The Romanian legislature has recently amended the Forestry Code establishing, among others, several limitations on the transfer of ownership of forest land, use of forest land and wood exploitation.

The amendment aims to limit the theft and illegal harvesting of Romanian forests and to create more efficient regulations for the management of forest exploitation. However, substantial secondary legislation will be needed in the coming months to set up a coordinated country-wide strategy for forest lands and ensure feasibility of the measures.

Most notably, the amendment limits acquisitions of forest land, as follows:

  1. The transfer of ownership over forest land is subject to the pre-emption right of the co-owners and the neighbors under the sanction of nullity of the transfer deed; 
  2. The maximum area that can be removed from forestry use for building purposes (e.g. holiday houses) is restricted to 250 sq. m. for privately owned forest lands larger than 5 hectares, and 200 sq. m. for land areas smaller than 5 hectares; 
  3. Companies/groups of companies are prohibited from acquiring or processing more than 30% of any given industrial assortment of wood (such volume is to be calculated based on an average of the total quantity processed during the 3 years prior to such acquisition or processing); 
  4. Companies/groups of companies are prohibited from acquiring pre-processed wood (in Romanian,fasonat) if the company/companies do not have the in-house capacity to process a minimum of 40% of the acquired wood.

Other newly enacted provisions include: 

  • Owners of more than 10 hectares of forest land are obliged to comply and adhere to the binding set of forest management rules set out by the relevant forest land authorities. Owners of less than 10 hectares of forest land are only obligated to conclude 10-year contracts with local forest land authorities for the protection and security of their forest lands ; 
  • Additionally, owners of less than 10 hectares of forest land who have entered contracts with the local forest land authority may only exploit for their own benefit up to 3 cubic meters/year/hectare off such land, depending on the nature of their forest land; 
  • Owners of forest land subject to the restrictions imposed by forestry regulations or other applicable legal provisions may receive compensation from the state for loss of profit incurred by such restrictions on use of forest lands.

Non-Romanian citizens have the right to purchase Romanian forest land under existing law. As of 1 January 2014, EU citizens gained the right to buy forest land in Romania under the same conditions as Romanian citizens. Non-EU citizens may also acquire forest land under conventions concluded between their residence countries and Romania. For example, according to a Protocol between the European Community and its Member States and the Swiss Confederation, Swiss citizens will be able to acquire forest land in Romania under the same conditions as the Romanian citizens starting from 1 June 2016.

The amendments come in the form of Law no. 133/2015, which was passed on 13 June 2015