“The Sovereignty Law – Law for The Protection of the Superior and Sovereign Interest of the Romanian People and Its Citizens” is a project launched into public debate in the Official Monitor nr. 925 of September 28, 2021. The proposals for modifying the environment laws and the Forestry Code are populist and demagogical, and do not touch the real problems of the forest-wood sector. The potential effects of these measures are negative. The Romanian Association of the Wood Industry – Prolemn (Prolemn) invites all the concerned parties to a reasonable debate, based on scientific arguments, in order to clarify the facts and to develop the best solutions for the protection of Romania’s forests and their environmental, economic and social functions.

Publicized as a citizens’ initiative and supported by several media trusts and pundits, the initiative published in the Official Monitor nr. 925/2021.09.28 (available here in Romanian) proposes in the second chapter several “ecological measures for protecting the superior and sovereign interest of the Romanian people and its citizens.” However, the measures are absolutely not grounded in fact and cannot be supported by argument.

The law proposal stipulates, in short, forbidding for a period of 100 years the exports of “unprocessed wood materials” as well as “deforestation and clear cuts”, no matter the ecological reasons for this.

Prolemn considers that the measures in the articles 14 and 15 of the initiative have an obvious populist and demagogical tenet which is immediately visible form the incorrect use of technical terms such as “deforestation.”

If we want Romanian wood to stay in the country, the only real solution would be to develop the capabilities of the industrial processing sector, by deploying realistic public policies that take into account the huge potential of the forest-wood sector to fight against climate change and to sustain social and economic development. Interdictions motivated by populism and demagogy risk to seriously impact the sector.

Cătălin Tobescu

President, AIL - Prolemn

The interdiction of roundwood exports (art. 14^1) is a populist measure, without real effects

Roundwood exports outside the EU are already forbidden by the Forestry Code effective as of January 1, 2021. After the first few months it already was proven to be a populist measure. Roundwood exports from Romania are insignificant, to the order of tens of thousands of cubic meters, compared to the massive imports, which amount to about 3 million cubic meters roundwood equivalent in the past few years.

In fact, Romania is a big importer of wood materials, not an exporter.

At the same time, the interdiction of exporting outside the EU is extremely easy to circumvent, if the measure is not extended to other European Economic Area countries. Companies which chose to continue deliveries outside the EEA could always export to other EU countries (especially Bulgaria), and from there to the final destination.

Stopping timber exports (art. 14^1) is a false measure which harms the economy

In the overall export of the Romanian wood industry, timber exports have a relatively small share, about 16-18%, or 7-800,000 cubic meters per year of a total production of sawn timber (hardwood and softwood combined) exceeding 5 million cubic meters. Obviously, as shown above, these exports are counterbalanced by higher volumes of unprocessed wood entering the country – 1.8-2 million cubic meters of roundwood per year.

Obviously, it is hard if not outright impossible to distinguish between sawn timber produced from local resources or imported logs in order to keep in the country just the products from locally sourced raw materials.

Stopping sawn timber exports would lead to an obstruction of the entire mass of imported wood materials, a lot bigger and more valuable. This important resource goes through complex and long processing cycles. From roundwood are produced sawn timber, profiled timber, glued products, blockboards and engineered panels (PAL, OSB, MDF, HDF), pellets, energy from biomass, and a long list of finite products from the construction or furniture industries – the last being one of the most dynamic industrial sectors in Romania.

Any unjustified intervention in this complex chain of processing risks to impact negatively and severely an important segment of the national economy, with a total turnover exceeding 7.36 billion Euros in 2020, supporting more than 140,000 jobs and contributing 3.4% to the GDP.

Stopping clear cuts (art. 15) means reducing the capacity for regeneration of the forests

Against the prevailing public opinion, coming from a lack of technical knowledge about forestry, clear cuts are extremely rare in Romania. They are reduced to a minimum, and where they are performed, they are essential for forest regeneration.

For several tree species (such as fir, poplar, or locust), which take important areas in the national forest fund, clear cuts are the only technical solution for forest regeneration. Forbidding these would effectively mean deforestation on extended areas, including some areas vulnerable to climate change, such as southern Oltenia. On these areas at risk of desertification, successive locust cultures are the only chance of stabilizing the soil and protecting lands for agriculture, as well as human and wildlife habitats.

Besides, clear cuts take a small share in Romania (below 10%), being already regulated and limited to areas smaller than 3 hectares.