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The EU forestry strategy

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Forests can contribute both to the Lisbon objectives concerning economic growth and competitiveness * and to the Göteborg objectives concerning the conservation of natural resources *. In order to maintain this contribution, the EU forestry strategy needs to be adapted to a more open and global market and to the current policy context. With this aim in view, the Commission is proposing a Community action plan for the sustainable, multipurpose management of EU forestry resources.

ACT

Communication of 10 March 2005 from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament - Reporting on the implementation of the EU forestry strategy [COM(2005) 84 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

In this communication, the Commission analyses the progress made since the EU forestry strategy was launched in 1998 and the new problems now facing the sector. While keeping to the basic principles formulated in the 1998 strategy, but taking the view that the context has considerably altered since then, the Commission is proposing further action for the future.

The EU forest sector

Forests and other wooded land occupy 35% of the EU's land area, or some 160 million hectares. They contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and the protection of soil and water resources. In addition, forestry and related activities employ about 3.4 million people, given that the EU is among the largest producers, traders and consumers in the world where forest products are concerned.

Various factors can cause damage to forests: pollution, storms, fires, and problems relating to biotic factors and grazing.

The EU forestry strategy

Forest policy falls within the sphere of competence of the Member States, but the EU can contribute to the implementation of forest management through common policies based on subsidiarity and shared responsibility. Sustainable forest management is therefore based on coordinating the forest policies of the Member States and Community policies and initiatives.

The national level

At national level, forestry policy is implemented through the national forest programmes (NFPs). The NFPs address issues such as the productive function of forests and their contribution to rural development, their role in the protection and enhancement of biodiversity, and the related social, recreational and cultural aspects. With a view to improving cross-sectoral cooperation, the NFPs need to be fully embedded in the national sustainable development strategies.

The Community level

Community action in support of forest management covers several areas of activity, in particular:

  • rural development policy: this has been the main instrument for the implementation of EU forestry strategy at Community level. Some 10% of the rural development budget (for the period 2000-6), or EUR 4.8 billion, has been earmarked for forestry measures. Moreover, the Commission's proposal to reinforce the EU's rural development policy for the period 2007-13 envisages even greater integration of forestry into rural development;
  • protection against fires and air pollution: Community measures have resulted in a considerable amount of information and operational developments. However, air pollution and forest fires continue to be major problems. Forest Focus addresses the protection of forests against air pollution and the prevention of fires;
  • biodiversity conservation: an ecological network of special protection areas, known as " Natura 2000 ", has been set up. However, the need to map, study and monitor forest biodiversity both inside and outside protected areas remains;
  • climate change: forests can make a major contribution to reducing emissions caused by fossil fuels, but the use of biomass for energy purposes has not yet been developed to its full potential in the EU. It is also necessary to consider measures relating to the adaptation of forests to changed climate conditions;
  • competitiveness of the forest-based and related industries: European consumers need to be better informed about the advantages of using wood from sustainably managed forests. There is also a need to create an enabling environment within which the forest-based industries can enhance their competitiveness and foster timber use;
  • research: the Community research framework programmes and European cooperation in the field of scientific and technical research (COST) support and further develop the competitiveness of the forest sector. A broad, long-term approach should be developed to determine the scope of and priorities for forestry research.

In this context, the EU and its Member States take account of the commitments deriving from the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) * and the follow-up conferences, as well as the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe. (MCPFE) *.

An EU action plan for sustainable forest management

To develop an effective strategy for sustainable forest management, the Commission considers it necessary:

  • to reconcile socially and ecologically beneficial forest management with the fact that the income of European owners depends largely on the sale of timber. It is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve economic, social and environmental objectives simultaneously in an open and global marketplace;
  • to strengthen coherence between the various EU policies that affect forests and forestry, and to improve coordination between the Commission and the Member States. Appropriate measures will be taken in this connection as part of the implementation of the strategy;
  • to review and consolidate the forestry consultation structures in order to ensure transparency in decision-making and a structured dialogue with all stakeholders;
  • to recognise the role of forests in sustainable development, eg in relation to climate change and biodiversity, and to support international commitments.

The development of an EU action plan for sustainable forest management will provide an appropriate framework for laying the foundations for a dynamic structure consistent with the current policy context and the Lisbon and Göteborg strategies. The plan would also provide a coherent framework for the implementation of forest-related action and serve as an instrument for coordination between Community action and Member States' forest policies. The action to be taken at Community level should cover several areas, ranging from socio-economic issues to environmental issues as well as the use of wood as an energy source. The action plan will also address issues relating to governance, cross-sectoral activities and coordination, communication and cooperation issues.

The Commission proposes to present the action plan in 2006.

Key terms used in the act
  • Lisbon objectives: the EU set a new strategic objective for the decade ahead at the Lisbon European Council (March 2000): "to become the most competitive and most dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustained economic growth and providing more and better jobs and greater social cohesion". The strategy was designed to enable the EU to restore full employment and strengthen cohesion by 2010.
  • Göteborg objectives: a sustainable development strategy was adopted at the Göteborg European Council (June 2001). In addition, an environmental pillar was added to the Lisbon strategy.
  • United Nation Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED): at the UNCED in Rio de Janeiro (June 1992), the Participating States set out the principles underlying the management, conservation and ecologically viable exploitation of all types of forest in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.
  • Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE): the MCPFE is a political forum set up in 1990 for dialogue on European forestry issues. Forty or so European countries are represented. Non-European countries and international organisations participate as observers.

RELATED ACTS

Communication of 3 November 1998 from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on a forestry strategy for the European Union [COM(1998) 649 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
In this communication, the Commission presents a coherent outline for a forestry strategy for the European Union (EU) the overall aim that is the development and sustainable management of forests. This approach is to be defined in and implemented through national or subnational forest programmes.

Council conclusions of 30 May 2005 on a European Union forest action plan [Not published in the Official Journal]
The Council thought that the action plan should address the economic, ecological and social dimensions of sustainable forest management, also within the international context, in a balanced way. It also thought that the action plan should encompass both Community forest-related measures and such measures in the Member States, including national forest programmes.

Last updated: 29.11.2005

See also

Further information is available on the Forestry measures home page of website of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Agriculture.

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