Interview with Professor Petruta Moisi
At the end of last week, Mrs. Petruta Moisi was - with another person from Galati - in Ukraine, to participate in the studies of the public extraordinary Forum of the nongovernmental environment organizations, when she met the spokesmen of an international community shocked by the way the Bystroe Canal problem is being treated, but also with the controlled fury of the Ukrainians. A group of protestors harassed the Romanian delegation. We tried to find out more about the actual situation of Bystroe Canal, but also about the incident which took place upon the arrival of the Romanians.
-What did really happen in Ukraine?
-At the invitation of the International Socio-Ecologic Union, Odessa Filial, and of the world Wildlife Found office, we arrived at Odessa, at the Forum organized in parallel with the International Mission guided by the European Commission, as a response to the reaction of the international community to the plan of the Ukrainian Government to build Bystroe Canal. Contrary to what we expected, at Vilkovo we had to face in an organized gathering with hangers. There were up to 60-70 persons, with the police, a sign that the authorities were involved in this story too. At the beginning, I thought that they had gathered there with the same purpose as we did, that is to discuss with the members of the delegation of the International Mission, and later I realized that they had gathered very quickly against the nongovernmental Romanian group who arrived at Vilkovo with peaceful thoughts. When they saw our car, with the "Romania" indicative, the crowd started to wiggle, we approached to see what was written on their hangers and from the message we understood that they were on the other side of the barricade. They were speaking Romanian, so I answered in Romanian; I said that I was representing the nongovernmental sector from Romania and the Hydrographic Basin of the Danube. From that moment they stopped being interested in listening to us, they gathered around us and they started vociferating: "Romania goes home!", "Lady, go home!", and they started being verbally aggressive, in Russian and in Romanian, so I refused to speak Romanian. My colleagues started to make phone calls and so we found out that the rest of the group was half an hour far away, and others were astray. So, practically, they tried to scatter us, because we had been given contradictory information. Suddenly, the discussion became more aggressive, we also wrote with lipstick on the maps that we had (in Romanian, in Russian and in English): " Bystroe Canal : disinformation, manipulation and lies".
-What do you think determined this violent reaction of the Ukrainians?
-We were quiet because the reaction of the Ukrainians was uncommonly aggressive towards me and Romania. When the spirits calmed down, I listened to their arguments and I realized how fragmentary their information is, how misinformed the local community is and how many lies they received, passing them over. It was out of the question for them to become physically aggressive; the people realized that that wasn't for their best interest. Anyway, they refused to listen to anything that was connected to the status of the Biosphere Reservation of the Danube Delta. They only talked about the fact that Romania was afraid that Ukraine might become a competitor in navigation and because the Romanian harbors would dwindle, as well as the navigation on Sulina Canal, that Romania would lose, lose, lose .
-How was the conflict ended?
-My colleague, from WWF told them that the problem is of financial nature that Ukraine receives from the European Community immense sums of money for economy, culture, social life and environment. Ukraine has some duties due to this financial support, and the mistake it is making now is the destruction of its natural heritage, a capital error because UE and international organisms will reconsider their policy of financial support of Ukraine.
-What do you think about the alarming speed of the works?
-Their inhabitants do not link their little universe to what is happening in the entire basin of the Danube, their information is extremely poor and, if we take into account that at the end of October there are parliamentary and presidential elections, then the haste of the Ukrainians to excavate Bystroe Arm and to build a dyke in the northern part of the arm, in the Black Sea, is, in fact, an act of despair so as the financial support that the governing party received during this period from the business sector, hoping that they will be able to manipulate the international community, restraining the conflict only to the one between Romania and Ukraine.
-All the same, how does the international community see" The Bystroe Issue"?
- Practically, the people are furious. Until now, both the scientific community and the international nongovernmental community have proved truthful. Ten other alternatives were proposed to the Ukrainian Government, but they were totally ignored. The second reason to be angry is connected to Ukraine's policy of zoning the Delta. On 2nd February 2004, the Government of Ukraine declared that Bystroe area and some other islands no longer belong to the Bystroe Reservation. The zoning policy regards other important areas from the Chilia Arm too. The closure of the works here doesn't mean the closure of the entire project's works, planned to be finished in 2008. The prior destruction of Chilia arm is of bigger amplitude and at this moment we are trying to catch the eye of the international community only to Romania's interests and Bystroe Canal.
-How did the Ukrainian civil society react?
- In May, I participated in Ukraine in a workshop on the subject of the wetlands and then I had asked the participants about the plans on the canal. Everyone was embarrassed to answer to my question and I had the vague impression that we were in the communist period again, when everybody knew what it was all about, but everyone was afraid to talk. Now I met a deep-seated nongovernmental community, connected to the information circulating at an international level, more sure that it isn't left alone and it is given support.
-The international legislation was trespassed. Why hasn't Ukraine been punished till now?
-Eleven international conventions were trespassed, because Ukraine is not even a candidate to UE. The only who can initiate sanctions are UNESCO, the Ramsar Convention Secretariate, Berna and Espoo and the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River. So, there are organisms without politic power and Ukraine has taken great advantage of this thing.
-It is known why our neighbors reacted like this, the economic interests are indubitable. All the same, why did the Romanian diplomacy react so late?
-I know how the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs got involved in the Bystroe issue since 30th June 2003, but at the level of the International Commission for the Protection of the River Danube, the concern has been present for a longer time, because we have already received signals from Ukraine. The lack of official information has retained the Romanian diplomacy very much. It is true, the involvement wasn't obvious, but at the mentioned date MAE had invited us to Bucharest, with other 7 or 8 nongovernmental environmental organizations from Romania and we were told that they didn't have official information, and they couldn't do anything based on rumors. From the moment we took acknowledgement, the informative flow from Ukraine to us and from us to the international community started to function. In fact, these international organisms were in offside, because they didn't imagine that an international convention signed by Ukraine in 2000 will be completely ignored in 2001. In my opinion, the Ukrainians have taken maximum advantage of the small fiascos of the Romanian diplomacy and of the delays that the Ministry of Environment and Water Management and the Ministry of Transports have registered in that period. We shouldn't forget the fact that there were local elections and, between April and June, everybody was interested in some other things, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Geoana had another campaign. So, Ukraine has taken advantage of the whole situation of our country.
-What do you expect from this forum?
-We have elaborated a resolution and we have given it to the European Commission. We want the works at Bystroe Canal to stop, Ukraine to be helped to surpass this crisis moment and then to initiate a strategy for the whole Danube Delta, not only for the Reservation.
'Viata libera' newspaper,10 october 2004