The European Commission published the EU forest strategy setting out its important vision of preserving Europe's forests. While the early preparation of strategy attracted strong criticism, the final stages of preparation delivered important improvements. However, the strategy remains contradictory. It highlights the climate benefits of wood-based products, but at the same time attempts to limit forest use. The Member State's power to decide over forest policy is acknowledged more clearly that in earlier stages, but there is a continued threat that some pieces of forest decision-making would escape Finland.


Forests area significant source of wealth and well-being in Finland. Together with wood-based products, forests play a key role in combating climate change. The EU forest strategy published by the European Commission seeks to reconcile the climate benefits of wood-based products with the forests' other economic uses,protection and their role as carbon sinks.


- In the end, the forest strategy is better than feared for Finland. The key ministers,most of the Finnish MEPs and civil servants, and the entire forest sector have actively contributed to safeguarding the interests of our forested country.Despite the very poor starting point, the strategy took steps in a better direction, says Timo Jaatinen, CEO of the Finnish Forest Industries Federation.


However,the strategy is somewhat contradictory. While acknowledging the climate benefits of wood use, the strategy also seeks to limit forest use, for example by encouraging the avoidance of clear-cutting. Unfortunately, other societal benefits of wood-based products go unnoticed in the strategy.


- Wood cannot exist upright in a forest and in a roof beam of a wooden school or substitute plastic in the food packaging at the same time. If you want the benefits from forests, you must be able to use the wood, Karoliina Niemi,Director of the Finnish Forest Industry Federation sums up.


Sustainable and timely forest management, extending the area of forests and increasingly diverse wood-based solutions together are in the core of Europe's green growth.In addition to the global climate benefits, the forest sector finances society's activities and creates employment opportunities.


The row between the Commission and the Member States on forest issues is likely to continue


There is no common forest policy in the EU. This is the reason why the EU has had a common forest strategy since the accession of the forest-based Member States. The EU forest strategy is not legally binding. The strategy coordinates the EU's measures with links to forests until 2030. Nevertheless, the Commission attempts to play a greater role in forestry matters.


- The proposed inching of decision-making power to Brussels is one of the most worrying features in the strategy. In the preparation of the guidelines presented in the strategy and possible legislative projects, measures must betaken in close co-operation with the Member States and the entire forest sector, Niemi emphasizes.


When implementing the strategy, the diversity of Europe's forests must be kept in mind


-Portuguese cork forests cannot be compared to the coniferous forests of in Southern Finland. The methods used for the management and treatment of forests also vary. Brussels should not guide Member States in this respect, Niemi says.


The Commission is proposing legislation on observation and reporting about the state of forests. Further information on Europe's forests is welcome and should cover not only nature and climate information but also the economic and social importance of forests.


- We have a comprehensive national forest inventory in Finland, which has lived through time, producing ever better information about our forests for a hundred years.Data collection and reporting must continue to be based on the Member States'own national inventories, Niemi emphasizes.


In preparation for the forest strategy, the Commission has proposed a new European"closer to nature forestry" certification scheme. The forest industry operates in a global market and, together with the entire forest sector, has been committed to international forest certification schemes for more than 20 years.


- These systems will be developed in broad stakeholder cooperation, taking into account all pillars of sustainability. The Commission should not create new,overlapping systems, Niemi says.


Further information, please contact Dr. Karoliina Niemi, Director, forest affairs

+358 50 5679093