the new landing strip.

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