So far, no clear winner has emerged in the tug-of-war over the tenets of the proposed EU Forest Strategy, as Member States argue not only with their EU peers, but also domestically among ministries. As was made clear at a recent meeting of Forest Directors organised by the Slovenian presidency in Maribor, Slovenia, 7 - 10 September 2021, differences must be internally, prior to voting on Council Conclusions.
The EU Forest Strategy must be ‘resolutely rejected’, German and Austrian ministers have said, hoping to have their cake and eat it too: they do not wish for the EU to meddle in forest policy, but do want the EU to promote timber as a renewable material for the bioeconomy and for construction. Yes to the EU Single market, no to EU environmental policies. A similar view is shared by the Finnish agricultural minister.
But the views of many countries’ agriculture ministers do not represent those of their governments. In the case of Finland, Germany, Slovakia and Spain the environment ministers have sided with the Commission’s pragmatic approach.
Similar tensions rage in France. While Agriculture minister Julien Denormandie (along with 10 other Member States’ agriculture ministers), firmly opposed any attempt even to merely monitor forests (a proposal which remains in the final Strategy), the Ministry for an ecological transition recently commissioned research which highlighted the need for a paradigm shift in the way we manage forests. Notably, a French civil society organisation received the support of 1,400 foresters when it spoke out in favour of the Forest Strategy.
Likewise, Poland does not have a unified position.
National positions will be reflected in the Council Conclusions on the Forest Strategy, tentatively expected mid-November. They will set the tone for Council engagement on the Forest Strategy and, for the sake of forests, people and climate, Fern urges them to be as constructive and bold as possible.