A new Forest Strategy responding to the new challenges facing forests and the forest sector has been published by the European Commission today. Covering 40% of the EU area, forests are a key resource for improving the quality of life and creating jobs, in particular in rural areas, the Strategy states, while also protecting ecosystems and providing ecological benefits for everyone.
EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development Dacian Cioloş said today: "Forests are key ecosystems, as well as a source of wealth and jobs in rural areas, if they are managed in a proper way. Sustainable forest management, ensuring the protection of forests, is a key pillar of rural development and it is one of the principles of the new Forest Strategy".
Following a new approach, the Strategy "goes out of the forest", addressing aspects of the "value chain" (i.e. the way forest resources are used to generate goods and services), which strongly influence forest management. The Strategy highlights that forests are not only important for rural development, but also for the environment and biodiversity, for forest-based industries, bioenergy, and in the fight against climate change. Stressing the need to adopt a holistic approach, it also emphasizes that the impacts of other policies on forests and developments taking place beyond forest boundaries should be taken into account. It also underlines that linked EU policies should be fully taken into account in national forest policies. Finally, the Strategy also calls for a Forest Information System to be set up and for Europe-wide harmonised information on forests to be collected.
The current EU Forestry Strategy dates back to 1998. Based on cooperation between EU and Member States (subsidiarity and shared responsibility), it established a framework for forest-related actions supporting sustainable forest management. However, a new framework is now needed in order to respond to the increasing demands put on forests and to significant societal and political changes that have affected forests over the last 15 years. The new Strategy, submitted to the European Parliament and the Council, was developed by the Commission in close cooperation with Member States and stakeholders over the past two years. The Strategy brings together various aspects of several complementary policy areas, among which rural development, enterprise, environment, bioenergy, climate change, research and development. In a related initiative, today the Commission also issued a Blueprint detailing the remedial activities that could be undertaken to help EU's forest-based industries overcome their current challenges.