EUSTAFOR Signed Joint Letter to Commissioner Vella

As a reaction to the speech of Commissioner Karmenu Vella at the conference “Beyond Wood: The multiple services provided by Europe’s forests,” the European State Forest Association (EUSTAFOR) signed a joint letter from six organizations representing private and public forest owners and managers which reacts against the Commissioner’s depiction of forest owners and managers as only seeking to maximize profits and lacking knowledge of and interest in other aspects of multifunctional forestry.


Mr. Vella, European Commissioner in charge of Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, spoke at a conference which he hosted jointly with Jyrki Katainen, European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness.  The conference took place on Monday, 23 May 2016, in Brussels. In his speech, Mr. Vella drew a picture of European forests that was mainly based on the “State of Nature in the EU” report published in 2015 by the European Environment Agency and according to which Europe is continuously losing forest habitats and biodiversity whereas forest owners and managers are focusing mainly on maximizing their profits. Commissioner Vella neglected the fact that multiple benefits provided by European forest owners and managers to society at large can only be derived from multifunctional and sustainably managed forests and that balancing the economic alongside the social and environmental dimensions of forests is of key importance. The signatories of the joint letter stressed that active management of forests has a more crucial role than ever to play in contributing to the EU’s objectives of ensuring sustainable development, maintaining and creating jobs and growth in the EU and decarbonizing the economy.

EUSTAFOR does not share Mr. Vella’s gloomy depiction of the status of European forests. There is much evidence produced by other sources, such as the “State of Europe’s Forests 2015” report, that provide a very different picture, one which is more consistent with the everyday experience and assessments of European state forest managers. According to these sources, Europe’s forest area is growing, the quality of Europe’s forests is improving and they contain more mixed stands, protected forests and deadwood.  In addition, over 90 % of Europe’s forest area is covered by semi-natural or undisturbed forests.

Mr. Vella’s speech was also criticized by ten Members of the European Parliament, led by MEP Elisabeth Köstinger.  In their joint letter, they described Mr. Vella’s assumptions as “beyond reality” and invited him to support a more holistic approach to European forest policy.

European State Forest Management Organizations (SFMOs) practice sustainable and multifunctional forest management and wholly support the pan-European definition and principles of sustainable forest management developed by FOREST EUROPE.   SFMOs have committed themselves to the objectives and guiding principles of the EU Forest Strategy!

Postscript:  Mr. Vella responded to the joint letter on 12 July 2016 (link).

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