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Băneasa case judge charged with abuse of office and wrongfully convicting defendant




Judge Corneliu-Bogdan Ion-Tudoran, who ruled in Romania’s high profile Băneasa real estate development case, has been charged with wrongly convicting a defendant and for abuse of office for his conduct in the case. The Băneasa development involved businessman Gabriel Popoviciu and concerned 221 hectares which was owned by the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine (USAMV), through a joint venture.

It emerged that last month, Judge Tudoran has been charged with wrongfully convicting a defendant and abuse of office for his misconduct in the Popoviciu - Băneasa case. It was already known that Judge Tudoran provided the statement of reasons for the decision on the civil side of the Popoviciu - Băneasa case almost a whole year after the ruling. At that point he was retired and, when no longer still held the position of judge. Moreover, at the time of writing his judicial opinion, he was actually hospitalised in a psychiatric centre, with the document being delivered to the court room on a USB stick by his son.

The charges against him in January of this year revealed that his alleged misconduct dated back even further and included the invention of evidence to justify the confiscation of lands and buildings of the largest shopping complex in Romania.

The investigation, directed by Nicolae Marin of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA), into the Băneasa case appears to have had many irregularities. The DNA prosecutors opened the a case for “abuse of office”, despite the fact that the Prosecutor General's Office had investigated the case and rejected it. However, in 2008 the DNA reopened the case on the grounds that the damages exceeded one million Euros. This is despite the fact that the calculation of the damages was not actually estimated and reported by the DNA specialists until 2010, two years later.

The catalogue of irregularities relating to Marin’s investigation includes the claim that the main prosecution witness admitted in court that he was not bribed by the businessman, thus contradicting the investigators. A former Minister of Education, in addition to other witnesses, told the DNA that the land in Băneasa was never public property and, therefore, the prosecutor's office could not support the legal accusation of abuse of office. University professors were allegedly threatened with arrest by prosecutor Nicolae Marin if they did not vote in the Senate that the University was constituting itself as a civil party, as requested in writing by the DNA, as has been widely reported by the press. These threats against the University professors were revealed during the senate meeting held on 27 July 2012 which was audio and video recorded and submitted as evidence in the case.

Not only did Judge Tudoran not question the excesses of the prosecutor, it is alleged he  went so far as to invent evidence in order to justify the accusations in the indictment prepared by Nicolae Marin. Judge Tudoran is accused of hatching a story to prove at any cost that the land was so-called public property of the state and to nationalise again the lands that belonged to the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Bucharest (USAMV), over which the state had no legal right of ownership.

These charges against the former judge undermine his ruling in the Popoviciu - Băneasa case completely. They also raise deeper questions about the current state of the Romanian justice system, where it would appear that both the investigation and court systems are abused.



Illegal fishing

Conservation success: Fishing for wild sturgeon and selling wild sturgeon products banned indefinitely in Romania

EU Reporter Correspondent



Hot on the heels of the release of WWF’s sturgeon market survey last week that detailed the systemic poaching of critically endangered sturgeon along the Lower Danube, there is some fantastic conservation news from Romania.  Romania has taken a firm decision to indefinitely extend its 5-year temporary ban on fishing and selling of all 6 wild sturgeon species and wild sturgeon products. The decision was supported by scientific evidence gathered during WWF’s Life for Danube Sturgeon Project. The decision follows a long campaign by WWF and many other conservation organisations. Romania has now joined other countries in the region where sturgeon fishing has been permanently banned. Bulgaria remains the last country in the Black Sea Basin without a permanent ban in place, but it extended its temporary ban on sturgeon fishing in its Danube and Black Sea territory in January for another five years.

"Sturgeons are long-lived species and take decades to recover from their critical status. A fishing ban without the previous 5-year limitation is the right step forward" - Beate Striebel, WWFs Sturgeon Initiative Lead. 

According to the sturgeon market survey conducted by WWF in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine in 2016-2020, poaching and the illegal market for caviar and wild sturgeon meat are among the most serious threats to sturgeon survival in the Lower Danube basin. During the survey, meat and caviar samples were gathered from retailers, restaurants, markets, intermediaries, aquaculture facilities, from fishermen and from online offers. Although fishing and selling wild sturgeon (and products) are prohibited in all these countries, the market survey showed that poaching and illegal selling and buying of wild sturgeon and sturgeon products is widespread in the region. 

A very important condition of the bans in Bulgaria and Romania is the additional

requirement for fishermen to report sturgeon bycatch and release it immediately in the respective river basin, regardless of their state of health. Bycatch remains a large threat for sturgeon species in the Danube and the Black Sea but very little is known about the numbers of fish that are accidentally caught. This change is significant because it will enable more efficient enforcement and help us better understand the volume and circumstances of bycatch. The ban also completely prohibits the use of any fishing equipment specifically used for catching sturgeon, such as ohanas and karmaks

“Extending the ban indefinitely is an important step in sturgeon conservation. But it is not enough. An integrated and fair approach means working with fishing communities from communication, to involvement in conservation activities and alternative solutions to lost income, better law enforcement, proper research and monitoring, maintaining migration routes and last but not least, awareness of sturgeon products consumers in terms of their legality,” said Save Danube Sturgeons Life Natura Project WWF-Romania Coordinator Cristina Munteanu.

WWF Central and Eastern Europe (WWF-CEE) is currently involved in two sturgeon conservation projects tackling sturgeon poaching In Romania. The MEASURES

project aims to create ecological corridors by identifying key habitats and initiating protection measures along the Danube and its main tributaries. MEASURES has also released more than 9,000 baby sturgeon into the Danube.  Sturgeon are further helped through the SWIPE (Successful Wildlife Crime Prosecution in Europe) project, that aims to discourage and ultimately reduce wildlife crime by improving compliance with EU environmental law and increasing the number of successfully prosecuted offences.

WWF appreciates the increasingly strong commitment made by Romania and Bulgaria in taking crucial steps for the survival of sturgeons in the Green Heart of Europe.

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Bucharest prepares for Solar Decathlon Competition in 2023

Cristian Gherasim, Bucharest correspondent



Romania’s capital will preparing for the Solar Decathlon Competition which is an international competition for solar home designs, writes Cristian Gherasim, Bucharest correspondent.

The event was announced following a press conferences held by EFdeN and the Energy Endeavour Foundation, a recent winner of the European Solar Prize, stewarding student research competitions & awareness activities in the fields of social, economic & environmental resource-responsibility.

The Solar Decathlon Europe (SDE) is an international student-based Competition that challenges collegiate Teams to design, build and operate highly efficient and innovative buildings powered by renewable energy.The winner of the Competition is the Team able to score the most points in 10 contests.

Solar Decathlon is the most important sustainable housing competition in the world and first took place in 2002 in the United States. The Minister of Environment, Waters and Forests, Barna Tánczos, announced that the Government will partially provide financial support for the organization of the competition in Bucharest, and next week will approve a formal Memorandum in the Government in this regard, after which a Government Decision will be drafted.

The Minister of Environment likened this competition to the World or European environment championship.

“We will succeed in organizing flawlessly such an international competitions in Romania. It's like having a World or European Championship taking place in your country. Certainly we are much more receptive sometimes to the European Football Championship, because we are used to being in the stands, to support the national team. But this national team made up of young researchers, students with vision and the will to do something as important as any other national team, managed to bring such a competition to Romania. The Ministry of Environment will support this team and this initiative, together with our colleagues from the other ministries ", the minister declared during the press conference.

Until 2023, when the competition is scheduled to take place in Bucharest, Romania will be present at the 2021 edition of the international competition, which will take place in Germany, in Wuppertal.

At the previous edition of the “Solar Decathlon”, which took place in November 2018, in Dubai, EFdeN, the NGO which will be representing Romania during the upcoming edition, designed the EFdeN Signature solar house project, carried out by a team made up mainly of students. The house has a usable area of 75 square meters and consists of dining, living room, a bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchen. The building is 100% electric, and the energy is produced with the help of photovoltaic panels, which are arranged on the roof of the house. The price of the house amounts to 300,000 euros.

Gabriel Paun, environmental expert, told EU Reporter that the Solar Decathlon Competition brings forward some of the best environment friendly designs and some most innovative projects ever conceived.

“I would bet that the winner will come up with a house design that is equally efficient from the energy point of view and minimalist in terms of using resources/materials. It should also be a very beautiful, comfortable, plastic free and vegan”, Paun told EU Reporter.

Paun said that there are some many tools and methods to develop an environment friendly home.

“New findings show that even plastic can be made out of plants. Hemp can be used as an isolation material”, he told EU Reporter.

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Romania racing to become the second EU country to launch its own satellite

Cristian Gherasim, Bucharest correspondent



The first Romanian satellite will be launched from the Black Sea area using a rocket designed and manufactured exclusively in the country, writes Cristian Gherasim.

With the June launch, Romania will put into orbit its first space satellite, becoming thus the second country in the EU after France to have done so.

According to the Romanian Cosmonautics and Aeronautics Association (ARCA), a private endeavor which focuses on building rockets and high altitude balloons, the launch is scheduled for early June.

By getting involved in launching Romania’s first satellite the Romanian Cosmonautics and Aeronautics Association aims to win the € 10 million prize offered by the European Commission. The award aims to stimulate the European aerospace industry to build satellite launch missiles, with a low impact on the environment and a low launch cost.

On ARCA Facebook page it’s being mentioned that the company has previously blasted into the higher layers of the atmosphere two stratospheric rockets, four large-scale stratospheric balloons, including a cluster-type balloon, and received two government contracts with the Romanian Government and a contract with the European Space Agency. It is also in the process of devising EcoRocket - a semi-reusable, steam-powered missile.

In the meantime, the volume of information needed to be gathered in order to prepare for the June space launch is staggering. There are very demanding requirements to be met in order for everything to go according to plan.

The people involved in every detail of this endeavor have to first go through a very rigorous training program, both from a theoretical but also practical standpoint. The technicalities involved are numerous and so many things can go wrong.

The company handling the launch said in a statement: “ARCA launch missions that include naval operations are the most complex type of mission we conduct. They require an exceptional effort to coordinate operations, in close cooperation with actively involved naval and military and civil aviation units. The security measures of the launch are exceptional, and we are proud of a 100% safety percentage."

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