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Forests and Kovesi – February 21 to 25 in Bucharest

Thursday evening, the Minister of Justice announced starting the procedure of removing Laura Codruta Kovesi, the chief prosecutor of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), from office. As a result, there was first a quick reaction that I heard gathered around 1000 people in Victory Square that evening, some known activists and groups also promoting it and attending. That protest ended relatively late and people obviously continued to gather in Victory Square over the next two days as well, but the “proper” protest regarding this issue was scheduled again for Sunday evening, despite it marking the start of a cold snap.
According to the information posted, people were supposed to start gathering at 6 PM, but numbers were, unsurprisingly, low around 6:25 PM, when I got there. People kept coming though, and the estimates I see, of around 4000 at the peak, seem fair, but the total was significantly higher, as people kept arriving as others were leaving. Even at 8:15 PM, when I left, I walked past sizable groups going the other way. But at that point they could no longer make up for those leaving, so the numbers were dropping, and I see that they dropped quite quickly not long after that, the protest pretty much ending around 9 PM. While not the only reason, the weather definitely played an important part in that, even if there were past protests that took place under even worse conditions. It was snowing, but not too much, and the reported temperature was around -5°C, though there was quite a bit of wind, which made it feel at least a few degrees colder.
The main demand of the protest was the resignation of the Minister of Justice, and otherwise it was supposed to be a show of support for Kovesi and DNA. However, and I won’t be making many friends by saying this, I didn’t particularly care for that and didn’t even want to list the event’s name, requesting said resignation, as the title of the album with the pictures I took. On the one hand it doesn’t seem to me that much actually happened, the President being the one who’ll have the final say and he openly stated his support for Kovesi, plus that accepting her removal would be political suicide for him, whatever supporters he still has generally being quite adamant in their support for Kovesi and the DNA and increasingly bothered by his lack of willingness to more openly and directly fight the ruling coalition, especially after he immediately accepted their latest proposed Prime Minister. And on the other hand, while others range from questionable to just wrong to plain laughable, a few of the 20 reasons given for Kovesi’s removal seem fair to me, and at the very least require some serious investigations. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that, I’d say quite unfortunately, she does seem to remain the flag bearer of the fight against PSD and their allies, which would make her removal without it at least being the result of a negotiation that’d also result in the removal of PSD’s president Liviu Dragnea, and maybe some other PSD and ALDE leaders as well, a victory for them and a loss for those of us fighting against them, but that doesn’t mean one has to turn a blind eye to the problems.
That said, the main reason why I wanted to go, other than simply to show up and see what will happen with my own eyes, getting a better feel of how things stand and where they may be heading, was to see whether there will be protesters bringing up what for me should be the main reason for protests these days. And I was pleased to see that the matter in question was actually on the very first signs I took note of. Not pleased to see that they had been brought by PER, with the party logo openly on those signs, but it wasn’t just them and, either way, at least they were very visible during that first part of the protest, before others got everything set up and drew more attention.

The issue I mention above actually appeared on Wednesday, so a day before the Minister of Justice’s statement, when the Senate approved a proposal allowing work for public utilities to take place in any forests, including those in protected areas or nature reserves, or cataloged as virgin or quasi-virgin. Yes, the Chamber of Deputies will actually decide, but this wasn’t just something waved through the Senate, but actually approved with a large majority, only USR and two PNL senators opposing and one PNL and one PSD senator abstaining, after also being approved by the Government and the Committees which reviewed it, and PSD members openly stated their support for it. So something definitely needs to be done about it, but if it initially seemed to prompt a strong reaction, the following day’s events sadly seem to have caused most activists to largely set the matter aside, at least for now.

While all of this was going on, USR Senator Mihai Gotiu posted a warning on Saturday, which was also shared by some groups and activists. In his post, he revealed that a proposal which would make obtaining benefits for someone other than yourself no longer count as corruption and also allow only material benefits to be taken into account for such charges had recently been submitted to the Senate. This proposal had been brought up before, but even PSD’s leaders seemed to realize that it was too much and stated that it was to be withdrawn. Now, however, it’s quite obvious that they weren’t actually thinking that it was too much, but only too soon, and mean to keep trying until they’ll slip it through, one way or another.

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