Tag Archives: Government

International NGOs condemn the assassination of Romanian foresters and call for action against illegal logging

A long list of leading non-governmental organizations from Romania and all across Europe sent a letter to the Romanian President Klaus Iohannis today expressing concern about the criminal developments in the Romanian forests and urging action to better protect these valuebale ecosystems. Only recently, two foresters were killed and there is evidence that illegal logging is being carried out in all parts of the country, even in old growth and primary forests and in EU protected areas.

The full letter, including all references and all 42 signatories, can be downloaded here as pdf: NGO letter condemning killing of forest defenders

This is the text of the letter:

To President Klaus Iohannis of Romania and the Government of Romania,

We, civil society colleagues in Romania, across Europe, and beyond, were shocked and dismayed to learn of the killing of Liviu Pop, a Romanian forest ranger who was out investigating illegal logging in Maramures, Romania, when he was shot dead. His death comes shortly after that of Raducu Gorcioaia, another forest ranger who was murdered in the forest district of Pascani earlier this month. Both are part of a long series of violence against forest rangers and activists.

These deaths, in any circumstances, are disturbing. Yet the fact that these individuals and many others have to put their personal safety on the line in order to defend Romania’s old-growth forests at a time when the importance of forests for climate action and biodiversity conservation is clear, and when forest protections are already included in Romanian law, is unforgivable. We condemn these killings in the strongest terms possible.

Romania’s forests are at threat, and forest protectors and policy-makers alike know this. Romania’s National Strategy and Action Plan on Biodiversity Conservation defines uncontrolled logging of natural forests as one of the major threats to ecological equilibrium in many mountain watersheds. According to JRC’s Wood Resource Balance Report to the EU, a concerning 43% of timber in Romania’s wood resource balance in 2015 came from unaccounted sources. Between 1990 and 2011, 366,000 hectares of forest was illegally logged, and in recent years there has been widespread logging even within ‘protected’ Natura 2000 sites. Furthermore, leaked data from the second National Forestry Inventory (IFN) show that between 2013 and 2018, logging exceeded the allowances in the approved forest management plans by about 20.6 million cubic metres of wood per year. These activities are fuelled by a criminal network which rewards a few at the top at the expense of those at the bottom, as well as at the expense of the country’s highly biodiverse forest ecosystems. This must end.

Not only are Romania’s forests an important element of national culture and natural heritage, but they can and should play a crucial role in Romania’s efforts to meet national and international climate commitments. There is a growing body of research that demonstrates that the protection and restoration of natural and old-growth forest carbon sinks, alongside a reduction in the use of fossil fuels, is a key element of sustainable climate action.

When reviewing Romania’s National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), the European Commission stated that Romania has to “provide additional details on the specific measures to ensure sustainability for biomass supply and use in the energy sector.” Romania must take action to minimize the share of unaccounted sources in its wood resource balance, and should not be able to use solid biomass for energy whilst these environmental and socio-economic issues remain.

Furthermore, both the Romanian government and the European Commission must recognize that the protection of forests inside existing protected areas is a high priority which must be added to the Forestry section of Chapter 4.1. of Romania’s NECP, in order to mirror the commitments that Romania has already made to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Protected areas and old-growth forests must not be logged in order to increase the ‘renewable’ share of the country’s energy mix, especially when burning forest biomass is bad not only for ecosystems but also for the climate. We hope that Romania’s forthcoming National Forestry Accounting Plan will demonstrate how Romania will comply with EU land use and forestry regulation and protect its forests in its 2030 and 2050 plans. Forests are natural carbon sinks, water purifiers and homes for precious nature that must remain standing as a priority.

We call on Romania’s Presidency and incoming Government to publicly condemn the recent killings of Liviu Pop and Raducu Gorcioaia. A thorough and unbiased investigation must be carried out into both cases in order to identify those responsible and to bring them to justice. Steps must be taken to ensure that not only are those who work to defend forests and the environment provided with adequate legal protections, but that those protections are consistently enforced in practice. Furthermore, the Romanian Government must take concrete action to dismantle the Romanian ‘timber mafia’ network, and to strengthen and ensure compliance with legislation relating to forest protection and biomass sustainability.

Given the highly serious nature of this issue, we are coming to you directly with our appeal. We respectfully ask that you take the time to respond to this letter. We expect the Romanian Government and its representatives to move forward with concrete and effective actions to address the situation as soon as possible.

Romania must protect its forests and its forest protectors. If it cannot do that, how can it be sincere about its existing climate and biodiversity commitments?

Yours sincerely,

Gabriel Paun, Agent Green (Romania)
Mihai Stoica, Director, 2Celsius (Romania)
Fataï Aina, Executive Director, Amis de l’Afrique Francophone- Bénin (Benin)
Natasa Crnkovic, President, Friends of the Earth Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Jasminko Mulaomerović, Head of Board, Center for Karst and Speleology, Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Andrey Ralev, Member of the managing body, Balkani Wildlife Society (Bulgaria)
Michelle Connolly, Director, Conservation North, Prince George, B.C. (Canada)
Zdenek Postulka, Czech Coalition for Rivers (Czech Republic)
Martin Luiga, International Communications Coordinator, Eesti Metsa Abiks (Estonia)
Hannah Mowat, Campaigns Coordinator, Fern (EU)
Claude Braun, European Civic Forum (EU)
Sylvain Angerand, Campaign Coordinator, Association Canopée (France)
Frédéric Bedel, Le Syndicat national unifié des personnels des forêts et de l’espace naturel (France)
Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director EuroNatur Stiftung (Germany)
Jana Ballenthien, ROBIN WOOD (Germany)
Evelyn Schönheit & Jupp Trauth, Forum Ökologie & Papier (Germany)
Olaf Bandt, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth Germany (Germany)
Sylvia Hamberger, Gesellschaft für Ökologische Forschung (Germany)
Tilo Podstatny-Scharf, President, IYNF – International Young Naturefriends (Germany)
László Marasz, Koordination Dialogplattform Wald & Koordination AG Wälder, Forum Umwelt und Entwicklung (German Forum on Environment and Development) (Germany)
Wolfgang Kuhlmann, ARA (Germany)
Dr Sandra Altherr, Pro Wildlife (Germany)
Kenneth Nana Amoateng , Chief executive director, Abibiman Foundation (Ghana)
Vanda Altarelli, President, SONIA For a Just New World (Italy)
Kaisha Atakhanova, Director of regional program, NGO ARGO (Kazakhstan)
Jane L. Yap-eo, Asia Indigenous Peoples Network on Extractive Industries and Energy (Philippines)
Piotr Skubisz, on behalf of the Institute of Civil Affairs (Instytut Spraw Obywatelskich) (Poland)
Andrey Laletin, Friends of the Siberian Forests (Russia)
Juraj Lukáč, WOLF Forest Protection Movement (Slovakia)
Hemantha Withanage, Executive Director, Centre for Environmental Justice (Sri Lanka)
Julian Klein, spokesperson, Protect the Forest Sweden (Sweden)
Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch (UK)
Steve Trent, Executive Director, Environmental Justice Foundation (UK)
Faith Doherty, Forests Campaign Leader, Environmental Investigation Agency (UK)
United Kingdom Youth Climate Coalition (UK)
Debbie Hammel, Deputy Director, Land Division, Natural Resources Defence Council (USA)
Mary S. Booth, PhD, Director, Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) (USA)
Adam Collette, Program Director Dogwood Alliance (USA)
Cyril Kormos, Executive Director, Founder, Wild Heritage (USA)
Lucia Amorelli, Director and Campaign Organizer, Earthwise365 (USA)
Coraina de la Plaza, Global Forest Coalition (international)
Tim Cadman BA (Hons) MA (Cantab), PhD (Tasmania), Grad. Cert. Theol. (Charles Sturt), Research Fellow, Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law, Griffith University

Protesting on the edge of Romania´s EU Presidency

Romania’s Presidency of the European Union has ended on the 30th of June. Tens of meetings with EU representatives have taken place all over Romania on a diversity of topics. But there was something crucial that was missing from each public agenda, especially from the environment meetings: the actual situation and a firm conservation plan for the last European virgin forests, located in Romania. Besides their impressive and unique biodiversity, their all-time inestimable value for the country and local communities and for climate security, these forests become a stringent priority. 

The six months have been used by Romanian activists as a full opportunity to reach officials who can make a difference for Romania’s precious natural heritage:

The first official environmental meeting took place in Timisoara where experts on climate change met to address issues, but unfortunately, they did not focus on the old-growth and virgin forests, which are, one of the best and most powerful weapon against climate change. 

The first protest, which took place in Timisoara, stopped before it started, being blocked by the police, despite the peaceful approach of the two activists who were wearing a double-head T-shirt with a clear cut and the message “Welcome to Romania.” This turned into a media story, as the action was fully legal, peaceful and justified. 

The next meeting was in Brasov, where all EU Directors on nature met in a hotel’s conference hall. Agent Green had reserved a room for a press conference on forests in the hotel as well but the room was denied one day before the conference. But for dedicated activists who care for their and the next generation’s future this is not a barrier. The conference did take place, but in the middle of the street, in front of the building. The action brought big media converage as the many journalist had the chance to face the EU directors with the true infromation they had just received from the activists outside. A similar action was done by Agent Green activists during a EU representatives Meeting in Bistrita.

The EU leaders meeting in Sibiu was preceded by an official public letter sent by Agent Green and EuroNatur to all the leaders – a call for help and intervention, referring to the latest IPBES Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services report. Unfortunately, only two answers were recieved. These were extremely appreciated, but the problem of Europe’s last virgin forests is a matter of continental interest and it is sad that, especially the environmental-related delegates, seam not to care. The rest of the 26 countries should be aware that they are also responsible for the natural heritage protection and that these are Europe’s last virgin forests and several thousands of years old.

Furthermore, the environment ministers met in Bucharest at the Palace of the Parliament. This time, the organization called for those whose future they are fighting for: the children. Special occasions require special measures: a huge collective painting event, where families and children were invited to paint the entire street from the front of the Palace of the Parliament. The painting had tremendous success among pedestriants, employees of the Parliament and internet users, having been photographed hundreds and hundreds of times.

Commissioner Vella’s press statement following the event was a light of hope that the efforts reached the goal: “The IPBES Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services session made this starkly clear.
Let’s be blunt: if we fail to alter the fate of biodiversity and ecosystem loss, achieving the Paris Agreement objectives and the Sustainable Development Goals is nothing more than an illusion…
We need to rapidly improve the implementation of existing policy instruments…The link between climate change and biodiversity loss is clearly on everyone’s radar.

Last but not least, the Meeting in Gura Humorului was dedicated exclusively to forests. All the forest directors in the EU met in Romania’s most forested area. Included in the agenda was a trip to a beautiful virgin forest. Agent Green requersted to accompany the trip to ensure that also the reality of many other forests in Romania would be presented, was denied. Therefore, the activists launched an online call for the public – send emails to the ministry in order to ask them to show transparency for such meetings. Hundreds of people responded and wrote to the ministry but still the meeting remained closed. So, the activists found out the trip area and managed to hand out newly released leaflets with data to the situation of Romanian forests to the Ministers. This data is extracted exclusively from official documents, which were deliberately omitted in a meeting that could prove essential for the future of the next generations.

Even after the Romanian EU presidency, Agent Green And EuroNatur together with activists, other NGOs and civil Society will continue to put pressure on the Romanian Government and the EU until the Romanian virgin forests are seariously protected.

by Alina Florescu

 

Action in Bistrita
Action in Brasov
Action in Bucharest: The dear in front of the parliament
Action in Bucharest: Children drawing to raise awarness to the ministers to take action to save their future
Action in Bucharest: Children drawing infron of the parliament

Romanian Transport Minister wants to override nature protection legislation in favour of roads and profit

Agent Green: Unacceptable attack on EU directives and Romanian natural heritage – during Romania’s EU-presidency

The Romanian government wants to water down national legislation in order to put profits, road-construction or resource exploitation above the conservation objectives of  protected areas such as Natura 2000 sites and national parks.

Agent Green has submitted a formal statement to the Transport Ministry which includes profound critique of this retrograde and unlawful attempt to override nature conservation legislation for profit. Today, April 1st, the deadline for amending the draft law by the Romanian government ends. The government’s legislative draft would allow road construction even in strictly protected zones within national parks and prior to the completion of any environmental impact assessment.

European legislation requires environmental impact assessments for any large plan or project (such as roads or dams) that could negatively impact the environment or human health. Furthermore, within the boundaries of EU Natura 2000 sites, appropriate assessments are mandatory in order to avoid significant deterioration or degradation of protected habitats and species. These assessments have to be based upon scientific data. Only after permission by the respective competent authorities can the plan or project begin. The new Romanian legislative proposal will allow the construction works to begin (eg.for roads) even before such environmental checks are pursued and permissions granted.

Gabriel Paun, founder of Agent Green, says the governmental initiative is “illegal and unethical”. Agent Green believes that infrastructure can be built without harming protected areas: “In the specific situations in which protected areas can not be bypassed, customized alternative solutions must be found. But modifying the law in a way to generalise the legalisation of illegal construction completely dismantles our obligations for preservation of our natural heritage. Last but not least, this is highly offensive to the public, civil society, scientists, the media and politicians who have created the current legal basis for nature conservation.“

The Romanian Minister of Transport Răzvan Cuc recently launched an attack against the basis of the nature conservation laws – as  quoted in Romanian media: “NGOs should go to other states to fight with teeth and to let us in Romania alone to make highways properly. I am the Minister of Transport, I initiate emergency ordinances that I think are appropriate to help with the implementation of the projects, to discuss with my other colleagues in the cabinet, we also take into account NGOs to say their point of view, but I will never block an infrastructure project in Romania no matter what power they think they have. If we want to make a highway we are always aware that we have bats, bears or frogs. We are talking about very important projects here such as Sibiu – Pitesti highway.” He said that he would never block an infrastructure project because of NGOs.

“This retrograde government initiative aims to dismantle EU nature protection legislation and comes in the middle of Romania’s EU presidency. This is unacceptable. The protected natural areas and the biodiversity they host represent a huge national heritage that can be underpin sustainable economic development based on ecological tourism,“ Gabriel Paun explains.

Destructive road construction in a Romanian Natura 2000 site

Here you can read a translation of the statement by Agent Green:

Regarding the Government Project for amending and the Law no. 255/2010 regarding the expropriation for public utility cause, necessary to achieve objectives of national, county and local interest, we send the following comments:

The modification of the law no. 255/2010, of article 24, is illegal and unethical.

Construction permits cannot be issued without proper documentation and therefore without legal permits. The technical and economic permits corresponding to each project phase – from technical expertise and feasibility study to execution details must be prepared and approved prior to the start of the construction and execution of the project. The modification proposed by the Government contradicts not only the legal provisions regarding the construction legislation, but also the European Directives for Habitats and Birds. The proposal has no logic. How is it possible to start a construction site/project and ask for permits after the construction is done? This is without any logic.

Also, we consider unacceptable the proposed modifications of the law 292, from 2018, regarding the environmental impact of public and private infrastructure projects.
It is not possible for transport infrastructure to be exempted from environmental impact assessment since it is known and proven that infrastructure construction works generate a significant impact on the environment. How is it possible that all of Romania’s finished infrastructure projects have been evaluated also for the enviromental impact (before the construction started) and now the government requests the cancellation of this official environmental approval phase?

With these legislative modifications, Romania risks disastrous effects on the environment and an excessive anthropogenic impact. Also, we consider that the modifications are inconsistent and break the European directives reaffirming the need for the environmental impact assessment 2011/92 / EU and 2014/52 / EU.

Also we consider unacceptable the changes of environmental protection through Government Emergency Ordinance (GEO) 195/2005. If the new paragraph 17 is approved, the project infrastructure engineer can change the route of the highway/national road at any time without being forced to apply and receive the necessary environmental approval. These modifications can drastically change the permit conditions without any analysis of the construction project. It is impossible to assess the overall impact of the project on the environment and its modifications.

We also consider unacceptable the proposed changes of GEO 57/2007. These modifications breach protected area legislation, both nationally and at the European level – inside nature protected areas the priority is nature conservation, with the exception of national security and health issues.

All modifications imply that priority should change from conservation to enforcing construction projects inside protected areas.

We strongly oppose the approval of construction sites inside protected areas and buffer areas inside National and Natural Parks. Romania has vouched in front of international institutions to protect and preserve these areas according to international, European and national legislation. These modifications are breaching two European Directives on nature conservation – 79/409 / EEC and 92/43 / EEC.

With disappointment and regret we consider that all these modifications clearly demonstrate that the Romanian Government lacks vision, holds total disregard towards environmental principles and shows that the mentality of Romanian government officials in general is an obsolete one, according to which protected areas represent a break from development.

Agent Green believes that Romanian infrastructure network can develop without harming protected areas. Of course for specific and prompt situations, customised alternative solutions must be negotiated and found according to the legislation.

But we position ourselves against the modification of the law by officials who plead for generalisation, when isolated problems can be solved promptly using already existing legislation.

These modifications offend the public, the civil society, the scientists, the media and the politicians who have created the current legal basis for nature conservation and now see that all their work is thrown away.

Protected natural areas and the rich biodiversity they support represent a huge national heritage that should be the foundation of a sustainable development of Romania based on ecological tourism alongside infrastructure.

I ask you to consider the observations and criticisms we bring to these modifications and to make the right decision.

Regards,
Gabriel Paun,
Chairman Agent Green

 

The planned motorway Pitesti – Sibiu could negatively impact the Natura 2000 protected old growth forests in Olt valley