Commissioner Vella’s Beyond Wood speech – “beyond reality”
CEPF and five other organisations, representing Europe’s private, communal and state forest owners and managers, have sent a joint letter to Environment Commissioner Vella, following his speech at the conference “Beyond wood – the multiple services provided by Europe’s forests”, organized by DG Environment on 23 May in Brussels.

At the conference, Commissioner Karmenu Vella gave a keynote speech, where he painted a dark picture of the state of European forests and depicted forest owners as seeking only to maximize their profits and lacking knowledge and interest of other aspects of multifunctional forestry.

The Confederation of European Forest Owners (CEPF), the European Farmers and European Agri - Cooperatives (COPA and COGECA), the European Landowners’ Organization (ELO), the European State Forest Association (EUSTAFOR), the European Federation of Municipal Forest Owners (FECOF) and the Union of Forest Owners of Southern Europe (USSE), very much regret and contest this picture and the often one-sided, negative descriptions of Europe’s forests that are given, coupled with a lack of comprehension of the importance of sustainable forest management in providing multiple benefits and creating resilient forests.

“The active management of forests has a more crucial role than ever in contributing to the EU objectives of ensuring sustainable development, maintaining and creating jobs and growth in the EU and decarbonizing the economy”, the signatories write in their letter. “Multiple benefits are provided by European forest owners and managers, for whom the concept of multifunctional and sustainable forest management is the key for balancing the economic, social and environmental dimensions of forests.”

CEPF and the other signatory organisations welcome the recognition of Commissioner Vella about the need to look at the big, overall picture and the multifunctional role of European forests. However, they stress that in order to understand the big picture, an equal footing to all three pillars of sustainability must be given and an understanding of the situation on the ground is needed.

Finally, the signatories extended an invitation to Commissioner Vella to a field visit to a European forest, in order to give forest owners and managers the possibility to demonstrate and explain, with concrete examples, how multifunctional sustainable forest management works on the ground.

Please find the letter at the bottom of this article.

Also a group of MEPs, led by EU Forest Strategy rapporteur Elisabeth Köstinger, reacted to the speech with a letter to the Commissioner. In the letter they expressed the need to clear up a few misunderstandings about sustainable forest management and the role of forest owners. “In your speech you assumed that forest owners are only seeking the highest profit and – literally – “clear the forest, and plant new trees”. Commissioner, this is not “beyond wood” but “beyond reality”!”.

The MEPs also invited Commissioner Vella to support a more holistic approach when it comes to European forest policy. “Instead of pointing the finger at European forest owners the Commission should rather focus on the recognition of the economic, environmental and social role played by European forests and European forestry, namely the three pillars of sustainability.”

The letter was signed by MEPs Elisabeth Köstinger (EPP, AT), Ulrike Müller (ALDE, DE), Christofer Fjellner (EPP, SE), Fredrick Federley (ALDE, SE), Albert Dess (EPP, DE), Jens Nilsson (S&D, SE), Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE, FI), Hannu Takkula (ALDE, FI), Franz Bogovic (EPP, SL) and Norbert Lins (EPP, DE).