Democracy is the best environment

Articol principal - februarie 6, 2017
Greenpeace Romania joins the protests against the changes in the Criminal code by the Emergency Ordinance no.13/2017 which, by decriminalising public office abuse would legalise corruption, thus distancing us from the rule of law - built also by being a member of the European Union - and by implicitly attracting a severe impact on the environment, health and welfare of the citizens.

Democracy is the cleanest environment. Greenpeace Romania is operating within a democratic framework, cherishes democratic values and uses democratic tools to reach its objectives. Most of the times, justice is the last means through which we can stop environmental abuses inside the private sector and also in the public sector.

More often than not, we have taken to court administrative acts, abusive decisions taken by some public institutions that would have impacted local communities and have requested in court public interest information, based on international conventions and on European legislation to which the Romanian state has pledged to along the last 20 years. If democracy and the rule of law are affected in Romania, the exact same instruments that make possible our fight to protect nature would also be affected.

The main cause of forest degradation, natural habitat fragmentation and biodiversity loss is disregard for the legislation in this field. Whether it is about lack of professionalism, lack of responsibility or corruption, the deeds that cause environmental prejudice must be incriminated in the specific legislation and in the general one. The nature of the proposed changes of the Penal code and adopted by Emergency ordinance would make the phrase `environmental protection` devoid of content. The impact is dramatic for such an important, complex and problematic domain, where we face lack of control efficiency and lack of law enforcement. Regarding forests, the starting point is critical anyway: 10% conviction rate, increased number of illegal logging cases from one year to another - 96 cases per day in 2015, over 8.8 million cubic meters of timber disappearing form Romania’s forests each year, over 360,000 hectares of degraded forests in the last 15 years and approximately 420,000 hectares of forests subjected to illegal logging risk.

 

The reality of the last 25 years has demonstrated that mono-industrial areas were brought to and maintained in poverty by local corrupt networks or, even worse, as proven by the effort of the justice system - even by part of the political class. Local networks have leached the resources of the big industrial installations for politic benefits that, as shown by justice investigations, were too many times translated into illicit material benefits. In the context where public resources were detoured towards private interests, the impact on human and health environment of the pollution caused by industrial activities have reached alarming rates and in too many cases is irreversible.

The modification of the Penal code by the 13/2017 Emergency ordinance decriminalises official misconduct, made by adopting normative acts as well as by committing prejudice under the value of 200,000 lei (approx.. 44,500 Euro), including by second degree relatives. The role of the penal code is to protect, by discouraging sanctions, the breach of values and interests that are important for the whole society. Therefore we expect that projects of such range to be subjected to public debate. Environmental protection is by definition a matter of public interest, a matter that in many other European states is subjected to extremely harsh penalties. This modification would not only not sanction but just the opposite, would indirectly invite companies to the alternative where they would considerably reduce their costs for currently needed investments to protect the environment, by engaging in damaging but far less costly projects. Not only that many environmental crimes do not have a correspondent in the Romanian Criminal Law, but the current ordinance, the existent guarantees are minimised, if not eliminated altogether.

In short, the 13/2017 Emergency ordinance can facilitate the corruption phenomena, by encouraging and acquitting the people responsible, can destabilise needed processes such as public consultations, public auctions for projects that have an impact on the environment and decisional transparency. This emergency ordinance was adopted with disregard towards the consultative approval of an institution involved in the decision process, the Superior Council of Magistracy, which makes us question on how will the results of public consultation on governmental acts or programs will be treated and considered in the future.

We cannot admit that this instrument of the rule of law becomes inefficient! We must act now for a clean environment. Greenpeace Romania is adding its voice to the peaceful and non-violent protests. We condemn any act of violence of instigation to violence.