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23.2.2000 EN C 51/97Official Journal of the European Communities
Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on ‘The European Union’s Forestry Strategy’
(2000/C 51/23)On 29 April 1999 the Economic and Social Committee, acting under Rule 23(2) of its Rules of Procedure,decided to draw up an additional opinion on ‘The European Union’s Forestry Strategy’.The Section for Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment, which was responsible forpreparing the Committee’s work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 16 November 1999. Therapporteur was Mr Kallio and the co-rapporteur Mr Wilms.At its 368th plenary session on 8 and 9 December 1999 (meeting of 9 December), the Economic andSocial Committee adopted the following opinion by 53 votes to seven, with seven abstentions.1.
1.1.6. On 5 October 1999 the Commission adopted acommunication on ‘The state of the competitiveness of the EUforest-based and related industries’.1.1.
From the own-initiative opinion of the Economic and SocialCommittee to an EU forestry strategy
The EU and international forestry policy
1.1.1. The European Commission published a communi-cation on EU forestry strategy on 18 November 1998 inresponse to an own-initiative report by the European Parlia-1.2.1. During the 1990s the European forestry debate hasment. On15 December 1998 the Councilof Ministersadoptedfocused mainly on defining and implementing the principlesa resolution on EU forestry strategy based on the Commissionof sustainable forestry. At the 1993 pan-European Ministerialcommunication.Conference in Helsinki, Resolution H1 defined sustainableforest management as: ‘the stewardship and use of forests andforest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their1.1.2. The European Parliament drafted the so-calledbiodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality andThomas Report of 31 January 1997 on EU forestry strategy,their potential to fulfil, now and in the future, relevanttaking advantage for the first time of the right provided by ecological, economic and social functions, at local, nationalArticle 138b of the Treaty to draft own-initiative reports. In itsand global levels, and that does not cause damage to otherreport, the Parliament asked the Commission to draw up asystems’. Forestry must be practised in a way which isproposal for an EU forestry strategy.economically, ecologically and biologically and socially andculturally sustainable. The EU has also been actively involvedin developing international forestry policy. The principles1.1.3. On 24 April 1997 the Economic and Social Com-of sustainable development and sustainable forestry weremittee adopted an own-initiative opinion(
) on the situationestablished by the United Nations Conference on Environmentand problems of forestry in the European Union and theand Development at Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The forestry potential for developing forestry policies.principles adopted at Rio have proved to be extremelimportant in recent years, even though they are not legally binding. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United1.1.4. On 19 November 1997 the Committee of theNations (FAO) has also proved to be an important forum forRegions adopted an opinion(
) on the management, use andinternational forestry policy.protection of forests in the EU.1.2.2. Since Rio, European countries have held three minis-1.1.5. The Commission adopted its Agenda 2000 reportterial conferences on the protection of forests(
) to promotein July 1997. It included comprehensive reforms to theimplementation of the documents approved at Rio. Thisdevelopment of EU funding for the years 2000-2006, reformpan-European processis ongoing. Since theMinisterial Confer-of the agricultural policy, as well as reform of both structuralence held in Helsinki, European criteria and indicators forand regional policy. In March 1998 the Commission adoptedsustainable forestry have been agreed upon which encompassthe draft legislation for Agenda 2000 and the package wasthe basic elements of sustainable forestry, including economic,approved at the Berlin Summit on 26 March 1999. In thisenvironmental, social and cultural factors.document forests are dealt with under the Regulation on RuralDevelopment.
) Ministerial conferences: Strasbourg 1990, Helsinki 1993 and(
) OJ C 206, 7.7.1997.(
) OJ C 64, 27.2.1998. Lisbon 1998.
C 51/98 EN 23.2.2000Official Journal of the European Communities1.2.3. The international forestry debate continued from 2.1.4. Some of the proposals made by the Committee in itsearlier own-initiative opinion(
) have been incorporated into1995 to 1997 in the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF),the work of which will be continued until the year 2000 by the forestry strategy. However, the opinion argued that tosafeguard the interests of the EU’s forestry sector, it wasthe Intergovernmental Forestry Forum (IFF). One of the mostimportant tasks of the IFF process is to reach agreement on an necessary among other things for all Community policies totake account of their impact on the forestry sector. The EUinternational, legally binding instrument. Such an instrumenthas a key role to play as it does not make sense to resolve also needs to substantially improve the coordination of EUforestry-related matters. These proposals have not been takensustainable forestry issues, such as trade, the environment andfunding, in a separate and fragmented way. The EU’s forestry into account in the forestry strategy.strategy also states that the Community supports the establish-ment of a global and legally binding instrument, whichaddresses the management, conservation and sustainabledevelopment of every kind of forest.2.2.
Added value from EU-level measures
1.2.4. Other imminent challenges for forestry policy atboth the European and international level include the roleplayed by forests in controlling climate change and the2.2.1. Although the subsidiarity principle should be retai-promotion of credible forest certification systems.ned when forestry issues are being considered, EU-levelcooperation can also be of benefit if Community-level actioncontributesadded valuetonationalmeasures. Theinvolvement1.2.5. During the enlargement negotiations, it must beof the Community in the forestry strategy is viewed asguaranteed that forestry in the Central and East Europeanbeneficial to rural development measures, protecting forestsCountries (the so-called CEEC countries) is conducted in afrom air pollution and forest fires, the development of long-termeconomically,environmentally,biologically,socially information and communication systems on forestry, researchand culturally sustainable way, and that, in this sense, the EU’sand development, and development cooperation, inter alia.forestry strategy is also implemented by these countries.Subjects of special concern to forestry include maintenance of the biological diversity of forests, promotion of the use of wood as a renewable natural resource and as an environmen-tally friendly energy source, preventing climate change, and2.
The European Union’s forestry strategy
forest certification compatible with European circumstances.2.2.2. The participation of the EU in international cooper-2.1.
Sustainable forestry and national forestry policies as a starting
ation at both the pan-European and global level will also
contribute essential added value by complementing nationalmeasures.2.1.1. The starting point of the EU’s forestry strategy isthe subsidiarity principle. This means that the sustainablemanagement and use of forests are the responsibility of 2.2.3. The EU’s forestry strategy does not address issuesnational forestry programmes and policies. The EU does not,concerning the forestry industry , as the Commission’s direc-therefore, have a common forestry policy along the lines of itstorate-general for enterprise has issued its own communi-common agricultural policy. As the Council of Ministers statescation(
) on the European forestry industry and on improvingin its resolution, forestry and commercial activity related toits competitiveness. In the Committee’s view it is, however,forests should remain market-based (point 14).important for forestry and the forestry industry to coordinatetheir work in the forestry sector. This is the most effective way of promoting the use of wood and other forestry products,2.1.2. It is extremely important that forestry strategy besuch as cork and resin as renewable and environmentally-based on the concept of sustainable forest managementfriendly natural resources and materials from both the econ-as defined in 1993 by the above-mentioned pan-Europeanomic and environmental point of view. An example of theministerial conference on the protection of forests. Sustainableadded value which could result from such cooperation wouldforestry consists of a balanced combination of ecological,be the drawing up of a publicity or information programme,economic, social and cultural activities.which would enable a wider public to be informed about theuse of renewablenaturalforest resourcesasa way of enhancingpeople’s well-being. One possible campaign of this kind would2.1.3. Although the forestry strategy is a very welcomebe to organise an EU year of forestry.document, it leaves open, inter alia, the question of how theforestry strategy will be implemented in the short- andlong-term. The only indication of concrete measures is madein Agenda 2000. In addition, the strategy lacks clear assess-ments and analyses of existing measures as well as any visionfor the future. Nor does it propose any concrete measures for
) OJ C 206, 7.7.1997.
solving current problems — instead it does little more than
) The state of the competitiveness of the EU forest-based and relatedindustries, 5.10.1999, COM (1999) 457.
list existing EU forestry sector measures.
23.2.2000 EN C 51/99Official Journal of the European Communities2.2.4. To ensure that sustainable forestry serves as the basis be taken into account in the EU’s development cooperationpolicy in the forestry sector.for a competitive European forestry industry, forestry mustalso be an economically viable activity. International trade intimber should also respect the principles of sustainable forestry and profitability.2.3.3. The Committee welcomes the fact that the forestry strategy seeks to improve coordination of forestry matterswithin the Community. However, genuinely concrete pro-posals on improving cooperation are lacking. The resolution2.2.5. The forestry sector is a particularly important sourceof the Council of Ministers also emphasises the benefits whichof economic prosperity and employment in the EU. Thecan be gained from effective cooperation. At present theforestry industry alone employs roughly 5 million people. AsCommission has a number of departments specialising ina consequence, the EU should seek to improve the generalforestry issues, which means that these are dealt with in a very environment in which the forestry sector operates and tofragmented way across various Commission directorates-ensure that forestry continues to play an important role as angeneral. In the external relations DG forestry issues are dealtemployer in rural areas in the future. The development of with from the EU’s external relations perspective, in theforestry sector services and ensuring the right conditions forenterprise DG from the industry perspective, in the compe-the development of the industry are therefore of fundamentaltition DG from the competition perspective, in the employ-importance. The significance of forestry as an employer is notment and social affairs DG from the employment perspective,limited to the wood-processing sector, but also includesin the agriculture DG from the agricultural and rural develop-biological production on forested land and the non-woodment perspective, in the development cooperation DG fromproducts of forests. Furthermore, forestry provides work forthe development cooperation perspective, in the environmenttree-fellers and other workers. One-sided measures whichDG from the environmental perspective, in the research DGresult in job losses should be avoided. In addition, supportfrom the research perspective, in the regional policy DG fromshould be provided for measures which create new jobs andthe regional policy perspective, and in the energy DG from thewhich also provide retraining for a skilled workforce.energy perspective.2.3.4. However, implementation of the forestry strategalone would require greater involvement in the forestry sectorand more effective cooperation between existing players in2.3.
Future challenges to forestry in the EU 
ordertoensurethatsustainabledevelopmentinforestryrelatedmatters is managed in an integrated manner. In addition, thenumber of issues on which the Commission requires forestry 2.3.1. IntheEuropean Union65%offorest landisprivately expertise has grown considerably during the 1990s. As a resultowned and there are 12 million individual forest owners. Theof the Rio de Janeiro Conference on Environment andcrucial role of family forestry is not always given sufficientDevelopment, forestry and environmental policy have takenattention in the European debate on forestry. Coordinationon a more international dimension than before. This trend isbetween individual forest owners is an important instrumentgrowing as the issues of biodiversity and climate change weighfor achieving a balance between supply and demand in theincreasingly heavily in decisions on forestry policy.timber market. The Committee assumes that the applicationof EU competition rules will allow such coordination through-out the Member States. Forestry is economically important to2.3.5. The Council of Ministers also emphasises themany family forest owners. The economic importance of important consultative role played by the Standing Forestry forests and for example, the effectiveness of timber marketsCommittee, the consultative committees on forestry and corkhave not been emphasised sufficiently in the forestry strategy.production and on Communityforestclusters, whoseexpertiseIn addition, in many EU countries a few large multinationalcan be used to the benefit of all forestry measures within thecompanies dominate the market. It is important to rememberframework of the Community’s existing policies. The last twothat economically viable forestry also helps to maintaincommittees can also help to ensure that all viewpoints arediversity, as well as social and cultural sustainability. Suf-heard and incorporated in the decision-making processes.ficiently profitable forestry helps to ensure that all aspects of These committees must be given adequate resources.sustainable forestry are taken into account. This means thatpart of the price of wood as a raw material is redirected backinto maintaining the ecological and social balance of forests.2.3.6. The forestry sectors of the Central and EasternNon-wood forest products such as cork, mushrooms andEuropean applicant countries are in need of Community berries are also important sources of revenue.support to manage, conserve and ensure the long-term sus-tainable development of forestry. Among the matters of concern are ensuring that forestry respects environmentalconsiderations, and developing an ownership structure for2.3.2. The EU’s forestry strategy should provide moreexplicit support for the smooth functioning and promotion of forest resources. The Community should provide support forprivate forest ownership where reasonable, as well as improv-trade in wood and processed wood products in line with theprinciples of sustainable forestry. These basic starting points ing the institutional ability of the forestry sector to promotesustainable forestry. Equally, the considerable job creationmust be taken into account in the WTO negotiations on worldtrade which are about to start. The same objectives must also potential of the forestry sector should be exploited.

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