The European Commission has demanded today that Romanian authorities take immediate action to stop illegal logging of old-growth and primary forests in Romania’s protected Natura 2000 areas.
In the latest step in infringement proceedings against Romania, the European Commission issued a reasoned opinion over Romanian authorities’ systemic and continuous failure to protect one of Europe’s most precious forests.
A reasoned opinion is a last call for the Romanian Government to address the problem. If the country’s authorities fail to act, the Commission will take a case before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) – the EU’s highest court.
The Commission’s intervention follows a series of complaints submitted by Environmental organisations EuroNatur, Agent Green and ClientEarth, which led the European Commission to launch infringement proceedings against Romanian authorities earlier this year.
ClientEarth wildlife and habitats lawyer Ewelina Tylec-Bakalarz said: “The Commission’s opinion clearly shows that the Romanian Government is breaking EU law and demands specific measures are taken by the authorities to improve the situation.
“If this persistent failure to act continues, there is a high risk the country will appear before the EU’s highest court. The importance of these forests cannot be underestimated – and the European Commission’s opinion reflects how serious the situation is.”
Romania hosts two-thirds of Europe’s remaining primary and old-growth forests found in the temperate climate zone. These precious ecosystems, protected by European law as Natura 2000 sites, are being systematically destroyed by large-scale logging operations, unrebuked by the Romanian authorities.
Gabriel Paun of Agent Green said: “We are not surprised that the infringement is going to the next level. The illegal logging and destruction of Natura 2000 sites continues with the consent of the environmental ministry. If fines are imposed on Romania for breaking EU law, taxpayers’ money will be used to pay it – this is unfair and continued failure to act would represent a deeply irresponsible move by the state.”
Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director of EuroNatur, concluded: “The Commission clearly recognises the need to urgently protect Romania’s natural forests. We hope that the Commission will continue to act quickly by referring the Romanian Government to the CJEU so that the ongoing destruction of its country’s forests can be stopped.”
The Commission also opened another infringement procedure against Romania, calling on its authorities to respect their obligations to protect and manage their Natura 2000 sites under the Habitats Directive by designating explicit “Special Areas of Conservation”.