Anti-fracking in Romania

I have come across this interesting article about anti-fracking in Romania. Many in the US or the UK may not realise this but despite many similarities in the ways that shale gas extraction has been fought across the world, opposing fracking in Central and Eastern Europe is a completely different kettle of fish from what it is in other parts of the continent.

Researchers from the West University of Timisoara, Romania, show how the specific post-communist context in the country influences its anti-fracking movement. They claim that in addition to the specific demands related to the proposed shale gas development, the anti-fracking protests in Romania are also articulating a broader critique of neoliberal economic policies and governance. The pro-fracking arguments in Romania are strong and they emphasise the potentially real geopolitical advantages that might come from the domestic development of shale gas. This could move the country towards enhancing its energy security and reducing its dependency on gas imports from Russia (which is characteristic of the entire region). Post-communist economies are also hungry for foreign direct investment that the multinational energy giants such as Chevron could bring to their countries.

The Romanian anti-fracking movement is battling these arguments using a number of different, sometimes fairly unusual, arguments. The authors claim, for example, that the anti-fracking campaigners have posited themselves as defenders of the national interest against the 'supporters of US interests'. The Orthodox Church was also involved and helped mobilise local population. In addition to slogans associated with the global justice mobilisations, the protesters also used conservative arguments about shale gas being a threat to their national identity. The researchers had also this to say about the role of the state: “the state ceased to be seen as a partner in ecological reforms, but rather was seen as responsible for the degradation of the environment and as a collaborator with multinational corporations in the process of the commodification of nature in the current neoliberal environment” (300). The authors hope that the movement would be able to spur change in the direction of a more democratic and participatory politics of natural resources.

Vesalon, L., & Creţan, R. (2015). ‘We are not the Wild West’: anti-fracking protests in Romania. Environmental Politics, 24(2), 288–307.