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News 16 Nov 17

Romanian Shepherd Creates Quandary for US Missile Shield

The case of an obstinate Romanian shepherd – who refuses to demolish a sheepfold that keeps triggering the alarms at a US military base – is creating a headache for the Romanian government.

Ana Maria Touma

Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Complex in Deveselu, Romania. Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District/Flikr

Romania’s Supreme Court in January is due to deal with an unusual case involving a sheepfold built in 2007 next to the military base in Deveselu, southern Romania, which hosts a US Army anti-missile shield.

The Romanian Ministry of Defence has sued the shepherd who owns the sheepfold for building it without official permission in the security perimeter of the base. A regular court ruled in favour of the ministry but the owner filed an appeal.

The shepherd, who acquired the spot in 2007, built the sheepfold next to the military base that was not operational at that time. However, in 2010, Romania and the United States signed an agreement whereby Bucharest agreed to host the missile shield. It became operational in 2016.

Since 2010, the local administration, the Ministry of Defence and even ex-Prime Minister Victor Ponta have all tried in vain to convince the owner of the land to remove the animals because they keep triggering the base's alarms.

“The sheep pen was erected without proper construction authorization, during the mandate of the former mayor, on a field that this respective gentleman [the shepherd] purchased,” Alexandru Damian, mayor of Stoenesti, told journalists on Tuesday. 

The owner of the pen, Dumitru Bleja, could not be contacted for comment.

In 2014, a court ruled that he had property rights over the sheepfold and could register it with the local administration.

He also obtained a planning certificate and requested construction approval from the Defence Ministry. The ministry refused it, and also rejected his compensation claim for around 18,000 euros worth in order to demolish the facility.

In 2014, then Prime Minister Ponta sent an investigation team to see the facility. According to a report posted on the government’s website, the mayor’s office had failed to notify the Ministry of Defence and the County Council that the construction was illegal. The mayor’s office only notified the County Council three years later.

According to court documents, in spring 2017, the Olt County Tribunal ruled that the sheepfold should be demolished and the owner should pay a 700-euros fine. However, in October, Beja obtained a retrial. According to the mayor, that will have to wait until the Supreme Court ruling.

The anti-missile shield in Deveselu has cost the US over 800 million dollars and is made of 24 guided missiles and an antiballistic radar.

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