Romania has been given one month to act or face referral to the EU Court of Justice after failing to take action over illegal logging in forests protected under European nature laws.
The European Commission on Thursday issued an ultimatum on the „systemic, continuous failure of the local authorities to protect some of the most valuable forests in Europe.”
The ultimatum is the last chance before financial sanctions. If authorities fail to take action, the EC will open a case at the European Union’s Court of Justice (CJEU), environment group Agent Green said.
The European Commission in February threatened Romania with legal action for allegedly failing to tackle illegal logging and not doing enough to protect some of Europe’s largest unspoiled forests.
Excessive logging is a major problem in the country; last year, two forest workers who intervened to protect trees were killed, prompting thousands to march in Bucharest demanding action.
Romania is home to more than 525,000 hectares of virgin primary forests — more than any other EU country outside Scandinavia. Some 300,000 hectares are listed as protected areas.
Environment Minister Costel Alexe says 20 million cubic meters, about half the annual timber logged, is illegally harvested.
As well as containing ancient and protected trees, these woods provided habitat for wildlife including bears, wolves and lynx.
Greenpeace estimates that Romania is losing up to nine hectares of forest every hour due to the illegal harvesting of wood.
The logging case was one of dozens of infringement cases announced by the European Commission.