A group of 43 national and international NGOs have sent a letter to Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and to the Romanian Government, condemning the recent killings of two forest rangers. Liviu Pop and Raducu Gorcioaia, who were found dead in the space of one month, are the latest victims of ongoing violence against those who work to protect Romania’s forests from illegal logging.
The letter calls on the Romanian President and incoming Government to publicly condemn the recent killings and carry out a thorough investigation into the culprits. An online petition has also been created calling for an independent and transparent inquiry. Not only must forest defenders be protected, civil society groups emphasise, but the Romanian trade in illegal timber must end.
The EU must also take action. Between 2008 and 2014, 8.8 million cubic metres of timber per year – nearly half of the total amount of timber logged during this period – was illegally harvested. Furthermore, data from Romania’s National Forestry Inventory show that between 2013 and 2018, logging exceeded the allowances in approved forest management plans by about 20.6 million cubic metres of wood per year.
These figures pose serious questions for the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), which must be strongly enforced in order to address illegal logging within the EU – not only outside European borders. Timber companies such as Schweighofer (the Austrian company that processes roughly one third of Romania’s softwood production) must be held to account for their due diligence measures, especially when wood is sourced from areas at high risk of illegal logging.
It is also crucial that the EU strengthens compliance with legislation relating to forest protection and biomass sustainability, not least in the National Energy and Climate Plans that Member States are due to submit by the end of the year.
Criminal matters may not be within the Commission’s remit, but blatant infringements of EU regulations are unacceptable. Indeed, two of the Romanian signatories of the joint letter, EuroNatur and Agent Green along with ClientEarth, filed an official complaint with the Commission in September 2019 regarding Romania’s violation of the Birds and Habitats Directives. Disregard of EU legislation, especially when accompanied by violence and intimidation, cannot be tolerated.