European Commission warns Romania to stop illegal logging

The European Commission (EC) has again warned Romania to take action against illegal logging, this time threatening that it will go to court against the country if it doesn’t comply.

“The national authorities have been unable to effectively check the operators and apply appropriate sanctions. Inconsistences in the national legislation do not allow Romanian authorities to check large amounts of illegally harvested timber,” the European Commission said in its July infringement notifications. “{…} the Commission has found that the Romanian authorities manage forests, including by authorizing logging, without evaluating beforehand the impacts on protected habitats as required under the Habitats Directive and Strategic Environmental Assessment Directives.

The warning comes after a previous warning and notice issued in February to take action within two months. The case of illegal logging  an endemic problem in Romania – was brought to the European Commission by three green organizations: Agent Green of Romania, EuroNatur in Germany and the UK’s Client Earth.

Romania is still home to 525,000 hectares of primal virgin forest, more than any European country except those in Scandinavia.

The three organizations documented dozens of cases of illegal logging and concluded that illegal logging had been more extensive than legal logging between 2014 and 2018. During this period, Romanian authorities issued annual permits for 18 million cubic meters of timber, while the annual average of illegal logging over the same period was 20.6 million cubic meters.

The main culprit in Romania is Austrian company Holzindustrie Schweighofer, which has been so at fault that in 2017 the industry association Forest Stewardship Council stripped the company of its FSC certification.

The EC’s latest warnings state that should Romania fail to show notable progress within one month, the Commission will refer the case to the European Court of Justice.


Title image source: eia-global.org

Author: Dénes Albert