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Eastern Europe still facing challenges in forest management

Published: 24 May 2006

Appropriate strategies needed to deal with major problems

Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations

Geneva, Rome and Zvolen (Slovakia), 24 May 2006 -- While the rest of Europe is steadily progressing towards sustainable forest management, Eastern European countries are facing many challenges, following the restitution of forests from the State to their previous owners, FAO said today at the European forestry commission meeting (23-26 May) in Zvolen, Slovakia.

Many countries in Eastern Europe restructuring their economic and social system from central planning to the market system have made huge progress in developing a private forestry sector and adapting their institutions. The State has returned forests to former owners or their heirs; changes have been made in policy and legislation for greater private-sector involvement in the forestry sector; and forest institutions, notably State forest services are adapting to the market economy.

As a result, the forest sector in Eastern Europe is benefiting from a general recovery. Production of forest products in Eastern Europe is growing and trade of forest products with Western Europe is increasing significantly.

Many new forest owners are seeking new skills and resources to manage their forest in a sustainable way. However, their holdings are so small that many owners cannot afford professional advice. There is no long established tradition of forest management, nor institutional advice and support. As a result, forest owners are often tempted to sell all the timber to the first buyer, and then abandon active and responsible management.

“It is important for policymakers in these countries to identify ways and means to assist private smallholdings with professional advice, to enable them to take advantage of expanding markets while maintaining forest quality,” said Wulf Killmann, FAO Director Forest Products and Economics Division.

Other challenges

Countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) and Southeastern Europe urgently request support for policy changes and institutional reform,” said Kit Prins, senior forestry officer at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

Countries in the region could benefit from the experience of the new European Union members in adapting to profound changes in the social and economic environment.

Increased efforts are needed to combat forest fire and support forest law enforcement.

Greater demand for social and environmental benefits from forests, such as water management, soil erosion control and leisure, is expected. Improved policy coordination across sectors will be indispensable, according to FAO.

Overcoming the difficulties

FAO and UNECE are working together with other international organizations and the countries to assist in solving the problems.

“Overall, private owners will need further support to manage and market forest products better, so that the private forests may become more economically viable. Safeguarding the environmental and social services of forests, is yet another challenge,” Killmann said.

Discussions at the European Forestry Commission meeting are expected to help policymakers identify and solve the problems. The commission meets every two years and is part of a global network of regional forestry commissions which together feed ideas and suggestions to the FAO Committee on Forests scheduled to meet in March 2007.

For further information, please contact:

Christopher Prins

Chief, UNECE/FAO Timber Section
Trade Development and Timber Division
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)
Palais des Nations
CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Phone: +41 (0)22 917 2874
Fax: +41 (0)22 917 0041



Pierre Antonios
Media Relations
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
I - 00100 Rome, Italy

Phone: +39 06 570 53473


Ref: ECE/TIM/06/P02

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Information Unit

Palais des Nations, 

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Tel.: +41 (0) 22 917 44 44

Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 05 05