Forests in the spotlight of the Finnish EU Council Presidency
Finland’s Presidency of the EU Council is on its second half as it was transferred from Romania to Finland in July. Finland’s Presidency program “Sustainable Europe – Sustainable Future” presents four main priorities for the presidency period: to strengthen common values and the rule of law; to make the EU more competitive and socially inclusive; to strengthen the EU’s position as a global leader in climate action and to protect the security of citizens comprehensively. Specifically forest-related targets for the Presidency are the update of EU Forest Strategy, reactivating the negotiations on Legally Binding Agreement on Forests in Europe and the EU Communication on stepping up EU action to protect and restore world’s forests.

On 2-3 September, CEPF participated to the Informal Meeting of the EU Forest Directors-General in Helsinki hosted by the Finnish Presidency. The main topics addressed were the EU Forest Strategy post 2020, the ongoing discussion on a Legally Binding Agreement on Forests in Europe and the impacts of climate change on EU forests. During the meeting, CEPF Secretary-General, Fanny-Pomme Langue, took the floor to inform the participants about a recent joint statement on the Taxonomy Regulation and to explain the main outcomes of this position. During the breaks of the plenary session, participants were able to visit an exhibition of wood-based bioproducts, organized by Uusi Puu and to participate to an excursion to a forest site with plantation and harvesting activities illustrating sustainable forest management practices in Finnish forests by UPM.

CEPF was also invited to participate to the Meeting of EU Nature and Biodiversity Directors organised by the Finnish Presidency on 2-3 October in Helsinki. The main topic of the meeting was the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030. CEPF was represented at the meeting by Anna-Rosa Asikainen, Lawyer at MTK, and by CEPF Policy Officer, Hélène Koch who presented the views of the Natura 2000 Users Forum (N2kUF) on the global and EU 2030 Biodiversity Framework. The two key aspects highlighted by N2kUF are active participation of owners and users, and the availability of appropriate funds the future biodiversity framework. Ahead of the meeting, participants had a possibility to take part to an excursion to Tammisaari Archipelago National Park and to the island of Jussarö, and visited the Finnish Nature Centre Haltia, which present exhibition of nature from all over Finland in an eco-designed wooden building.

The EU Communication on stepping up EU action to protect and restore world’s forests published on 23 July and one of the Presidency’s forest-related priorities, was the topic of an event organised on 26 September in Brussels by the Presidency. In the event, Hugo Maria Schally, DG ENV, presented the Communication and Tiina Vähänen, FAO, gave a presentation towards better information on world’s forests. After the presentations the floor was given to the stakeholders from forest sector to present their views. The Communication was also discussed at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 14-15 October in Strasbourg. Jari Leppä, Minister for Agriculture and Forestry of Finland and President of the Council, stated during the Council meeting that “Deforestation is proceeding at an alarming rate and urgent action is needed to stop it. Forestry is therefore a top priority for Finland's presidency, and we are working to highlight, also through the adoption of Council conclusions, the need for afforestation, sound and sustainable management, and protection and restoration of forests”.