Romania’s Minister of Environment says illegal logging stories are untrue
The stories about so-called illegal logging in Romania are untrue, the minister of Environment, Water and Forests, Barna Tanczos, said during the debate of a simple motion against him in the Chamber of Deputies. He argued that no one could show him a case of illegal mass deforestation that occurred in 2021 or 2022, according to Agerpres.
On April 11, the Chamber of Deputies rejected the simple motion against the environment minister filed the previous week by the reformist party USR (Save Romania Union). The ruling majority made of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), National Liberal Party (PNL) and Hungarian Democratic Union (UDMR) voted against the motion.
“Minister Tanczos Barna must step down, while we still have forests to protect,” USR said in a press release on April 5, when its MPs filed the motion against the environment minister. USR argued that minister Tanczos was accountable for illegal logging, environmental damage, the state’s incapacity to see the benefits the green economy can offer, and for the “arrogant contempt” shown to the Civil Society when drawing attention to these issues.
“This motion wouldn't have been necessary had Mr. Tanczos, who is currently Minister of the Environment, had the courtesy to step down after a Recorder report showed the Romanians the kind of figure is in charge of this country's forests. Incompetence might be a legitimate excuse for him. We have seen cases of other incompetent ministers. However, the signatories of this motion believe that there is more to it than that. This incompetence is combined with militant ill will, cynicism, and deliberate efforts to deliberately sabotage one's own mandate. The Minister has no respect neither for the citizens of this country he has come to govern nor for the legacy we must all leave to our successors,” according to the USR motion.
USR filed its motion after a journalistic investigation by Recorder focussed on how the environment minister dismissed the head of the Forestry Guard in Timis, who had been very active in fighting illegal logging activities in his district. The minister didn’t state his arguments for this decision saying that a control was underway and that he dismissed the former chief commissioner to make sure he wouldn’t interfere with this control. However, apparently the Forestry Guard’s actions had upset some MPs from the PSD and PNL.
As a response to USR’s motion, minister Tanczos said in the Chamber hearing that the so-called illegal logging stories were untrue.
“The Forestry Guard, the Police are out on the streets every day, controlling companies and finding breaches of the law every day. That is why tens of thousands of fine cases show up in our annual centralizers, thousands of criminal cases have been opened, and we managed to increase our conviction rate by over 30% by 2021 alone,” he told the MPs during his hearing in the Parliament.
“Together with my colleagues in other ministries, this is why we are working to stop this phenomenon (illegal logging, editor's note). In 2020, that is why the penalties are tougher. We have a record number of criminal cases opened against thousands of lawbreakers. I cannot emphasize enough that the false image that you (the initiators of the simple motion - e.n.) have been spreading all over the country and abroad, the stories about so-called illegal logging, are untrue, as nobody can show me a case of illegal logging in 2021 or 2022. To do such a disservice to Romania on the basis of false and misleading information is shameful. Practically, your rhetoric, if not based on real facts, the image of Romania is destroyed and based on lies," Tanczos said.
Furthermore, the minister underlined that "although there is illegal logging in Romania, I can state that it is not the kind of deforestation that is talked about at the European level".
However, several research and investigation projects conducted by local publication Recorder.ro show the huge dimension of illegal logging in Romania over the last 30 years. As a constant phenomenon in Romania, illegal logging in the past three decades has been estimated at 270 million cubic meters.
The introduction of legislative changes for preventing illegal logging has created the impression that Romanian forests are finally protected. However, the reality shows that the so-called “timber mafia” has created new methods to continue the illegal logging, being covered by the paperwork and the lack of action by forestry authorities.
By Iulia Asproiu, contributor
(Photo source: Inquam Photos / Alex Nicodim)