On the 23rd of August 2018, Romanian prime-minister Viorica Dăncilă orders the hydroelectric project generically named “Turnu Magurele-Nicopole” to be included in the list of strategic projects. What is kept hidden behind the generic name is the exact place where the hydroelectric dame is to be constructed, Belina Island on the Danube.
That same day, 23rd Auguts 2018, is prime-minister Dăncilă’s first public appearance after the biggest protest against her government. At 10th of August 2018, hundreds of thousands of Romanians had taken to the streets to protest against the government headed by Viorica Dăncilă, meeting brutal and unprecedented agression of the authorities. The two following weeks she had spent in hiding, without making any declaration.
Viorica Dăncilă later declared that she had taken a spontaneous vacation.
In her first appearance after these events, Viorica Dăncilă suggestst that what happened on the 10th of August was an unsuccesful coup d’etat against her government, and announces a gigantic hydroelectric plant on Belina Island.
Since 2011 Belina Island has been captured by the company “Tel Drum”, a company privatised and controlled through middle-men by Liviu Dragnea, , former president of the Romanian Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the Chamber of Deputies, and current inmate of Rahova prison in Bucharest.
Officially Tel Drum and the Romanian national administration of waters closed a lease of the water surface to the former in the scope of “fisheries development”. The company Tel Drum, however, went on to cut the Pavel arm of the Danube (which is separating Belina Island from the Romanian shore) with dams and to put in place barricades and security guards thus cutting off the island from its surroundings and denying entry to locals, including local fishermen. The barriers and security guards remain in place to this day.
The story however begins much earlier, with the promise of a pharaonic development made by the Romanian dictator Ceaușescu in the 1970s. The promise, after 50 years, has not been fulfilled but neither has it died away as it is used every time the local or national administration seems the need for announcing something grandiose.
From Ceaușescu to Dagnea, Crin Antonescu, Ponta and today’s prime minister Viorica Dăncilă almost every Romanian leader of the last 30 years has announced great projects for Belina Island, up until the utopian promise has become an electoral lie, recycled and recycled again.
In second episode of our mini-series we invite you on a journey in time, starting 50 years ago when politics entered the island. A story about how to capture an entire island on the Danube, step by step.