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IP/06/785

Brussels, 15 June 2006

European Commission adopts an EU Forest Action Plan

Today the European Commission has demonstrated its commitment to enhancing sustainable forest management by adopting an EU Forest Action Plan. The Action Plan builds on last year's report on the implementation of the EU Forestry Strategy and consequent conclusions by the Council. The Action Plan focuses on four main objectives: (1) to improve long-term competitiveness; (2) to improve and protect the environment; (3) to contribute to the quality of life; and (4) to foster coordination and communication. Eighteen key actions are proposed by the Commission to be implemented jointly with the Member States over a period of five years (2007–2011).

The Communication was presented by Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, in charge of agriculture and rural development, in association with Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry, Commissioner for environment Stavros Dimas, Commissioner for energy Andris Piebalgs, and Commissioner for science and research Janez Potočnik. It is accompanied by a detailed report on the situation of forests and forestry in the EU and the process of preparation of the EU Forest Action Plan.

"This Action Plan is designed to make a major contribution to sustainable forest management. Our intention is to maintain and enhance the multifunctional role of European forests, underpinning better and sustained provision of goods and services to citizens," said Commissioner Fischer Boel.

Building on the Council Resolution of 15 December 1998 on a forestry strategy for the European Union, the Action Plan provides a framework for forest-related actions at EU and Member State level. It also serves as an instrument of coordination between EU actions and the forest policies of the Member States. Recognising the wide range of natural, social, economic and cultural conditions and differences in forest-ownership types in the EU, the Action Plan acknowledges the need for specific approaches and actions for different types of forests. It emphasises the important role played by forest-owners in the sustainable management of forests in the EU.

In order to improve long-term competitiveness of the forest sector, the Action Plan encourages innovation and research activities as well as training for forest-owners and forest workers. In line with the Biomass Action Plan and the EU Biofuels Strategy, it also proposes actions aimed at increasing the use of forest resources for energy production.

The Action Plan includes a number of specific steps to contribute to EU environmental objectives concerning climate change and biodiversity. It also addresses the protection of forests and proposes to work towards an improved European forest monitoring system.

To contribute to the quality of life, the Action Plan promotes the social and cultural dimensions of forests. It encourages environmental education, underlines the importance of the protective role of forests, and proposes to explore the potential of urban and peri-urban forests.

It proposes measures for more efficient cross-sectoral cooperation in order to balance economic, environmental and socio-cultural objectives in forest-related policies.

Forests currently cover 37.8% of the EU’s land area. The forest area of the EU Member States has been steadily increasing over the last decades. According torecently published reports, total forest cover in the EU during the period of 2000-2005 has increased by 2.3 million ha. Forest cover greatly varies among the EU Member States ranging from respectively 73.9% and 66.9% of the total land area in Finland and Sweden, to 9.7% in Ireland, 10.8% in the Netherlands and 11.8% in Denmark. About 60% of the forests in the EU are in the ownership of roughly 15 million private forest-owners. Private forest holdings have an average size of 13 ha, but many privately-owned forests are less that 3 ha in size. Forestry and forest-based industries employ about 3.4 million people, and the EU produces about 20% of the world’s industrial roundwood, being the second biggest producer after the USA. Despite these large quantities of production, the average annual volume of timber harvested in the EU is only slightly over 60% of the annual forest growth.

The Communication on an EU Forest Action Plan is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/fore/action_plan/index_en.htm

More information on EU forest-related policy and the EU Forest Action Plan is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/fore/index_en.htm


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