Romania’s Environment Minister Says Illegal Logging Stories Are False
Stories about so-called illegal logging in Romania are false, Environment, Waters and Forests Minister Barna Tanczos said while debating a simple motion against him in the Chamber of Deputies. He argued that no one could show him a case of illegal massive deforestation that happened in 2021 or 2022, according to Agerpres.
On April 11, the Chamber of Deputies rejected the simple petition against the Minister of the Environment filed the previous week by the reformist party USR (Union Save Romania). The ruling majority made up of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Hungarian Democratic Union (UDMR) voted against the motion.
“Minister Tanczos Barna must resign, as long as we still have forests to protect”, The USR said in a press release on April 5, when its deputies filed the petition against the Minister of the Environment. The USR argued that Minister Tanczos was responsible for illegal logging, environmental damage, the state’s failure to see the benefits the green economy can deliver, and “arrogant disregard” for the civil society by drawing attention to these issues.
“This motion would not have been necessary if Mr. Tanczos, who is currently Minister of the Environment, had had the courtesy to step down after a report by the Recorder showed Romanians the kind of personality who is in charge of forests of this country. Incompetence could be a legitimate excuse for him. We have seen cases of other incompetent ministers. However, the signatories to this motion believe there is more to it. This incompetence is combined with militant ill will, cynicism and willful efforts to deliberately sabotage his own mandate. The Minister has no respect either for the citizens of this country he has come to govern or for the legacy that we must all leave to our successors,” according to the USR motion.
The USR filed its petition after a journalistic investigation by Recorder focused on how the Minister of Environment fired the Chief Ranger of Timis, who had been very active in combating illegal logging activities in his district. The Minister did not state his arguments for this decision saying that a review was underway and that he fired the former chief commissioner to ensure that he would not interfere in this review. However, apparently the actions of the Ranger had upset some PSD and PNL deputies.
In response to the USR petition, Minister Tanczos told the House hearing that the alleged stories of illegal logging were false.
“The ranger, the police are on the streets every day, checking businesses and finding violations of the law every day. This is why tens of thousands of fine cases appear in our annual centralizers, thousands of criminal cases have been opened and we have managed to increase our conviction rate by more than 30% by 2021 alone,” said he told MPs during his hearing in the House of Commons. Parliament.
“This is why, with my colleagues from other ministries, we are working to curb this phenomenon (illegal logging, editor’s note). In 2020, that’s why the penalties are more severe. We have a record number of criminal cases opened against thousands of offenders. I can’t stress enough that the false image that you (the initiators of the simple motion – en) have been spreading across the country and abroad, the stories of so-called illegal logging, is false, because no one can show me a case of illegal logging in 2021 or 2022. Doing such a disservice to Romania based on false and misleading information is shameful. Practically, your rhetoric, if it’s not based on real facts, Romania’s image is destroyed and based on lies,” Tanczos said.
Furthermore, the minister pointed out that “although there is illegal logging in Romania, I can say that this is not the type of deforestation that is being talked about at European level”.
However, several research and investigative projects conducted by local publications Recorder.ro show the enormous dimension of illegal logging in Romania over the past 30 years. A constant phenomenon in Romania, illegal logging over the past three decades has been estimated at 270 million cubic meters.
The introduction of legislative changes to prevent illegal logging has given the impression that Romanian forests are finally protected. However, reality shows that the so-called “timber mafia” has created new methods to continue illegal logging, covered by red tape and inaction from forest authorities.
By Iulia Asproiu, Contributor
(Photo source: Inquam Photos / Alex Nicodim)