EU must tackle illegal logging in own borders, says WWF
The studies show that up to 45% of the total harvest in Bulgaria stems from illegal harvesting operations and the annual allowable cut is exceeded by 1.5 million m3. The volume of estimated illegal harvesting in Slovakia is as high as 10% and the allowable cut is exceeded by up to 16.8%. As far as Romania is concerned, gaps in the government statistics make it even impossible to estimate the level of illegal logging.
On the day the European Parliament’s committee on foreign affairs votes on Romania and Bulgaria accession to the EU, WWF calls the European institutions to assist the new member States and the accession countries in dealing with this threat to the European forests, in particular through capacity building measures and financial support, similar to the FLEGT action plan on illegal logging. Although environmental NGOs have long pointed out the need to address this issue, not only in tropical areas but also “close to home”, no single action or measure has been taken so far by the EU.
“WWF welcomes the natural treasures that Bulgaria and Romania will bring to the EU and underlines that the EU has a responsibility to assist new member states to create conditions which make abuse of natural resources less attractive and less likely”, said Duncan Pollard, Head of WWF European Forest Programme. “Not only is illegal logging harmful for rare and valuable species, but it also means a huge economic loss for the communities and a distortion of trade in Europe.”
Major factors contributing to illegal harvesting in Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania are violations of legislation such as fraudulent use of permits, registration of high quality wood as low quality timber to avoid taxes, false records about the real volume of harvesting, evasion of controls and logging in protected areas. Other factors are linked with corruption, as well as shortage of human, financial and material resources. Often police or guards have little knowledge of timber controls and forest staff do not have appropriate incentives for good forest management.
Key countries importing timber from Bulgaria: Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Norway, Hungary and the UK. Countries importing timber from Slovakia include Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Slovenia and Italy, while among countries importing timber from Romania are France, Germany, Austria, Italy, USA, Saudi Arabia, UK, Hungary, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Greece.
“If the EU is to be consistent in its efforts to tackle illegal logging, then it must deal with the problem not only in tropical areas, but within its own borders as well as in accession countries”, said Beatrix Richards, Forest Policy Officer at WWF.
WWF also calls on the Governments of the affected countries to address the problem as a priority, as well as to reform the forest and conservation legislation. The Bulgarian state forest administration, the National Forestry Board, has already announced its commitment to address the issue and to seek cooperation with WWF on this.
For further information:
Communications Officer, WWF European Forest Programme
Tel: +43 676 84 2728 219 (mobile)
Press Officer, WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 (0)2 7400925