Bucharest “It is a city still figuring out what it wants to be”

Fatih Eren*

Initially wanted to analyse Bucharest as a global city in this section because Bucharest is at a stage of economic, social, and physical transition as a result of global concern which started especially after 2005. Bucharest is the capital city of Romania which lies in the south-eastern part of Romania. It is the biggest city and the principal political, cultural, and economic centre of Romania.

Romania joined to European Union in 2007. This ac- cession was a breaking point for Romania in terms of the emergence of global concern towards the country. Romania suddenly became the centre of foreign direct investments in Southeast Europe. It was natural that the Bucharest–Ilfov regions which were the pioneer counties of the country were the most interesting places for global investors.

Localities under global concern

The future of localities under global impact

After Romania’s accession to the EU, Bucharest has started to attract investment capital from EU funds. EU has granted 30 million euro to the country as state aids for infrastructure investments (telecommunication, transportation, energy), and 22 million euro of this aid was given to Bucharest – Ilfov regions.

Bucharest has also benefited from the rising foreign direct investment flows due to the privatization process in the banking, telecommunication, utilities, and manufacturing sectors in the country. International institutional investors from Europe have gone in a competition for loading the operations of major public services or purchasing important public enterprises in the country.

Many individual and institutional small investors from the world have found a place for themselves in Bucharest as well in order to benefit from the fast-growing economy of Romania. These private investors have focused their investments on two sectors: real estate and information technology (IT).

Today, international investments are still going on in Bucharest despite the global economic crisis which emerged at the end of 2008. Bucharest has started to feel the impact of this global concern on its urban form, social and economic life.

The impact of global concern on Bucharest: Analysis

The global concern on Bucharest gave a chance to the city to renew and develop its old urban infrastructure after 2007. Using EU funds, the city renovated its drainage infrastructure; a railroad beltway, a new airport, motorways, and hydroelectric power plants have been constructed in Bucharest. These are good developments for Bucharest. However, Bucharest is facing with new hardships in the new global era which it didn’t meet in its history.

The biggest challenge for Bucharest is ‘identity’. The city was developed in an oriental (Asian) urban form under a constitutional monarchy in history. Between 1948 (the World War II) and 1989 (the Revolution), the city was subject to communist urban developments under the socialist republic. For the last 21 years, the city is under the influence of occidental (western European) urban developments.

The location of Bucharest in Romania

Table 1: Foreign Direct Investments between 1995 and 2009 in Romania (UNCTAD)

It is important to underline the fact that global investments are strongly supported and speeded up the occidental urban developments in Bucharest. Historically, there are many discontinues and non-linear streets which emerged as a consequence of the city’s organic growth between 15th and 19th century. These organic streets (dead streets) may be converted to continual (regular) streets; narrow streets may also be developed into wide streets in the context of a revitalization project in the public transportation system in the near future. EU is expected some reformations in the urban structure and some revitalizations in the public transport system in Bucharest. It is natural that these reformation and revitalization projects must be up to EU standards. Bucharest’s existed unique urban standards will meet with general EU standards in these revitalizations and renewal pro- jects. Here, the question is: Will Bucharest take into consideration of its previous local characteristics/ vision/ structures which are coming from its history OR Will Bucha- rest ignore its own past and take possession of a new characteristics/ vision/ structures for itself which was specified by EU?

Another challenge for Bucharest in its globalisation and liberalisation process is the ‘integration’ at a variety of scales. The long-term perspectives and demands of EU and the short-term perspectives and demands of local authorities on Bucharest are in conflict in the city. The basic reason for this conflict is the competition between decisional local authorities in Bucharest. Local authorities are prefer short term approaches which usually support ongoing urban development trends in their practices. However, EU tried to put Bucharest (Romania in general) in a specific position (the centre of technology investments and trade) in South Europe which is appropriate for the new strategic vision of EU. Therefore, the application of EU directions for the territorial development is quite weak in Bucharest at this stage. An effort to establish strong partnerships between project elaborating actors and implementing actors of those projects is needed in the near future.

The changing cost of living is also a matter in Bucharest. On one hand, the sales of residential property to international investors were speeded up after 2005 as a result of economic and legal reforms which was made by the state in the EU membership process. This international investment interest on the city’s housing stock caused a rapid increase on house prices and house rents in Bucharest. On the other hand, many international brands were involved in the local retail market through newly developed shopping centres after 2007 and the prices of retailing products increased gradually as much as the European average in the stores and supermarkets of new shopping centres. The number of wholesale markets and market places which have a semi-legal status and provide relatively cheap retailing products to the customers are decreasing year to year in a planned way in order to take the unregistered local economy under control in the city in relation with the city’s future vision. These developments mean that the cost of living in Bucharest is rising every year under global impact.

Bucharest is introduced to a new social life and order in the new global process. It is becoming the centre of new technology investments in Romania in coherence with the Romania’s territorial development plan and new EU vision for South Europe. In this context, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology was founded in the city in 2008. In addition, a new large technology park was planned by territorial authorities in the city. As a result of governmental incentives towards IT sector, many international technology companies came to Bucharest and opened their head offices in this city. There are about 13.000 IT companies at the moment. Every year, about 3000 new small, middle, or large technology companies have been established in the city. These developments will lead the birth of a new upper social class among the local urban community. The lifestyle of this new social class will be different from the ordinary local people of Bucharest in terms of living and working times and order in the urban area. This new social group and their visitors will bring in a social mobility and high-style living to Bucharest.

New developments will have a negative impact on the success of present transportation policy in Bucharest. One of the key transportation strategy for Bucharest is to reduce car traffic in the city. New shopping centres with available parking spaces which were developed all over the city makes the realization of this strategy difficult. In addition, users and visitors of new A-class office buildings and technology centres may tend to use their private cars instead of public transportation in the future. Therefore, the free and flexible movements of the people working and visiting these offices and centres can also be another difficulty on the success of the restriction on car use policy. It is important to bear in mind that the rising levels of car ownership under global impact will increase traffic congestion together with air and noise pollution in the near future in Bucharest.

I want to complete my Bucharest analysis with an environmental impact of the global concern. As part of the European waterway project connect- ing the Rhine and Danube rivers, bottlenecks in the Danube rivers between Bulgaria and Romania will be eliminated. This project involves the artificial deepening of the river to reach a minimum depth of 2.5 meters at all times of the year. This trans-national project seems to be an important transportation project for Europe’s cohesion. However, not only this project may have a permanent negative impact on valuable intact stretches along the Danube, but also it may have an negative impact on the speed and amount of water flowing in the rivers of Bucharest. These rivers are hosted several important species such as Dalmatian Pelicans. A less destructive, ecological, and innovative solutions must be considered in the project design process for environmental care and for saving the natural life in the rivers of the world. PR


* Fatih Eren is Doctoral Researcher in Department of Town and Regional Planning, University of Sheffield. E-mail: trp07fe@sheffield.ac.uk


Previous post Iceland Towards EU Membership
Next post Confucius Vs. Avatar: Rethinking Confucian Advocacy in the 21st Century

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *