Tuesday

19th Nov 2019

Romanians demand political action to stop illegal logging

  • 'Timber mafia'. In the past few years, six forestry workers have been killed and more than 650 incidents have been registered, including physical assaults, death threats and destruction of property (Photo: Basil & Tracy Brooks)

Thousands of Romanians marched on Sunday, in the capital Bucharest and other cities, against illegal logging in the country and the lack of a governmental response - which they blame for the murders of two forest workers dead earlier this year.

Romania contains two-thirds of Europe's last remaining old-growth forests - a valuable ecosystem for the continent's largest populations of wolves, bears, and lynx.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

However, Greenpeace estimates that Romania is losing as much as three hectares of its total forest cover every hour due to degradation, illegal and legal logging.

The protests, organised by the Romanian environmental NGOs Declic, Agent Green and Greenpeace, demanded an independent investigation of the murders of Liviu Pop and Raducu Gorcioai, and the implementation of new measures.

The EU has an action plan to fight illegal logging - that is, felling trees and cutting and preparing the timber. But these activities are still common in some member states.

The NGOs propose to update the current legislation on forestry, to include new initiatives such as satellite monitoring of forests, an electronic register in all wood repositories or surveillance cameras in key spots.

Pop was shot dead with a hunting rifle last month after he started investigating a possible case of illegal logging in the north of Romania. A few weeks earlier, Gorcioaia was found dead in his car, not far from an illegal logging site in Pascani forest.

Both are part of a long string of cases of violence and intimidation against forestry personnel, linked to illegal logging.

Romania's 'timber mafia'

According to Silva Trade Union Federation (Romania's forestry union), six forestry workers have been killed in the past few years, and more than 650 incidents have been registered - including physical assaults, death threats and destruction of property.

"We consider these recent extremely serious cases where foresters have become victims of illegal loggers a tragic result of a long series of actions or rather, inaction with regards to rebuilding the credibility of Romanian forest rangers," said the regional forests coordinator at the World Wildlife Fund, Ionut Sorin Banciu.

Romania's state forestry management, Romsilva, told reporters that these violent incidents have multiplied "against a background of strengthening measures to prevent and combat illegal cuts".

Last week, a total of 42 civil society organisations sent a letter to the president of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, demanding the Romanian government to dismantle the Romanian 'timber mafia' network, and to ensure effective legislation relating to forest protection and biomass sustainability.

Illegal vs legal logging

Earlier this year, Germany's EuroNatur, Romania's Agent Green, and the UK's ClientEarth, all filed a complaint against Romania's authorities to the European Commission, alleging that national logging operations violate EU law.

The three organisations claimed Romsilva itself is conducting logging operations within protected areas without considering the environmental impacts of such practices.

Europe needs to preserve "the European equivalent of the Amazon natural forest," said the EuroNatur executive director Gabriel Schwaderer.

Last month, the commissioner for environment, Karmenu Vella, said the commission was concerned with the degree of continued reported illegal logging in Romania, adding it was investigating the application of EU law in the country.

According to the commissioner, the assessment includes the use of Copernicus satellite imagery.

"If the data confirm illegal logging, the commission will take measures to ensure that the EU environmental legislation is respected," he added.

Finland fights to keep control of forests away from EU

Despite Finland's EU presidency's repeated assurances it was in favour of promoting measures to end deforestation, the Finnish government has now announced that forestry policy should remain a national decision-making process.

Opinion

Deforestation and the failure of EU self-regulation

As climate protests grow, Brazil's forests disappear at the rate of two football pitches a minute, and a summer of European heat raises the temperature, will new pledges from the EU on deforestation make the cut?

Analysis

Why Brazil's election matters to Brussels

Jair Bolsonaro could render the EU's climate action meaningless, if the newly elected leader of Latin America's biggest country follows through with plans to allow massive deforestation.

Green MEPs unconvinced by Romanian commissioner

The answers of Romanian's new commissioner-designate for transport, Adina-Ioana Vălean, did not manage to convince MEPs from the Greens group, who will ask her additional questions concerning environment and consumer rights.

EU 'climate bank' won't rule out carbon capture

The European Investment Bank has billed itself as the world's largest climate change action financier as it plans to phase out gas, oil and coal projects. It has, however, not ruled out backing carbon capture and storage technologies.

News in Brief

  1. France: wide EU backing for enlargement change
  2. EU Council calls for policy action to protect marine life
  3. ECJ: Poland's judicial independence in doubt
  4. Suspected 'middleman' in Caruana Galizia case arrested
  5. European populists more favourable to Russia
  6. Hungary's new commissioner approved by MEPs
  7. Balkan coal power plants fail to meet emissions targets
  8. Belarus vote: zero opposition candidates elected

Focus

Thunberg rejects climate prize in hometown Stockholm

The Nordic Council's prestigious annual awards ceremony this year turned into a youth revolt, with climate activist Greta Thunberg declining the environment prize and another winner criticising the Danish prime minister for racism.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us