Tag Archives: EU

Tackle illegal logging or face court, Commission warns Romanian Government

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.

Recent illegal destruction of the pristine wilderness in Sambata valley in Fagaras Mountains Natura 2000 site.

Finally a clear announcement: EuroNatur and Agent Green welcome EU biodiversity strategy

The EU Biodiversity Strategy aims at strict  protection of 10% of EU’s ecosystems – including protection of all primary and old growth forests

EuroNatur and Agent Green welcome the announcement by the European Commission regarding the new EU Biodiversity Strategy. The EU Commission clearly states that „nature is in a state of crisis“ and declared that „at least one third of protected areas – representing 10% of EU land and 10% of EU sea – should be strictly protected.” The EU Commission also emphasized, that “it will be crucial to define, map, monitor and strictly protect all the EU’s remaining primary and old-growth forests“.

The biggest and most precious chunks of never systematically managed or long untouched forests („primary and old growth” forests) of the EU can be found in Romania, Bulgaria and Scandinavia. In particular in Romania, the progress of logging of extremely biodiversity rich old growth and primary forest ecosystems is causing big concern among scientists and conservationists globally.

Lately, conservative voices from the Romanian forestry sector have been drawing the misleading picture that Romania’s high biodiversity value forests are a product of the Romanian forestry system, claiming that 90% or Romania’s forests are ecologically equal to natural forests and try to spread the non-factual picture, that Romania’s natural forests are “man made” and that „forest management“ (= logging) is key to sustain biodiversity in forests. These assertions are in sharp contrast to bold evidence for a catastrophic loss of high biodiversity value forests ecosystems in recent years.

Approximately 8% of Romania’s forests potentially still show a very high degree of naturalness. These forests should be subject of conservation efforts to meet the 10% EU target for strict protection, as now initiated by the EU Commission.

In order to get there, existing mapping inventories need to be further validated in a transparent and cooperative way – also using digital data from forest management plans, which are not publicly accessible yet.

EuroNatur and Agent Green are ready to collaborate with the Romanian government in order to improve forest protection, if it is ensured that this is happening in a fair, transparent and positive manner and the recent wave of attacks against forest conservation is being halted.

Untouched Boia Mica valley in Fagaras mountains: 1000 ha primary forest, but no protection – although the whole mountain range has been designated as a EU Natura 2000 site. The new EU Biodiversity strategy wants to get all primary and old growth forests under strict protection. Lets hope that this does not come too late for this unique natural treasure…

A closer look: The shocking reality of Romania’s logged forest wilderness documented

EuroNatur and Agent Green present a photo documentation and a video that give an insight into the tragic fate of the wild forests in Romania’s Natura 2000 areas. At the same time, the Romanian environmental minister Costel Alexe seems to try distracting media attention from the Natura 2000 issue …

On April 22. 2020, the NGOs Client Earth, EuroNatur and Agent Green submitted a complaint on the progressive destruction of primeval and natural forests in Romania’s Natura 2000 areas. In order to visualize the catastrophic situation of these particularly valuable forests, EuroNatur is now publishing the photo documentation “Natura 2000 and Forests – the Romanian Status Quo” and the video “Out of Control” that give insights into the harsh reality in Romania’s European protected areas.

The photos were taken at local inspections in the Natura 2000 sites: Fagaras Mountains, Domogled – Valea Cernei, Nordul Gorjului de Vest, Semenic – Cheile Carasului and Retezat. They document the progressive destruction of ecologically extremely valuable primary and old growth forests.
The documentation also shows pictures of intact natural forests that illustrate the extraordinary biodiversity and beauty of these forest areas.

More than 300,000 hectares of potential primary and old growth forests are located in the designated Natura 2000 areas. This corresponds to 5% of Romania’s forests. The majority of this outstanding natural heritage is not safe from logging, despite the theoretical protection provided by the EU Nature Directives. EuroNatur, Client Earth and Agent Green have therefore urged the EU to ensure that Romania complies with EU legislation.

Romanian environmental minister Alexe Costel, however, does not seem to appreciate the topic of Natura 2000 and forest protection in Romania very much. According to a post on his Facebook page, he spoke on April 22. 2020, the day of the submission of the EU complaint, to the EU environmental commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius via video. But the EU complaint and the ongoing infringement procedure apparently were not addressed there – at least the Natura 2000 topic is not mentioned in the posting.
Instead, the minister praises himself for improvements to the SUMAL forestry monitoring system. Sure, making SUMAL fit for puropose is a positive thing (after the previous government partially has obstructed it). But as SUMAL is monitoring and tracking legality of wood harvesting is does not solve the problem of all those permissions for logging of primary and old growth forests in national parks and Natura 2000 sites.

The EU has initiated infringement proceedings against the Romanian government precisely because there is clear evidence of tremendous ecological damage to forests (in very good conservation status) in Natura 2000 protedted sites caused by planned cuttings. No serious environmental / appropriate impact assessments have been carried out prior to the felling permissions. As a consequence, Natura 2000 protected habitats and species have been significantly deteriorated from logging. It is therefore evident that EU legislation in the Romanian forestry sector is not being properly implemented on a large scale.

The video conference with the EU Environment Commissioner therefore appears to be a targeted PR stunt to divert attention from the uncomfortable Natura 2000 topic. However, it can be doubted that such tactics work. The EU Commission will probably not be impressed by media distractions …

You can download the file here (click on the image):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Video reportage about the fate of primary and old growth forests in Natura 2000 sites: