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Attempted political coup in Romanian Parliament against the EU Biodiversity Strategy

In a direct attack on EU nature protection goals, a draft decision was introduced to the Romanian Parliament by the President of Chamber of Deputies, with the aim of pushing it to a vote on the next day, November 17. Luckily, this decision has been delayed. Agent Green and Greenpeace call on Deputies to reject this unprecedented attack against nature protection.

Agent Green and Greenpeace reacted immediately and drew the attention of the parliamentarians of the Chamber of Deputies that the draft decision on the EU Biodiversity Strategy would seriously endanger national security and biodiversity and would aggravate the climate crisis. The underhanded intent of this draft decision is to block the enlargement of strictly protected areas in Romania from current coverage of only 1% to the EU goal of 10% of the country’s surface and the expansion of the European network of Natura 2000 protected natural areas from 23% to 30%. These targets are to be met gradually by 2030.

The draft decision was submitted by the President of the Chamber of Deputies. It is not known who the drivers in the background are for this unprecedented attempted political coup against nature protection. In the end, the draft decision was not voted in the Chamber of Deputies immediately as planned. However, it will be sent to the internal Commission of European Affairs in two weeks time. NGOs see this as an attempt by vested industry lobby interests to derail nature protection regimes.

For conservationists, it is completely incomprehensible that this unprecedented step has been initiated in the middle of ongoing EU infringement proceedings against the Romanian government triggered by widespread and systemic non compliance of the Romanian forest sector with EU nature protection legislation.

“Deputies cannot adopt a decision that endangers the future of nature and the life of every citizen, a life that depends on a healthy natural environment. The decision submitted to the vote today is a deeply anti-European one, it deprives Romania of key financing and endangers the economic recovery. It is unprecedented in the European Union “, warned Gabriel Păun, the president of Agent Green.

Ciprian Gal, Greenpeace Romania: “We are concerned that some in the Romanian Parliament do not understand how important biodiversity is to us. However, we hope that parliamentarians will have time to google ‘biodiversity’ before voting on one of the most shameful legislative initiatives in the history of environmental protection. In addition to a lot of information that even for children can understand, they will be able to find reports, including by the United Nations, that talk about the importance of saving natural ecosystems.“

Furthermore, the EU strategy provides for an allocation of EUR 20 billion per year for biodiversity protection from various sources, including EU funds and national and private funding. Aspects related to natural capital and biodiversity should be integrated into commercial practices.

A key element of the European biodiversity strategy is to increase the Natura 2000 network to 30% of the natural ecosystems of each Member State, including Romania. The Natura 2000 network is estimated to support 104,000 direct jobs in protected area management and conservation activities and another 70,000 indirect jobs. All this is based on annual investments of EUR 6 billion for the management and restoration of the network. In the future, biodiversity needs are expected to generate up to 500,000 jobs. Nature restoration means direct and indirect jobs, which give new life to local communities.

The draft decision fundamentally attacks the new EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 and the need of biodiversity protection as such and apparently lacks any understanding of the issues addressed. It states that there is a need to conduct scientific analyses, based on long term experiments and monitoring, to demonstrate in detail, that biodiversity of natural and anthropic ecosystems really contribute at the resilience of the communities.

In May 2020, when the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 was published, the European Commission announced that “it is time to reconcile with nature. Nature restoration is a central element of the EU’s recovery plan from the coronavirus pandemic, providing immediate business and investment opportunities to revive the European economy. Climate change, biodiversity loss and the spread of devastating pandemics are proof that this is necessary.”

Rich, intact biodiversity is essential for functioning of ecosystems and their services for humans – such as water storage, food provision, soil protection, slope stabilisation, oxygen production and local climate regulation.

The world is facing an escalating biodiversity crisis, as the UN Biodiversity Council revealed in 2019. Wildlife population has declined by 60% in the last 40 years.
1 billion species are at risk of extinction. The decline of biodiversity and the climate crisis are interdependent. Restoring forests, soils and wetlands and creating green spaces in cities are key to mitigating the effects of climate change by 2030.

“This proposed decision utterly undermines science and humanity’s common understanding of the critical importance nature plays in sustaining life on earth. It must be rejected”, Mr Păun says.

 

Cemetery of majestic centuries-old trees: giant chipboard factory of an Austrian company in Romania. Large companies’ hunger for timber is fueling excessive legal and illegal logging of high biodiversity value forests all across the country. Thus, the new EU nature protection goals are apparantly seen by the networks in the forest industry as a threat to their “business”. The latest attack on the EU protection goals in the Romanian Chamber of Deputies is likely to be seen as a crude statement by parts of the industry against law enforcement and improved protection goals.
Brutally built road in Fagaras Natura 2000 site, financed with EU funds. Ruthless cutting down of old forests in protected areas as a boundless El Dorado for greedy individuals, supported by the Chamber of Deputies in the Romanian Parliament?

Thomas Waitz MEP and Agent Green witnessing illegal logging in Romanian Natura 2000 sites – video

Fact-finding trip by Thomas Waitz, MEP, with Agent Green reveals that illegal logging in Natura 2000 areas continues regardless of EU infringement proceedings
 
Thomas Waitz, Member of the European Parliament, and Gabriel Paun, President of Agent Green, are currently (October 10, 2020) on a field mission in Romania checking Natura 2000 sites for compliance with EU Natura 2000 legislation. In a video message, Gabriel Paun and Thomas Waitz reported that they witnessed destructive and illegal logging on locations that are theoretically protected by EU’s Natura 2000 legislation, including Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park.
 
In the Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park / Natura 2000 area, they even discovered logging by the state-owned forest company Romsilva on a state-owned property on which the Bucharest High Court suspended all logging permits earlier this year.
 
In other words: state-paid foresters are pushing forward cutting down of state-owned trees in a national park and Natura 2000 site despite the country’s Supreme Court suspending the forest management plans in the part of the very forest district.
 

At the same time, the European Commission is pursuing infringement proceedings against the Romanian state after EuroNatur, Client Earth and Agent Green filed complaints about the systematic destruction of forests in Romania’s Natura 2000 areas and illegal logging.

 
The fact that the logging continues even against High Court ruling unmasks the green washing by the romanian forest industry: forestry officials and industry-related professors have recently outbid each other claiming that the romanian forestry is doing better and acting more sustainable than the foresters in “the west”.
 
Thomas Waitz and Gabriel Paun did also trace a wood truck from the Natura 2000 Ținutul Pădurenilor site to the factory of Austrian chipboard company Kronospan in Sebes. The yard of Kronospan factory is filled with logs from large trees, mainly beech. Kronospan, which is reputedly the world’s largest particleboard manufacturer, said in relation to this on their website: “We ensure that suppliers do not use wood from national parks, natural preserves, virgin forests and other conservation areas.” This was apparently in severe contradiction to the recent observations. (Comment on Dec. 3, 2020: This sentence has since been removed from the website …)
 
More details you can view on this video:
 
The location of the primary platform where the illegal wood cut in Domogled National Park is loaded in despite the High Court / ICCJ suspended all logging permissions in the area.

Romania: Massive logging plans threaten Bârnova – Repedea Natura 2000 site

Romanian Government continues to ignore EU legislation

Romanian non-governmental organizations and local action groups sound the alarm that logging plans in the Natura 2000 sites ROSPA0092 Pârdurea Bârnova and ROSCI0135 Pădurea Bârnova – Repedea endangers biodiversity, natural habitats, quality of life in the urban area and ecotourism. The dimension of logging plans in the protected mixed oak forests near the city of Iași as well as the lack of a proper management plan including adequate conservation measures for the bird protection site and missing environmental checks for both sites are apparently violations of EU nature protection legislation.

The Romanian environmental ministry and the local authorities have been aware of this legal deficiencies since spring 2020 due to a court case opened by NGO Agent Green. However, they did not take any appropriate action to fix this legal non-compliance. The lack of any reaction by the Romanian state apparently also contradicts the precautionary principle, which underlies Natura 2000 legislation.
Only around 102 hectares of old growth forests of a total of approximately 14.000 hectares forest in the area of the two Natura 2000 sites have been conserved as reserves with non-intervention management – which is less than one percent of the total forest area in the Natura 2000 site. The remaining 99% of forests are in an intensive logging regime.

In the last 10 years, 180 hectares of natural forest have been logged. And the authorities have approved the extraction of over 750,000 cubic meters of wood in the next 10 years without conducting any Natura 2000 appropriate assessment to eliminate the risk of deterioration of the conservation status of protected habitats and species.
The Natura 2000 protected areas of ROSPA0092 Pârdurea Bârnova and ROSCI0135 Pădurea Bârnova – Repedea are located less than 5 kilometers from the city of Iași and thus serve as important recreation area and are of high importance for air quality. The two protected areas overlap in most parts, ROSPA0092 measuring 12684.80 hectares, and ROSCI0135 measuring 12236.20 hectares.

The city of Iași is already currently facing an infringement procedure with the European Commission due to severe air pollution. The forests in the Bârnova – Repedea protected sites (located less than 5 kilometers away) represent the main source of clean air for the city.

In reaction to a complaint about systemic and wide spread destruction of high biodiversity value forests in Romanian Natura 2000 sites, which was filed by the NGOs EuroNatur, Client Earth and Agent Green, the European Commission has opened an infringement procedure against the Romanian state in February 2020.
The forests of Bârnova – Repedea are relevant for both infringement procedures.

However, despite these Infringement procedures, logging continues without adequate assessments and conservation plans for protected habitats and species.
ROSPA0092 stands out, according to the EU standard data form, as a key habitat for the Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo, the largest owl of Europe). It is a protected area that also meets the C1 and C6 criteria developed by Bird Life International for the designation of Important Bird Areas: There are at least 115 other bird species, some rare, vulnerable or endangered.

Sadly, despite its importance, ROSPA0092 does not have a management plan or a set of minimum conservation measures, even though 13 years have passed since the designation of this protected area.

ROSCI0135 Bârnova Forest – Repedea should have been designated, according to Article 4.4 of the Habitats Directive, as a Special Area of ​​Conservation (SAC), within a maximum of 6 years of Site of Community Importance (SCI) submission to the EU. This designation as „SAC“ did not happen until today.

ROSCI0135 lists a number of 23 priority species and two fragile habitats. Both SCI and SPA (ROSPA0092 under Bird directive) were designated in 2007, but only the SCI has a management plan, from 2016. It is not clear why an integrated management plan was not developed, because the two sites occupy approximately the same area.

The area was declared a site of community importance by the Order of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development No. 1964 of December 13, 2007 as an integral part of the European ecological network Natura 2000 in Romania for habitats and birds. It is a natural area (deciduous forests, forests in transition, pastures, meadows, arable lands, brook tributary of Bârlad valley) framed in the continental biogeographical-region of the Central Moldavian Plateau that shelters and conserves a diverse range of spontaneous flora and wildlife. The natural area has two types of natural habitats – Asperulo-Fagetum beech forests and Dacian oak and hornbeam forests – that provide food and living conditions for several species of small mammals, birds and insects and protect rare floristic elements.

Inexplicably, the ministry completely forgot that by its own order Bârnova became a special avifauna protection area 13 years ago and consequently the area still does not have a management plan and logging was approved that will leave exactly the species of birds for which the protected area has been designated without habitat.

Both, the SPA and the SCI site, are currently managed by Romsilva through their regional office of Iași.

“We are talking about a protected area of ​​which only one per cent is truly protected. It is a national shame. We ask the Ministry of Environment to increase the strictly protected area to at least 50 per cent of the surface of the protected areas and to set up a new natural park here, and to the candidates for the Iași County Council to support these steps. Said Veronica Tulpan, campaign coordinator with Agent Green.

More than 12,000 people from Iași region signed a petition for the protection of the Iasi forests recently. Agent Green as well as numerous local organizations call on Romanian Government to:

– Increase the strictly protected area in the Natura 2000 Bârnova-Repedea protected areas from one per cent to at least 50 pe cent by entering the functional category T I (non intervention). The rest of the protected areas must be included in the functional category T II (restricted forstry).

– Establishment of the protected area of ​​national interest “Bârnova – Repedea Natural Park” which will be superimposed with the protected areas of European interest Bârnova – Repedea.

– An immediate moratorium on all main holdings and the suspension of forest management plans until the approval of an addendum and the completion of the Natura 2000 appropriate assessment and management plan. In particular, progressive felling involving the felling of all mature trees in a plot must not take place in a protected area on the outskirts of a large city. Forest districts must have a database with all biodiversity trees (biotope trees).

– Stop the construction of new forest roads. The four forest roads under construction have neither an environmental permit nor an adequate environmental assessment. They are planned exclusively for the massive exploitation of the forest in areas with high biodiversity and do not make sense in a Natura 2000 site. The current network of forest roads is sufficient for interventions in case of natural disasters or to save lives (tourists).

Have a look at the awesome Bârnova – Repedea forest:

Societatea civilă își unește forțele pentru salvarea ariilor protejate Bârnova – Repedea from AGENT GREEN on Vimeo.

Amazon? No, Bârnova – Repedea forest in Romania.
Romanian citizens urge the government to protect the last primary and old growth forests.
Already logged parts of Bârnova – Repedea forest.
On September 16, a large number of citizens from Iasi region protested against the logging plans.