BUCHAREST - A fortnight of protests in Romania against plans for Europe's biggest open-cast gold mine have joined an unusual wave of grassroots opposition across the Balkans, analysts say.
The Romanian civic movement, unprecedented since the 1990s, follows protests by similarly young, educated, middle-class Slovenians, Bosnians, Bulgarians or Turks venting their anger at politicians accused of cronyism and incompetence.
"These demonstrations are quite different from organised political rallies or protests for better salaries or pensions. People gathering here are concerned about the future, they are not asking a pay rise but fight more out of idealism," sociologist Mircea Kivu told AFP.
"What you see this year, from Slovenia to Bulgaria, is a revolt of educated, middle-class people who grew up in political apathy. All started with a relatively minor controversy, but quickly turned into a general cry for change," Joost van Egmond, a Dutch journalist who covered the various protest movements in the region, told AFP.
Bulgaria, Romania and Bosnia are among the poorest nations in Europe.
Artists, managers, engineers and students have all joined the rallies in Romania, which have seen many arriving on their bikes and mothers pushing their babies in prams. Most are aged between 18 and 35.
The protests are colourful, featuring peaceful sit-ins on the capital's main boulevard, improvised concerts of plastic bottles filled with coins or pebbles and home-made banners.
"Arab Spring, Turkish summer, Romanian autumn", read a banner in one of the Bucharest rallies held on University Square, where protests against dictator Nicolae Ceausescu erupted in 1989, leading to his downfall.
"We are seeing an unprecedented phenomenon since the 1990s with a real opposition coagulating within civil society," Victoria Stoiciu, an analyst at the Friedrich Egbert Foundation says.
It breaks the "suffocating civic apathy in Romania," she said.