The report was presented on 23 November 2017 at an event hosted by MEPs Adina-Ioana Vălean (Romania/EPP) and Rebecca Harms (Germany/Greens-EFA), including a panel debate chaired by Catherine Bearder, MEP (UK/ALDE). The presentation stressed that the work that has already been accomplished in the Carpathians is promising, including the international conventions and the EU action plans, but that illegal logging and wildlife crime are still problematic in the region and are often connected to other types of organized crime. Despite improved legislation, 1,8 billion m3 timber is still lost each year. In theory, everyone wants biodiversity, but the question of “how?” is complicated.
The lack of coherent policy was mentioned several times as a major obstacle in efficiently dealing with the problem of both illegal logging and wildlife crime. The socio-economic problems in the region also create an incentive for these types of crime, thus these underlying problems also need to be addressed. In addition to a lack of implementation of existing legislation, crime often crosses borders whereas legislation does not. There is a further lack of transparency in forestry and forest planning, according to the report.
Limited resources for monitoring the issues in the forestry sector – even for paying wages – is a problem which can, in turn, make it difficult to fight corruption. Sustainable solutions need sustainable finances! It was also stressed that it is important to treat wildlife crime and illegal logging as problems to be put before regular prosecutors and judges and not only to be managed by the forest and environment authorities.
Regional problems need regional solutions, making it important to think local. It is also important to stress the benefits of nature conservation. For example, the argument that Natura 2000 provides income of around 300 million euros, while costing only 5,8 million euros, was again brought up, but without discussing who pays and who receives the benefits. The importance of including this in next EU budget was mentioned.
The EU Timber Regulation is a tool against illegally harvested timber and products, but further efforts are needed both in the state and the private sectors, including a more efficient legal framework and better tracking of timber. Several of the presenters also cautioned against the attitude that “they should solve the problems we created” approach. The Carpathians have a larger portion of the remaining old growth forest in Europe than any other region. Managing this area does not exclude economic activity, but it must to be accomplished in accordance with sustainable forest management and anchored in the local community. Strengthened legislation and sanctions need to be applied and there is a need for further inventories: we can’t protect what we don’t know we have.
Overview of WHAT HAS BEEN DONE:
A silent season has been introduced, and automatic traps prohibited. There are also legislation for the protection of OGF (Old Growth Forests). State forest timber is electronically monitored to make sure that none of it comes from illegal logging, and 79 criminal cases of illegal logging and poaching has been prosecuted so far – the legislation is not only there, but is being implemented. However, there is a lack of awareness of the seriousness of the crimes among the general public, and as much of the implementation of legislation is handled on a local or regional basis, there is a high risk of local politicians being voted out of office for being tough on wildlife crime.
The work to raise awareness and create better tracking system goes on, an there is also an aim to remove bureaucratic obstacles that might make investigation and prosecuting of wildlife crime harder.
Apart from the report, there are official, more recent data on illegal logging and wildlife crime. Romania is a net importer of timber, so it’s not like it is flooding EU with illegal timber. Also, not all timber is illegal, and it’s important to remember that in the discussion.
Penalties and sanctions have been introduced to even further curb the illegal logging. The SUMAL (Integrated System for Wood Tracking) was introduced in 2008 and is now improved with electronic real-time tracking, and the volumes of illegally logged timber have dropped significantly over the last years – although the problem, as stated in the report, is still there.
The forest guards will be coordinated and the efforts are to be tied to national legislation.