Bears and wolves still prowl the ancient forests of the Carpathian Mountains. Yet their days are numbered: organized criminals are illegally clear-cutting entire hillsides to supply European timber companies. Tell the Romanian environmental ministry to put a stop to the destruction.
Illegal logging is rampant in Romania. Since the fall of Communism in 1989, no less than 400,000 hectares of forest have been cleared there without permission, mainly for export as parquet, laminate and fuel pellets. “One of the last remaining virgin forests in Europe is cut being down to heat homes in Austria and Germany,” says Alexander von Bismarck, head of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
An Austrian company, Holzindustrie Schweighofer, is playing a key role in the destruction of Romania’s forests. Schweighofer has been at the heart of a scandal in recent weeks involving forged delivery notes, bribes and dubious concessions.
An EIA video documents Schweighofer’s practices. In it, von Bismarck negotiated with company representatives posing as a foreign investor seeking to sell timber. The environmentalists concluded that Schweighofer deliberately and consciously buys – and indeed, pays bonuses for – illegally harvested timber. CEO Gerald Schweighofer called the video “misleading”.
By contrast, a leaked letter Schweighofer sent to the Romanian prime minister leaves no room for misinterpretation. In it, he threatens to sue the Romanian government in international courts if it does not amend its forestry laws to the company’s advantage.
Schweighofer is now building a new €150 million sawmill in Reci. Work has gone ahead without an environmental impact assessment and Romanian environmentalist Hans Hedrich therefore considers it to be illegal. He believes that the “Schweighofer system” would collapse if the sawmill can be kept from going into operation: “It would be the first step toward rescuing the forests.”