Deutsche Welle film focuses on the illegal timber trade which is worth billions. High returns and low rates of prosecution attract organized crime. In the past year alone, 120 million tons of timber in Europe had no official certificate of origin.
The nature conservation organisation EuroNatur, together with its Romanian and legal partners, Agent Green and Client Earth, urged the commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius to use the final year of his mandate “to end the destruction of Romanian forests, in the open letter published on Monday.
“Given the systemic problem, the issue will not be resolved by only conversing with Romanian authorities or trusting that they will make the needed changes; they must be held legally accountable“; the case“ shall be referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union”, the NGOs said in the letter.
Draft conclusions of a delegation composed of the members of the EU Parliament also put the European Commission under pressure to take action.
The European Commission Thursday approved a €200 million in state aid scheme allowing Romania to pay foresters to leave trees standing.
In 2020, the Commission launched an infringement procedure against the country for failing to safeguard protected Natura 2000 forests and stop illegal tree cuts.
Successive Romanian governments have put in place measures to fight illegal logging, including a mandatory track and trace system and a dedicated prosecutor’s office and police force to go after organized crime related to logging.
But environmental groups argue those measures haven’t been effective enough and say illegal felling is still happening in old, protected forests that act as valuable carbon sinks.
Access to public data on logging and forestry in Romania have long been opaque. Investigative journalists probing the issue regularly face obstruction. FOI requests for public data are often only partially successful. Challenging access to Romania’s environmental data is a point on the EU’s logging infringement against Romania.
In recent years, journalists investigating illegal logging have also faced physical attacks. In September 2021, journalist and freelance filmmaker Mihai Dragolea and director Radu Constantin Mocanu were attacked and badly beaten by a group of 20 people armed with sticks and axes while they were documenting the issue of illegal logging in a forest in north-eastern Romania. At the time, IPI and its partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) used the practical support fund to help the two journalists replace the camera equipment that was destroyed and continue their documentary.
In the spirit of transparency”, the Romanian Environment Ministry is granting access to the full recording of the talks.
An EU fact-finding mission to Romania has raised concerns some of its natural habitats are being threatened by a failure to clamp down on illegal logging.
In March 2023, the ICIJ and 39 media partners published Deforestation Inc., a global investigation that exposed flaws in environmental auditing and certification programs intended to promote responsible forestry and combat illegal logging and deforestation. For this month’s episode of the Meet the Investigators podcast, we recorded a special live panel featuring reporters who had visited ravaged forests, tracked shipments of timber around the world, and trawled through corporate documents, leaked files and more to uncover the many ways in which a system designed to protect the environment, consumers and investors is failing with concerning frequency.
The situation in Myanmar, Romania, Indonesia, Germany is featured, as well as with the extent and nature of problems with falsified documents and certification systems more broadly.
An investigation by German publication Der Spiegel shows that Romania’s forests, some of the oldest in Europe, are threatened by large-scale illegal deforestation. The journalists explain in the investigation how several Austrian companies with tens of thousands of employees have made profits by contracting Romanian suppliers who illegally cut down trees.
The forests that the German journalists write about are located in Moldova, in the county of Suceava. The report was based on a previous large-scale investigation by Romanian authorities in the town of Bogdănești, which involved approximately 1,800 Romanian investigators. Among the crimes investigated by local authorities were illegal deforestation, money laundering, and tax evasion.
Romania is home to Europe’s richest forests in terms of biodiversity. But every day they’re being diminished – by illegal logging.
“This is happening in a lot of places in Romania that have been wiped off the face of the Earth,” says Gabriel Păun, President of the Agent Green NGO. “Whole mountains are empty, naked. Places where erosion has begun and nature can’t heal itself. In Făgăraș, in Maramureș, in the National Park of Domogled. It’s a disaster.”
A court in Cluj ruled a prison sentence of 17 years and four months for the man who killed a forest ranger in the region of Maramures in 2019. The ruling is final, according to Digi24. The violent death of forest ranger Liviu Pop happened in October 2019 when he responded to a call signalling an illegal logging activity in the forest he was supervising. He caught the defendant, whose name was not made public, stealing wood from a forest. The man attacked ranger Pop, took his rifle and killed him.
Environmental groups say Romania has failed to tackle illegal logging and nature destruction in areas protected by European Union law, two years after Brussels warned the country to put an end to illicit deforestation.
A new report authored by nongovernmental groups Agent Green, EuroNatur, and ClientEarth, obtained by The Associated Press before its official release, alleges that widespread destruction in Natura 2000 sites — areas of special value that are meant to be protected by EU law — has in some areas intensified since the EU Commission issued warnings in February 2020.
Two journalists and an environmental activist have been beaten up by suspected illegal loggers in a forest in northeastern Romania while making a documentary about illicit deforestation, authorities said Friday.
Thursday’s attack in Suceava County involved 11 people who are being interrogated, a police spokesman said. The victims suffered non-life-threatening injuries, and their equipment was destroyed.
Logging season in Romania runs seven months, from mid-September through April, a frenzy of chain saws chewing through millions of spruce, pine, oak, maple, beech, fir. Some of the wood is cut legally; most of it is not, and violence between the logging industry and its opponents breaks out often. Early this season, two Bucharest-based documentary filmmakers, working on a project about the illicit wood trade, set out to find a large, treacherous-looking clear-cut in Suceava, a northern county where some of the country’s largest sawmills are based and where Ikea owns thousands of hectares.
Click here to access the Global Illegal Logging and Associated Trade (ILAT) Risk assessment tool and to download the Forest Trends User Guide describing the functionality of the ILAT Risk Data Tool.
Click here to access the Cattle Data Tool.