Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä (Centre) took part in a panel discussion organised as part of SuomiAreena in Helsinki on 12 July 2021. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)

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MINISTER of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä (Centre) says the European Union’s updated forest strategy is better than expected, although it continues to reach too deep into everyday forest management and wood markets, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

The European Commission, he said, sought to outright hijack authority over forest policy with the draft strategy that was leaked in June.

Finland was adamant that forests fall within the purview of member states. “We engaged in active lobbying towards the commission,” he stated in a joint press with Minister of European Affairs Tytti Tuppurainen (SDP) on Friday.

Tuppurainen similarly pointed out that the country has emphasised since the beginning of its membership that forest policy is strictly a national issue, even though forests are affected also by the climate and environmental policy of the EU.

“The strategy requires vigilance from forest owners. The strategy is an indication that there’s interest in regulating forest policy also at the EU level, which is not in line with our view,” she said.

Leppä voiced his reservations about the legal proposal presented in conjunction with the strategy on forest monitoring, data collection and reporting. The proposal is not as radical as initially expected, as the commission was initially considering introducing binding forest management rules across the EU, according to him.

“But this is a major step toward conducting forest policy at the EU level. And I’m extremely critical about that. We have to present information to the commission on forest data collection, which is something we’ve practised for over a hundred years.”

The more thorough reporting requirements may nonetheless increase the administrative burden without necessarily creating the desired benefits.

The emphasis placed in the revised strategy on long-term wood use may create additional opportunities, through wood construction, for Finland. “The strategy also puts value on short-term and recyclable wood products, such as paperboard and hygiene products,” he added.

Also the role of bioenergy is recognised better than in the previous iteration, according to him.

Leppä said Finland is far from pleased with the various restrictions imposed on bioenergy in the renewable energy directive unveiled by the European Commission on Wednesday, 14 July. “They create uncertainty for investments,” he explained.

The fact that clear-cutting will not be prohibited should appease forest owners in Finland, gauged Leppä.

“I consider it regrettable that the commission continues to have reservations about this important method of forest management for Finns, which imitates the cycle of coniferous forests,” he commented.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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