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The authorities of passing "pseudo - measures" to fight illegal logging

OCTAVIAN DAN (Translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)
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The authorities of passing "pseudo - measures" to fight illegal logging

The latest legislative changes by forestry authorities are causing further unrest. Fordaq - The Community of Romanian Rangers and the Federation of Romanian Forest and Pasture Owners - Nostra Silva draw attention to the "pseudo - measures" meant to combat illegal logging and protect Natura 2000 sites, passed by the state following the infringement procedure brought against it by the European Commission.

A new amendment to the Forestry Code is being debated in Parliament and a new government decision to make SUMAL 2.0 operational has been passed. According to a statement sent by the two organizations: "The European Commission is asking Romania to implement stricter controls on the initial sale of timber, to improve the effectiveness of "state institutions" and to direct audits at high-risk areas. The European Commission is accusing Romania of failure to apply European Regulation 995 / 2010, concerning the obligations of operators which perform the initial timber sales on the European Union market, of having ineffective audits and of legislative inconsistencies.

For wood of domestic origin (from European Union countries), the meaning of EUTR 995/2010 is to control the initial market placement of timber, in other words it refers to timber as a resource, from the forest to the time it gets to the first warehouse. How did Romania respond? By extending the applicability of SUMAL to an extended range of wood materials and wood products! According to Government Decision 497-2020, the following entities become SUMAL operators: a) economic entities that store, process, sort, or sell wood/wood products; [...] c) economic operators that obtain, store, hold, transport and sell wood products, other than timber; [...] e) economic operators which use more than 20 cubic meters of wood a year for constructions. Essentially, the entire construction industry becomes a huge recordkeeper for wood materials, with online inventory reporting and shipping of waste derived from construction materials, with special status permits for wood materials. Moreover, through the modification of the Forestry Code, it is proposed that any undocumented shipment of timber that exceeds 0.1 cubic meters, be made an offense and for the punishments in such a case to go as far resulting in the seizure of the means of transportation used! To provide ridiculous examples of what such regulations have led to, a gas station which legally bought 25 cubic meters of firewood for its own consumption, was deemed by the inspectors to be "storing" wood, was sanctioned for not using the SUMAL and had the firewood seized, and the judge upheld the sanction because of the regulations in effect! Is that really what the European Commission is asking us for to combat illegal logging and the application of the EUTR 995/2010? Absolutely not! Another issue reported by the European Commission is that some protected forest habitats have disappeared from the Natura 2000 protected sites. Furthermore, the Commission has found that the Romanian authorities are managing the forests, including the granting of logging permits, without conducting a prior assessment of the impact said logging would have on the protected habitats. The finding of the European Commission is correct. The Romanian government has transferred the burden of creating the perimeters in which to enact the conservation measures for protected areas onto the forest owners! What's more, through the environmental assessment procedure, the government has passed onto to the forest owners the obligation to identify the protected species and habitats located on their forest segment and to take responsibility for the measures for their preservation! The state has shifted onto forest owners all of is obligations!"

Through the mechanisms of the Common Agricultural Policy, the European Commission has also created the framework for funding the environmental and climate measures, and has established that 30% of the amounts in question be allocated for such measures. According to the Regulations for the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy, "between the disadvantaged areas, the member states may include Natura 2000 agricultural and forest areas delimited according to Directives 92/43/EEC and 2009/147/EC; RO 83 RO". According to the two organizations: "The European way is to honor the right of ownership, for the government to take responsibility for the preservation of species and habitats, for the forest owners to commit to abiding by those measures and to be compensated for the disadvantages created for them through the mechanisms of the Common Agricultural Policy. And when it comes to the protection of species and habitats, as well as for the combating of illegal logging, instead of taking responsibility and applying the European and national legislation, the Romanian government elects to overregulate, by proposing a new change of the Forest Code!"

Cătălin Tobescu, the representative of the Rangers Community - Fordaq and of the Federation of Forest Owners - Nostra Silva says the following: "There is no need for new changes to the existing legislation pertaining to forestry! All they do is overregulate and obstruct economic activities. When it comes to combating illegal logging, the audit needs to be focused on the initial market placement of the timber, across risk areas, and the government needs to take responsibility for increasing the effectiveness of its own inspection structures. When it comes to protecting species and habitats, the government needs to take responsibility for the conservation measures, to announce them to the forest owners, and provide financial support for those measures through commitments that would compensate the disadvantages shifted onto the forest owners through those measures. The European Commission is not asking us for new regulations, but for a real will to implement the European directive from the Romanian government".

"According to Fordaq and Nostra Silva, the start of the next stage of the infringement procedure pertaining to forestry is the penultimate one, before the case is brought before the Court of Justice of the European Union".

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