Estimates state that Romania is home to around 100,000 to 200,000 hectares of virgin forest. Yet in the early 1990s, the country had about one million hectares. The reason for this alarming decline? Extensive and destructive logging, continuing despite the ‘protected’ status of many areas.
Romanian NGOs Agent Green and EuroNatur have now teamed up with ClientEarth to submit a complaint to the European Commission relating to the deliberate destruction of protected areas in Romania over the past 12 years.
Logging in Romania claims 38 million cubic metres of wood each year – nearly twice the amount that is legally permitted, and much more than is officially reported by the government. Some 330,000 hectares of Romania’s forest lies within Natura 2000 sites, yet even within this official designation, the forests, including virgin forest, are being logged. Only one of Romania’s national parks strictly protects 75 per cent of the area through non-intervention rules.
The NGOs state that the Romanian government has failed to implement strategic and appropriate environmental assessments to protect its forests. In some cases, assessments have been carried out after logging. The groups are calling not only for stricter management within the Natura 2000 sites, but also for new protected status for thus-far excluded forests.
According to the NGOs, the issues raised in the complaint should not have had to come this far. They could have been raised in an audit much earlier on, had the appropriate procedures been in place.
Two complaints are still to be submitted. One will highlight the lack of easy public access to environmental information, while the other will relate to the violation of Article 6 under the EU Habitats Directive – in other words, the degradation of habitats and the impact on protected species as a result of logging.
The new Commission, with its proposed European Green Deal and review of the Biodiversity Strategy, for example, presents an opportunity to take concrete action on forest protection. Yet this is all of little worth without basic, good faith law enforcement.
We need to avoid an Amazon crisis in the centre of Europe. It is hoped that this complaint will focus the Commission’s eyes on the destruction on its own doorstep.