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Common Forest, Private Benefits: Access to State and Politics in a Village in Postsocialist Romania

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Dorondel, Stefan
Conference: Building the European Commons: From Open Fields to Open Source, European Regional Meeting of the International Association for the Study of Common Property (IASCP)
Location: Brescia, Italy
Conf. Date: March 23-25
Date: 2006
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/351
Sector: Forestry
Region: Europe
Subject(s): IASC
community forestry
transitional economics
common pool resources
forest management
political behavior
Abstract: "After 1989 the restitution of land and forest was one of the most important tasks the Romanian government had to deal with. The process of restitution aimed at the agricultural land as well as the forest. The property laws referred to private as well as common forms of ownership. The restitution of forest recreated historical forms of ownership: private, common and communal forest. While the communal forest refers to the forest administrated by the mayor office, which is a public domain, the common forest refers to an ancient form of property (padurea de obste). This paper analyses the restitution of common property forest in a village in postsocialist Romania. Drawing on the theory of access by Ribot and Peluso I point out the importance of access to political positions for benefiting from the common as well as from the communal forest. Those who have access to a political position (as the members of local government) are in the best position to benefit from the forest. For instance, the mayor, who is at the peak of this local administration, may take advantage of his position for exploiting the common as well as the communal forest. In this paper I analyse the mechanism of access, the actors involved in the appropriation of benefits from common property, and the outcome of this process, which is deforestation. I also point out that these actors do not invest into productive assets but into social and political relations as a way of maintaining control over the natural resources. This is another finding which proves that in postsocialist countries a political position is one of the most valuable assets. A political position often turns into economic benefits strengthening at the same time the position of those who know how to benefit from it. In conclusion I will argue that access is more important than property rights in enabling actors to benefit from natural resources."

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