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Supporting the Minister of Culture – April 27 to May 3 in Bucharest

Following a scandal at the Bucharest Opera, which did admittedly seem to have been poorly managed, our Prime Minister asked the Minister of Culture to resign, the latter announcing on April 27 that he will do so. However, this Minister was in the particularly unusual position of enjoying significant support from activists due to a number of decisions and statements made ever since taking office, the most relevant of them from this point of view being finally listing Rosia Montana as an UNESCO World Heritage candidate. Showing up on a construction site in an attempt to stop work that caused significant damage to a historical monument helped as well, though it had significantly less actual impact and efficiency than several other things he did.

As a result, activists were obviously unhappy with this decision and many voices suggested the Opera scandal was merely an excuse, the Rosia Montana matter being the real reason, especially since there had been worrying developments not long before this happened. In addition, in a letter that was made public on April 30, the Minister of Culture himself backed these statements, claiming he had been under intense pressure due to that and other decisions that threatened the interests of others, although he didn’t name those who pressured and threatened him and, after first sharing the article that included the letter, quickly deleted that post and published a statement claiming the letter was only intended to inform an organization he’s a member of, albeit suspended for the duration of his term in office, and never meant to be public.
Either way, to return to April 27, a petition was launched and protest was announced for that evening, in front of the Government, as a quick reaction to the announcement of his resignation. More exactly, three different protests were announced, but they all listed the same time and place, so in fact it was a single event, starting at 7 PM. I didn’t attend myself, so I only know what I gathered from the posts I saw, but while the first news pieces that appeared in the media claimed only dozens attended, those present and a few articles published after the fact estimated a couple hundred participants. What’s clear is that the Prime Minister did come out to speak to the protesters, or according to many to simply restate his position on the matter, and then the gendarmes didn’t care to allow the protest to continue, stepping in to ask people to leave or at least move to the other side of Victory Square, in front of the Antipa Museum, where some did go. Those who remained in front of the Government were carded and likely fined.
Protests asking for the Minister of Culture to stay in office, and obviously also for the Prime Minister and the President, who had criticized the handling of the Opera situation unusually harshly in a statement mentioning that “few imaginable mistakes were not made” there, to allow this to happen and apologize, were announced for April 28 and 29 as well. However, in part also due to the weather, not many people showed up on April 28, with the predictable result of the gendarmes being even more determined to get them to leave, while the plans for April 29 were canceled. Still, on that day the protesters felt there may be some hope, the Minister of Culture announcing that he hadn’t actually formally resigned yet and had agreed with the Prime Minister to not do so before Easter.
After the Easter break and in spite of the Prime Minister’s quite angry reaction to the letter that was published on April 30, the Minister of Culture actually seemed quite emboldened by the continued support and appeared to wish to keep his position, no longer resigning. However, the Prime Minister had none of it and revoked him on May 3, although he did name the successor the now-former Minister of Culture had supported when initially announcing his resignation in his place and claimed he’ll ensure the projects and reforms started will not be negatively affected by this change. He even specifically mentioned the Rosia Montana matter that time, though the topic was strangely absent from the first statement made, after the announced resignation, when he first attempted to offer similar assurances.
There was a protest announced for May 3 as well, but the demands weren’t quite so clear anymore, as some maintained the original ones while others seemed to accept that the Minister of Culture will change even before he was officially revoked and seemed mainly interested in ensuring that he will be replaced with the person he supported for this position and that his reforms and projects will actually be continued. Not that it mattered much, however, since due to a mix of this confusion and, perhaps more importantly, the bad weather, only a handful of people showed up in Victory Square that evening, once again being carded by the gendarmes.

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