In December 2015,  the organisations undersigned addressed a letter to the members of the international jury who choose the title of ‘European Capital of Culture - 2021’, bringing to their attention the fact that four of the candidate towns for this were, in our opinion, incompatible with the title of ‘European’. The motivation we invoked was the fact that the respective city authorities were breaking fundamental human rights. 

Now, before the last phase of judging, our organisations return with information regarding the whether our position on these cities has changed - based on our previous objections. 

 

Bucharest: The city appeared on our list for two issues:

  1. expropriation and abusive evacuation of a great number of persons (353) in order to implement a urban project by the Mayor’s office

and, respectively,

2. the passivity of the city hall in the face of warnings of an earthquake of catastrophic proportions

In a report on these two cases, we have noticed the following developments:

The practice of evacuating citizens with little care for the implications by the Mayor and the city’s boroughs has made 100s of victims in the last ten years: dozens of people - among with are numerous children and people with disabilities - were obliged to improvise homes on pavements. Although they had placed requests for social housing from the authorities, these requests were ignored by the local administrations. Bucharest does not have a strategy in the medium term for solving the problem of housing. At the Government level, a strategy on this subject has been drafted, recently, with the support of the World Bank. 

The National Strategy of Housing proposes solutions which have the potential to be favourable to both the problems outlined here and the fate of Bucharest.

We have noted, also, the appearance of a change in attitude on these two subjects at the level of the borough mayors. The Mayor of Bucharest's southern ‘Sector 5’ evacuated a community of 60 persons from improvised housing and relocated them in a building which is planned to be habitable and subsidised. Also the Mayor of Bucharest has announced that the activity of the Mayor will give priority to the problems of buildings affected by major seismic risk, by setting up structures dedicated to dealing with these problems. 


In these conditions, we appreciate that - at least at the level of intentions - there exist significant changes in the attitude of the mayor regarding the right to life and a home, consolidated by a strategy proposed by the Romanian Government - therefore we cannot be against the candidacy of the city of Bucharest.

Cluj Napoca: As a reminder, the northern city of Cluj Napoca evacuated 76 families - most of whom were Roma - and forced them to remain at the edge of rubbish dump in the village of Pata Rat - where they remain today.  

The city has been fined by the National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD) for discriminatory behaviour - a decision the High Courthas validated.

More than this, although the Mayor Emil Boc proclaims that Cluj is a “modern city, multicultural, with a European mindset and a democratic structure in which many different groups live together in harmony”, the public authorities refuse to continue to include the Hungarian language in public signage.

Also, in 2015, in a defiant gesture addressed to the Hungarian community (which numbers 55,000 persons), the local authorities placed at the entrance to the town a sign which read: ‘Welcome to our city’ in seven languages (Korean, Romanian,  English, French, German and Russian) - but not in Hungarian

The project for Cultural Capital drawn up by the team from Cluj-Napoca makes a reference to the problems of inclusion, in particular by encouraging the inclusion of the Hungarians and the Roma. In our belief, the project's concentration on this issue is minimal - as it sees only the facilitation of dialogue and educational programs for adults and children. We consider that these proposals are indecent, especially while expelled families continue to live in unacceptable conditions for the 21st century in an EU member country.

For this reason, the undersigned organisations consider that the city of Cluj-Napoca is incompatible with the title of European Capital of Culture

Baia Mare: As a reminder, the City Hall has built a wall between a community of mostly Roma and the neighbouring area. This was condemned by the National Authority to Combat Discrimination (CNCD), which was -  like Cluj-Napoca - validated by the High Court. Since then, the authorities have taken no action to demolish this wall.

The Baia Mare project team for the Candidature of the city do explicitly address the theme inclusion of vulnerable groups, including the Roma, and propose valid attempts to transform the situation.  

Undermining the credibility of these proposals is, unfortunately, the lack of any message from the local authority regarding compliance with a court judgment and reparation for a symbol of segregation.

For this reason, the undersigned organizations consider that Baia Mare is incompatible with the title of European Capital of Culture

 

Note: we are aware that some members of the international jury have stated that fundamental human rights are not included in the list of judging criteria, so these issues can be ignored. 

In our opinion, the compliance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union is mandatory even if they are not explicitly mentioned in the procedures used by EU institutions. 

As Cluj-Napoca and Baia Mare infringe Article 21 on non-discrimination and Cluj-Napoca violates Article 22 on "cultural, religious and linguistic diversity”, it is imperative that EU values of respecting fundamental human rights need to be taken into consideration. 

Validating the candidature of these two municipalities will mean that the European Union is accepting the violation of fundamental human rights.


 

Mircea Toma, ActiveWatch

Marian Mandache, Romani Criss

Mihai Bumbes, Militia Spirituala

Șerban Sturdza, Pro Patrimonio

ActiveWatch / CC BY 3.0