82 Members of the European Parliament have signed a petition condemning the illegal logging in Romania, and the nature degradation it triggers. Are they victims of a hoax?
The illegal logging has long plagued the forest sector of Romania, for the benefit of a few corrupted interest groups, and to the detriment of the many forest owners, managers and contractors, and most of all of the forests and the biodiversity they accommodate.
Between the 20 million m3 that the Ministry of Environment, Waters and Forests in Romania acknowledges as illegally logged annually, and the 200,000 m3 that are caught by the law enforcing agencies, there is a difference of 99%.
If one takes the 20 million m3 figure as accurate, then the State has very hard times explaining why it pays handsomely about 120,000 people involved in mitigating the illegal logging.
But is the 20 million m3 true or a hoax?
Based on direct working experience, my estimate is that the illegal logging in Romania amounts to about 10-12 million m3 annually, with most of the wood being used as firewood or being processed in small workshops.
But not all of this is stolen, in the sense that there is a damage caused to the forest owners.
Oftentimes, the owners go and collect wood from their own forests, for their own needs, just as any forest owner in Western and Northern Europe would do.
The difference is that, while in Germany, Sweden or Finland this would happen in a liberal way, with the forest owner benefitting from a high degree of liberty regarding the use of his property, in Romania, the same wood collection requires a massive amount of paperwork and the involvement of a number of state agencies, legally binding contracts, approvals, field checks, road controls, and above all, the measuring of the wood without any errors.
By national standards, what is 100% legal in Western and Northern Europe is 100% illegal in Romania.
Or, if you want to put it the other way round, if the Romanian legal framework were to be applied to the entire European Union, one could decry a volume of at least 50 million m3 as being illegally cut annually in the same Union which brags about being at the forefront of mitigating climate change with the Green Deal, Biodiversity Strategy, Forestry Strategy and other politically promise-loaded documents.
Quite a bit of illegally cut wood (by Romanian standards), happening in countries which lack most of the biodiversity that Romania can take pride in, don’t you think?
Poor biodiversity, big industry in place, big associated pollution and the focus is still elsewhere? It is easy, for politicians, of course!
What about levelling the EU targets for each country, and not at the block level? What about each member state having at least 30% forest cover, bears, wolves, pelicans, other rich biodiversity just as Romania has? Would that hurt the agriculture, maybe, in most of Europe? Maybe some highways should be closed to any traffic for a good number of months every year, so that biodiversity is not being disturbed while breeding and nesting?
I consider that the same standards should be applied at Union level, so that same actions are measured with the same scale, same acts are being defined and legally treated under the same light, and mis-communication and fear management are being mitigated.
Does illegal logging take place in Romania? Yes, it does!
Does it take place elsewhere in the European Union? According to Romanian standards, yes, it does! Big time!
Should this be on the agenda of regulators? Yes, by all means!
But only based on facts, and when the same scaling systems are being applied!
Otherwise, we compare apples with pears, confiscate almonds and punish honey melons producers.