Local councils and property restitution commissions
Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests
National Forest Guard
Property titles for private owners and associative forms
Forest Management Plans for state forests
Romanian Courts of Accounts, 2013, Audit report regarding “The patrimonial situation of the forest resources in Romania, in the period 1990-2012”: http://www.curteadeconturi.ro/Publicatii/economie7.pdf
Romanian Court of Accounts, 2014, Audit report of the performance of the administration of the forest fund between 2010 and 2013 [Raport de audit al performanței modului de administrare a fondului forestier național în perioada 2010 – 2013]: http://www.curteadeconturi.ro/Publicatii/Sinteza_FF.pdf
Bouriaud L., Marzano M., 2014. Conservation, extraction and corruption: Is sustainable forest management possible in Romania? In: Gilberthrope E., Hilson G. (ed.), Natural Resource Extraction and Indigenous Livelihoods, Development challenges in Era of Globalisation. Ashgate, pp. 221-240
Overview of Legal Requirements
Following the collapse of communism in 1991, Romania has undergone a lengthy process of property rights restoration. The land ownership restoration process started with the first restitution law, 18/1991 (Land Resources Law), enacted one year after the fall of the communist regime.
Regarding forest areas, the law stipulates the restoration of areas up to one hectare per family. In the interest of reducing ownership fragmentation, it was decided not to restore areas according to the old forest property boundaries, but to group them at the edges of forest massifs.
The next laws dealing with land restitution (107/1996, 1/2000) allowed former owners to claim areas occupied by forests up to a limit of 10 hectares (for private owners) and 30 hectares for associative farms, public institutions or religious entities.
The principle of “restitution in integrum” (restitution in full) was stated only in Law 247/2005, 15 years into the transition period. At that point, 362,335 ha had been restored according to Law 18/1991 (5.7 % of the forest fund to that date) and 1,902,275 ha (29.9% of the forest fund) according to Law 1/2000 (Nichiforel 2005). In 2012, the distribution of property types in the forestry sector of Romania was 6.4 million ha (Report of the Romanian Court of Accounts, 2013), divided as follows:
Public state-owned forest – 3,227,907 hectares, for which the property title is for forest management land (50%)
Public administrative-territorial units – 1.111.000 hectares (17%)
Individual private owners – 1.213.000 hectares (18%)
Associative forms – 736.000 hectares (10%)
Validated claims and not restored – 182.000 (5%)
To date (2016), the restitution process is not finished; there are still unresolved claims to forest and agricultural lands.
According to the Forest Code (Law 46/2008, art 10), the administration of forest areas or provision of forest services (especially guarding) is mandatory, regardless of the type of ownership. Only authorised Forest districts can be administered. The authorisation of Forest districts is done by the Central Authority Responsible for Silviculture (Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests) and its regional representatives (Forest Guard Offices), in accordance with Ministerial Order No. 1330/2015.
The Forest district has to register each contract for administration or for services provided (services of guarding, drafting of Volume Estimation Documents, delivery documents etc.) at the local office of the Forest Guard.
Description of risk
In 2013, the Romanian Court of Accounts issued a report based on the audit of the forestry sector, stating the main concerns regarding the development of the sector after the fall of communism. The report provides a detailed overview of the restitution process, describing it as confused, hesitating and lacking vision. The repeated laws dealing with forest restitution have prolonged the restitution process, and any misinterpretations have been exploited by persons issuing illegal claims to forest areas. The report estimates that, in different stages of ownership restoration (claimed, validated, fully restored), approximately 561,168 ha of forest land have been the object of illegal restitution on the basis of unlawful claims and illegal actions, including:
- Claimed areas being larger than the original property;
- Claims being made on areas that were not the object of communist nationalisation, but which were the object of laws enacted prior to that (for instance, the Law of Secularisation of Monastery Property of 1863, and Law 187/1945 regarding the compensation of war veterans with agricultural and forest lands);
- Claims being made for forests that were taken by the state in lieu of debts;
- Claims being made in the names of foreign firms that were not the object of the restitution laws;
- Cases in which not all the heirs of the initial associative members were found and the claim was made for the entire area;
- Situations where the claim was made by persons without heritage, by unlawful representatives of the associative forms or religious entities that only had rights of usage and not ownership;
- Claims made according to fabricated documents, or old documents that were either vague or not updated to reflect conditions in 1948;
- Cases in court in which the National Forest Administration (RNP – Romsilva) was considered to lack the processual quality (since it is the only administrator of state forests) and the cases were settled in the favour of the people claiming property restoration, since the rightful representative of the state (the Ministry of Public Finances) was not present in the court.
Most of the cases presented in the report were documented in the media and scientific journals described in the list of Sources of Information.
Since the release of the report by the Romanian Court of Accounts (2013), other cases of disputes over land tenure and illegal forest restitution have been discovered and dealt with in the Court of Law:
- Large areas over which illegal restitution was made by the Court of Law and the National Forest Administration under the influence of political support; this support was supposed to be rewarded with parts of the property in question;
- Illegal procurement of land and unlawful selling contracts.
All the factors described above contribute causally to the large areas of forest lands with disputed ownership, usually classified as “M” sub-parcels. Legislation prohibits any management whatsoever of areas that are subject to legal disputes. The forest management plan includes a chapter regarding ownership titles and areas identified as disputed. Also, the private owners are obligated to contract management services with the forest district and to register the contracts with the Forest Guard territorial office. Thus, in cases of valid management plans or registered contracts, the risk of illegal land tenure is considered low. Usually a forest entity will have the required forest management plan in place. See 1.3.
This indicator has been evaluated as low risk. Identified laws are upheld. Cases where law/regulations are violated are efficiently followed up by the authorities and/or by the relevant entities taking preventive actions.