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ClientEarth Communications

21st February 2020

Defending habitats
Wildlife & habitats

Romania facing legal action over destruction of Europe’s last natural forests

The Romanian government has repeatedly failed to meet its legal obligations to protect Europe’s last natural forests from logging. Together with EuroNatur and Agent Green, we filed a complaint against the country’s authorities to the European Commission in the hope of stopping the ongoing destruction. Now, the European Commission has announced it will pursue legal action against Romanian authorities.

How Romanian state forestry has broken EU law

For years, Romania’s state forestry management, Romsilva, has carried out logging operations in protected woodlands that make up to two-thirds of unspoilt forests within the European Union. These areas are part of the EU Natura 2000 network and as such, authorities are required to carry out environmental impact assessments before logging operations begin. However, in some cases the environmental impact assessments, which should be performed beforehand when logging is being planned, take place years after logging gets underway.

Around 300,000 hectares of Romanian woods are listed as Natura 2000 sites and protected animals such as large carnivores, black stork, owls, woodpeckers, bats and beetles depend on them for survival.

Without proper analysis of the impact of logging on these unique sites, the future of these threatened species is at risk.

ClientEarth wildlife lawyer Ewelina Tylec-Bakalarz said: “Systematic logging in Natura 2000 sites without effective assessment of its impact on those areas is a clear violation of EU law. This is a widespread problem across Romania.”

Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director of EuroNatur explains: “The ongoing nature conservation drama in Romania is one of the most pressing environmental crises in Europe.”

Taking action to protect the forests

Our work to protect Poland’s Bialowieza Forest from illegal logging proves how effective European law can be in the protection of our continent’s natural treasures.

We’re using that same legal strategy to stop the ongoing and deliberate destruction of tens of thousands of hectares of its protected old-growth trees and primeval forests in Romania.

In September last year, together with EuroNatur and Agent Green, we filed a complaint against the country’s authorities with the European Commission. Now the European Commission has confirmed it will pursue legal action.

ClientEarth lawyer Ewelina Tylec-Bakalarz said: “The destruction of Romanian forests is a huge systemic problem far exceeding in scale the illegal logging of Poland’s Bialowieza forest, which was the basis of our legal challenge three years ago.

“The Romanian government has repeatedly failed to fulfil its obligations to protect its forests under a number of European environmental laws. By opening infringement proceedings against Romania, the European Commission is sending a clear signal that it takes this problem very seriously. This is an important warning that Romania must stop blatantly disregarding its legal obligation to protect these unique forests.”

What happens next?

The European Commission have launched infringement proceedings against Romania for illegal logging within Nature 2000 protected sites and for allowing illegally harvested timber to enter the EU market – a breach of the EU Timber Regulation.

The Romanian government has just one month to respond to the concerns raise by the European Commission. The Commission will then decide whether to take further steps towards bringing the case before the EU’s highest court.