Sweden takes a seat on Forest Europe General Coordinating Committee

Minister for Rural Affairs Sven-Erik Bucht took part in a high-level Forest Europe Ministerial Conference in Madrid on 20 October. For the first time, Sweden has now taken a seat on the Forest Europe General Coordinating Committee.

Mr Jerzy Plewa (DG AGRI) and Mr Sven-Erik Bucht (Minister of Rural Affairs) at the meeting
Mr Jerzy Plewa, Director-General of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development and Mr Sven-Erik Bucht, the Swedish Minister of Rural Affairs at the meeting. Photo: Government Offices of Sweden

“The forest nation of Sweden has been invited to take a seat on the influential General Coordinating Committee. Naturally, I am delighted that we have the confidence of our colleagues, and I am looking forward to presenting my visions for more dynamic and effective regional forest cooperation,” says Mr Bucht.

As a major forest nation, Sweden is the newest member of the General Coordinating Committee and will work to strengthen the political relevance of Forest Europe in the future. Sweden sees a number of opportunities for reform to highlight the importance of forests as an engine of the biobased economy in Europe and to clarify for other policy areas the forest policy tools (such as criteria and indicators) that Forest Europe has already developed to ensure sustainable forest management in Europe – thus securing the sustainability of forest products.

The most important and evident results gained through Forest Europe have included defining the concept of sustainable forest management and producing criteria and indicators related to this. Forest Europe has also produced the pan-European approach to national forest programmes. Between Ministerial Conferences the priorities set by the ministers in their resolutions are implemented through a joint work programme. Countries present their progress every fourth year in the State of Europe’s Forests Report, which reveals trends concerning the economic, environmental and social status of Europe’s forests.

“The Government’s initiative to develop a national forest programme for Sweden is in an intensive phase, in which the working groups have begun to draw up strategic recommendations to the Government. As a result, it is particularly interesting for me to see what we can also do in our region for forests as a key to a biobased future, including sustainable growth and green, decent jobs,” says Mr Bucht.

In Madrid, the countries adopted new political commitments to promote sustainable forest management in the region. The ministers presented their priorities at a roundtable discussion on the global challenges posed by climate change, for example, and discussed what can be done together to address this in the context of regional forest policy cooperation. The ministers stressed the role of forest in a green economy and the importance of taking further action to protect forests in a changing environment. At the 25th anniversary of Forest Europe, the ministers also decided to initiate a review of the Forest Europe process, as the parties want to strengthen the effectiveness of the partnership and how stakeholders and other sectors are included.

In addition, negotiations were concluded on a legally binding agreement on forests in Europe. The parties agreed to reconsider, no later than 2020, whether it may be possible to find consensus solutions to the differences of opinion that have blocked an agreement.

All decisions will now be put into practice by each of the signatories individually and together in joint activities, especially with a view to 2020.

What is Forest Europe?

Forest Europe, established in 1990, is a minister-led process for cooperation on forest policies. The signatories include 46 European countries (including Russia) and the European Commission. Every four years, a Ministerial Conference is held in the country that chaired the process and secretariat during the previous four years. The resolutions and decisions that are adopted at the Ministerial Conference direct the work for the coming period.