Issues

Timber firm asks legal costs from Transylvanian environmentalist

Háromszék Közösségi Alapítvány organized fundraising for Hans Hedrich, a key figure in the civil action against the Austrian sawmill Schweighofer in Réty/Reci. Hedrich is the vice-president of the Fogaras/Făgăraș-based Neuer Weg association, which lost a lawsuit against the Austrian company in 2016. Now it’s 2019, and the company wants to recover the attorney and debt-collection costs of EUR 4,067 + RON 3300 (a total EUR 4,767) from the environmentalist.

Austrian giant Holzindustrie Schweighofer opened a huge timber-processing factory in Réty in 2013. However, due to the high demand for raw materials, many environmentalists considered the investment harmful and initiated a civil movement to protect the Transylvanian woods. The organizations have filed six lawsuits against the Austrian company based on various violations related to their factories, but they have since lost five of them.

In 2013 Schweighofer filed a lawsuit against Hans Hedrich in Vienna for defamation, because of his articles published on the Neuer Weg blog. The judge favored them in his decision three years later. Hedrich, however, says he lost the lawsuit for procedural reasons: he had no attorney in Vienna to represent him.

On his blog, Hedrich explains why he didn’t pay the “bill”: (1) he had no money, (2) he strongly believes his statements about the company are true, and (3) he thought the Austrian giant wouldn’t be interested in recovering what for them was a small sum of money to damage their reputation in Romania. He believes the giant has switched strategy and is seeking to terminate the Neuer Weg association in order to escape the last lawsuit filed against them in 2015.

The debt collector has blocked the bank accounts of both the association and Hedrich, but thanks to the fundraising initiated by the Háromszék Közösségi Alapítvány, Hedrich and his association received more than €4,800. In a Facebook post thanking his supporters, he wrote, “solidarity has been leveraged to another level. I have never experienced such a thing. It is very touching and a positive sign to continue my work.”

Holzindustrie Schweighofer is a family business which operates three sawmills in Romania in Réty/Reci, Rădăuţi and Szászsebes/Sebeş/Mühlbach, of which the latter has been accused to deal in illegally logged woods. It also has operations in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Germany and Ukraine. According to the last publicly available data, Schweighofer had revenues of EUR 420 million in 2016.

Title image: Hans Hedrich and another activist at the Óriáspince-tető/Pivnițele Mari. Image source: Hedrich’s Facebook page

Author: István Fekete