Europa Nostra: Letter to the new President of Romania

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Europa Nostra: Letter to the new President of Romania

9. January 2015

Europa Nostra, The Hague, 21 December 2014

Dear President Klaus Iohannis,

On behalf of Europa Nostra, the pan-European federation for cultural heritage, we wish to extend our warm congratulations on your election as President of Romania. Your compelling victory in the recent vote showed the commitment of Romanian citizens to the values and aims which underpinned your candidacy – integrity, competence, rigour, but also the fight against corruption – and inspired admiration and hope in people across Europe.

As you take office today, please receive, alongside our heartfelt praise, our expression of hope for a fruitful cooperation in the field of cultural heritage. In this respect, we acknowledge your remarkable achievements as Mayor of Sibiu, a city which has transformed during your successive terms in office, to a significant extent due to laying culture and heritage as a base for its development. The special attention you have given to culture and to heritage is best expressed by the 2007 designation of Sibiu / Hermannstadt as European Capital of Culture alongside Luxembourg. From those years we recall with great pleasure our events hosted by the city of Sibiu, the 2005 Europa Nostra Scientific Council Meeting and its symposium Fortified Churches and Monasteries, and the 2007 Annual Meeting of the European Heritage Days National Coordinators, a joint action of the Council of Europe and the European Union, where Europa Nostra acted as Liaison Office, and organized, in cooperation with the Council of Europe and the Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs of Romania, a workshop on “Communicating about the Cultural Heritage”.

Europa Nostra is presenting, on behalf of the European Commission, the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards, and in this capacity we have witnessed and recognised impressive achievements in the field of cultural heritage by Romanian individuals and organisations, which place your country among the significant actors on the scene of European heritage. Let us remember the most recent of these, the Prize at category Conservation, the Public Choice Award and the Grand Prix awarded to the restoration of the 17th century frescoes at Dragomirna Monastery, earlier this year, and several others, such as Ms. Paraschiva Kovacs (Dedicated service, Grand prix, 2012); Golia Monastery (Conservation, 2012); Dr Hans-Christian Habermann (Dedicated service, 2011); Brukenthal National Museum (Education, Training and Awareness Raising, 2010); Mr. Șerban Cantacuzino (Dedicated service, 2008); International Built Heritage Conservation Training Centre at Bánffy Castle in Bonţida (Education, Training and Awareness Raising, 2008); Mihai Eminescu Trust (Dedicated service, 2006); Hill Church, Sighișoara (Conservation, 2004); Mr. Călin Hoinărescu (Dedicated service, 2003); Rîmetea Heritage Conservation Project (Conservation, 1999).

Concurrently, our organisation is campaigning in favour of endangered heritage, and in this field of action, one of our long lasting campaigns is dedicated to the rescue of Roșia Montană, the outstanding mining cultural landscape in the Apuseni Mountains. We have been following this case for many years, and one year ago, on launching the new 7 Most Endangered Programme, we have considered the application by Romanian organisations Pro Patrimonio, ARA and Alburnus Maior and placed Roșia Montană on the first list of Europe’s most endangered monuments and sites.[i] This year, our second list of the 7 Most Endangered includes, at the initiative of Pro Patrimonio, the wooden churches of northern Wallachia and southern Transylvania (counties Gorj, Vâlcea, Sibiu, and Hunedoara).

Roșia Montană

Dear Mr President, we have repeatedly addressed the Romanian authorities, urging them to save Roșia Montană, a place of utmost cultural importance and to envisage and implement a long-term sustainable development strategy for the inhabitants and the heritage and environment of the region. We have also supported, along other international bodies, the initiative of local organisations to include Roșia Montană in Romania’s Tentative List of World Heritage Sites.[ii]

Our stand is made in support of and underpinned by well documented and well defined positions by Romanian organisations: Romanian Academy, Babeș-Bolyai University, Romanian Chamber of Architects, Romanian Union of Architects, ARA, Pro Patrimonio, ICOMOS Romania and others. In this strive Europa Nostra is joined by major international bodies, such as ICOMOS,[iii] UIA – International Union of Architects, CEA –  European Council of Architects, and by a wide international professional support to the cause of Roșia Montană, strongly expressed many times over the past decade.

In your turn, Mr. President, on addressing this issue you have repeatedly expressed your disagreement to the mining project proposed at Roșia Montană, based above all on environmental and social grounds. You also spoke of the state’s share in the project and the distribution of gains, and you did mention cultural heritage, particularly the Roman galleries.

We are very encouraged by your position to the case of Roșia Montană and especially about your reference to cultural heritage. In this respect we wish to stress that, in our view, this is the strongest of arguments in favour of Roșia Montană, because it is not provisional. Technologies and shares may change in time, and if these are the only arguments, they would open the way for large-scale, open-cast mining and the ensuing destruction, whereas cultural heritage, if well maintained and preserved, will only get richer, allowing for a real sustainable development for the area. Please allow us to reiterate, in this context, that Roșia Montană is above all a cultural heritage place – a cultural landscape, to be more precise – of greatest value for European culture and civilization. Among many reports and assessments on the value of Roșia Montană in terms of cultural heritage we recall here the recently disclosed report by British archaeologists of Oxford and Leicester Universities, which places Roșia Montană on the World Heritage level.[iv]

In closing, we have to express once more our concern over the commitment of the Romanian Government to kick-starting the mining project, renewed just a few days ago by the Minister of Economy upon his investiture.[v] To witness such a position, after the wide public protests ignited just one year ago over the same initiative of the government is disquieting. Last year’s public stand for constitutional rights and in support of cultural heritage, which grew into a movement coined as the Romanian Autumn, was inspiring for us all, and it should not be belittled.

Under these circumstances we feel that a firm and well-argued public position on the value of this outstanding site, coming from the new President will be effective in placing the debate on the positive track of cultural heritage and its value for society, in tune with the actual European policy directions. We, at Europa Nostra, will be very happy to assist with the expertise of our members in any way that would be considered useful.

We also hope to be able to cooperate with your office on a new vision and development plan for the area of Roșia Montană, something which has been recognised as necessary in many international public positions lately, and which is actually being prepared by our Romanian member organisations with the support of our network and partners. We will be very happy to receive your opinion on the above and to set up the details of a cooperation on the case of Roșia Montană and of cultural heritage in general.

We wish you, Mr President, every success in your new and weighty responsibilities.

Yours sincerely,

Plácido Domingo, President

Denis de Kergorlay, Executive President

Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General



[i] The 7 Most Endangerd Programme:

[ii] Position expressed in several letters to Romanian authorities and in public positions. See Europa Nostra appeals to Romania’s Parliament to opt for an alternative and sustainable development of Rosia Montana, Oct. 15, 2013,, or Rosia Montana: Europa Nostra writes to the new government of Romania, Jul. 17, 2012,

[iii] See latest resolution, adopted at the 18th General Assembly, in Florence, in December 2014: Rescue of the Roşia Montană mining landscape and promotion of sustainable development model,

[iv] Statement of Significance. Cârnic Massif, Roșia Montană, jud Alba, Romania, and Response to D. Jennings, A Critical Analysis of the Report: ‘Statement of Significance: Cârnic Massif, Roşia Montană, jud Alba Romania’ by A Wilson, D Mattingly and M Dawson, From the first document we cite the following paragraph:

Together, the subterranean workings, the surface landscape of ore processing areas, settlements, religious places and cemeteries, and the documented history of the associated  communities  are  an  extraordinarily  detailed  record  of  the  activity  of Roman, medieval, Early Modern and communist-period mining exploitation. They constitute a powerful case for regarding the Roșia Montană mines as of equivalent importance to listed World Heritage sites. If assessed against the UNESCO criteria of significance of outstanding universal value (only one of which need to be satisfied to make a site eligible for World Heritage status), we believe that for Roșia Montană a strong case can be made that it meets the following criteria:

(ii) exhibits an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;

(iii) bears a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;

(iv) is an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage(s) in human history;

(v) is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with  the  environment  especially  when  it  has  become  vulnerable  under  the impact of irreversible change.”

[v] Mihai Tudose a spus că doreşte o nouă lege a minelor. Legat de acest lucru, Tudose a afirmat că susţine proiectul Roşia Montană, dacă exploatarea se va face în condiţii de securitate,; New Economy ministers favors Rosia Montana exploitation,