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Western Balkan countries call for action to defeat illegal logging

Montenegro, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Croatia and Serbia plead for strengthening the regional cooperation between neighboring countries on roundwood trade. Knowledge and experience exchange together with realistic figures of roundwood removals are crucial to address the problem of illegal logging at all levels. Petar Ivanovic, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, opened a UNECE/FAO workshop in Podgorica, Montenegro on 8 December 2015, to address these issues. The recent reforms in the Macedonian forest sector reported during the workshop reinforced the neighboring countries’ interest to strengthen the exchange of knowledge and experiences.

Major challenges for the Western Balkan´s forest sector include unregistered use of firewood (estimate up to 40%), illegal trading activities, low technological level of the wood industry due to outdated machinery, low transformation of wood into value-added forest products (wood is mostly exported as roundwood), lack of political support to complete necessary reforms, and low attractiveness of forestry as a profession. For instance, Montenegro lacks qualified human resources to fill many vacant posts in forestry. It does not have a faculty of forestry and professionals have to be educated in nearby Bosnia Herzegovina or Serbia, which also highlights the importance of regional cooperation. Low salaries drive forest workers to reach out for better working conditions in Italy, Austria and Germany, where they can earn in three months the equivalent of an annual salary in their home country.

The forest sector has the potential to play a substantial role in the economies of the four countries if a regional forest strategy is implemented.  Actions are needed to attract investments, to develop brands and market placement, and to increase the proportion of finalized high quality products. Creating more value added in the forest sector is possible without increasing wood harvest significantly by applying more efficient technologies and effective use of wood processing co-products in cascaded use. The region of the Western Balkans may have potentials similar to developments in Romania or Turkey in the past 15 years.

For more information, please visit:   

http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=41338#/ and watch the interview