Who unleashed Holzindustrie Schweighofer on Romania?

by Paul White

This has been a hard article for me to write as I usually stick to more positive and optimistic material. However, something very disturbing is happening within the Carpathian mountains of Romania that cannot be ignored, something ruthless and devastating to the environment. In many ways I find this utterly depressing, deforestation on a massive scale involving one of the largest virgin forests in the European Union. Up to 50% of the logging in Romania is believed to be illegal, so what chance have we got to affect climate change according to the #ParisAgreement if we cannot manage environmental corruption on our own doorstep?

Holzindustrie Schweighofer wood processing factory, Reci

Recently I have noticed a dramatic increase in trucks carrying timber from the forests of the Vrancea mountains, through our village of Ojdula and on to the Holzindustrie Schweighofer factory at Reci. These trucks are driving through the village day and night. This has been a topic of conversation for many in the village, but they feel too small and powerless to do anything about it. Unfortunately, it appears that this unfolding catastrophe is not isolated to Ojdula alone, as I have read many similar accounts from locations all over Romania.

It is has been difficult to fully grasp what is actually going on, as claims and counterclaims are being made daily. As is often the case, it is in the interests of the corrupt and greedy to 'muddy the waters' with disinformation in an attempt to cause confusion, distancing themselves as much as possible from irregularity and illegality. Then comes the threats and litigation in an attempt to silence those that have the courage to investigate and reveal the truth. We live in a perverted world where profit rules supreme, where lies become the norm and are even used as a business strategy, and where nobody takes responsibility when the truth is eventually revealed. On the rare occasion that wrongdoing does reach the court, accountability can suffer as 'problems' are made to go away, as contacts, favours and nepotism are all brought to bear.

Where is this unmarked timber laid next to a forest track going for processing?

However, we the small people should not be put off from bearing witness to the rape and plunder of our environment. The world was not created to fill the pockets of a few despicable and dishonest people. We can do something about this, so I would encourage anyone who sees a suspicious load of timber being transported through their area to make a note of the truck's registration number. Then call 112 and inform the authorities that you wish to use the "Forests Radar System". You can use this Romanian public helpline 24/7. They will then check the registration of the vehicle carrying the logs and inform you whether the truck is authorised to transport wood on that date. They can also check and track where the wood is going. This is especially important for trucks carrying logs under the cover of darkness.

Holzindustrie Schweighofer is a wood processing company from Austria. I first heard about this company several years ago when I was invited to a meeting of concerned NGO's in Targu Secuiesc. They informed me that this company was building a wood processing plant in Reci in the county of Covasna, right on our doorstep. They had heard some worrying stories about dubious practises at their other plant in Sebes and were fearful of the impact of another factory in our area. There was much talk of corruption and money changing hands, compelled by the fact that the plant had been given planning permission before any environmental impact assessments had been completed.

My concern was raised directly as a result of this meeting and I sent my first emails to the EU Commission for the environment. I wrote to them asking if it was legal to grant planning permission for a wood processing factory even before environmental impact assessments had been granted. Unfortunately they never replied. This surprised me as many other NGOs wrote to the EU commission too, which brings me to the conclusion that all this deforestation could have been avoided with a prompt investigation at that time. So when the appropriate authorities ignore you, peaceful protest is your only option, which is what I did through an Avaaz online petition.


I started asking myself what is going on, what could explain this increase in tree felling? My feelings were supported by the many articles and news reports about indiscriminate forest clear cutting? This is unmanaged tree clearances that remove all the trees in a given location. This has led to barren landscapes and rapid soil erosion. I started asking lots of awkward questions from people involved in managing the environment when suddenly a news story broke from the Environmental Investigation Agency.

This EIA undercover film clearly shows Holzindustrie Schweighofer senior management offering incentives for extra illegally cut timber, which offers a clear link to the frenetic felling of trees in Romania's forests. Maybe Schweighofer knew that there would be a finite period of time to maximise profits before their dubious activity hit the headlines? Well that time has now come and there are several interesting articles to read, but this one by Der Spiegel is the most revealing.

So where do we go from here? Well we know that there are legal investigations going on at present questioning the validity of the initial Holzindustrie Schweighofer factory planning permission. We also know that there is much debate within the Romanian parliament. What we, the citizens of Europe want is a deserving outcome which will protect the environment. So many times in the past when large business corporations have politicians in 'their pockets' the result of any investigation turns into a 'whitewash'. We don't want the conclusion in this situation to be business as usual for Schweighofer! We would also like the EU commission for the environment to be much more involved in ensuring environmental directives are adhered to within the Union. There should also be greater acknowledgement and due attention paid to letters and emails of concerned citizens. This situation should have been prevented in the planning stages, not when it is out of control.

I have had direct contact with Holzindustrie Schweighofer via twitter. They have directed me to a response by Gerald Schweighofer regarding the allegations made by the EIA. It is interesting that although he was not at the meeting he says he believes his staff's version of events? They also informed me that the EIA film was so widely edited that the meaning of what was said has been changed. I find this a less than convincing argument.

Please also watch this disturbing video posted by Agent Green of Romania. Gabriel Paun observed trees being felled in Retezat National Park and then followed the logs transported by truck at night to the Holzindustrie Schweighofer plant in Sebes. When he informed the gate staff that the logs were illegal they physically attacked him.