On November 16, CEE Legal Matters reported that Popescu & Asociatii had successfully represented the interests of the City of Sinaia in a construction dispute. CEE In-House Matters spoke with Vlad Oprea, the Mayor of Sinaia, to learn more about the matter.
CEEIHM: To start, tell us a bit about Sinaia and why this project is particularly important for the city.
Oprea: Sinaia is a beautiful mountain resort and a tourist destination, both for Romanians but also for foreign tourists. The city is a popular destination during the whole year for its tourist attractions: castles, museums, old churches and monasteries, parks, festivals, cultural events, cable car, and ski lift from which you can admire the beauty of the city from above. Also, the city is well known for its numerous hiking trails and winter sports.
Sinaia is becoming, every year, more and more attractive for tourists and decongesting traffic would be a big plus. The Park & Ride project is part of a broader vision of the city, a vision that focuses on the development component for people, bicycles, and other green ways of urban mobility. This parking, along with the pedestrian walkways, electric buses, but also other future sustainable measures will transform Sinaia into a more environmentally friendly city, better protected from pollutants and car traffic, more functional and friendly for all categories of traffic, but especially for the non-polluting and non-intrusive ones.
It is important to mention that there are almost 700 commuters, but also a large number of tourists or business persons who come to Sinaia for only a few hours or a few days. The best option for them and for the community is the entrance, directly from the national road, into modern parking where they can safely leave their car and then easily access the central area of the city, on foot, by bus or by bicycles or electric scooters that will be rented from the esplanade created above.
Further on, the Park & Ride project means the establishment of an architectural element perfectly integrated with the specificity of the area, which will follow the line of the existing slope, create an intermodal transport node, a station for urban transport, a pilot electric charging station, green-pedestrian spaces, road accesses, and other utilities.
CEEIHM: What led to the dispute in question? What was the main claim?
Oprea: Let's start from the beginning. First of all, there were feasibility studies carried out. The studies showed that a Park & Ride parking within the city will have a very important role as follows: relieving the extremely congested traffic, reducing CO2 emissions with about 5,498.38 tons/year, and, of course, would improve the air quality and urban mobility which would lead to an improved life, both for the residents of the area and tourists.
Sinaia City Hall submitted the application for the construction of this parking which was accepted for financing from European Funds and in April 2019 the contract was signed. Then, according to the plan, we started the implementation until it was stopped by the Ministry for Development, Public Works, and Administration.
More specifically, the Ministry for Development, Public Works, and Administration issued a decision to terminate the financing contract regarding the implementation of the "Construction of Park & Ride" project, as its representatives claimed that there were certain suspicions regarding the eligibility of the project in relation to the fact that the Applicant's Guide states that parking lots, built-up in the central area of the city, are not eligible. Although we showed to the control authority the complex studies which were carried out on the eligibility of the project, in an unjustifiably way, the authority requested the termination of the contract, a measure that was later abolished by the court of law and then the solution was maintained by the High Court of Cassation and Justice.
CEEIHM: What is next, now that the ruling was made?
Oprea: Currently, all the necessary steps are being taken in order to identify the optimal solutions for the project in order to continue, implement, and successfully finish the project. It is a necessary project for the city, in interdependence with other urban changes.
CEEIHM: How did the process run from your perspective and at what stage did you bring in Popescu & Asociatii?
Oprea: The procedure through which we obtained the maintenance of the financing contract was long and stretched over more than three years. In the first stage we tried to solve administratively, meaning that we addressed to the authorities with written requests, but in the end, we had to find justice in the courts after the Ministry decided to terminate the financing contract. Popescu & Asociatii assisted us throughout the whole procedure, both during the pre-litigation and contentious parts. They offered invaluable help without which we probably would not have managed this victory.
CEEIHM: And why did you pick them, in particular, to represent you on this matter?
Oprea: The team of Popescu & Asociatii is made up of some of the most notable lawyers in Romania, with a thorough and solid knowledge of Romanian and European legislation.
They have very extensive experience in covering various matters, expertise based on thorough analysis and understanding of every matter, and being at the same time proactive in identifying potential risks and future problems. They gained our appreciation as they always react promptly and understand our goals and needs. We work with them on demanding issues as it is this file for the construction of the Park & Ride ensemble.