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The EU and Russian forest-based sectors need each other

17.12.2013


We need an effective collaborative framework between the EU countries and Russia to make the Pan-European region the leading actor in bio-economy. This was concluded by the recent ThinkForest seminar on emerging opportunities for EU-Russia cooperation on forest-based sector governance. The event, opened by Finnish State Secretary Mr. Risto Artjoki from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Mr. Alexander Panfilov, Deputy Head of the Russian Federal Forest Agency presented the current environment of the forest-based sectors in the EU and Russia. It also brought up insights on future forest sector scenarios including business opportunities and policy related challenges. On this basis, the participants agreed that Russia and the EU countries need each other in developing their forest sectors further.

To the EU, Russia is a very important export destination and source of raw materials, but it also has a significant global role in meeting the most crucial sustainability challenges: biodiversity, climate change, energy, renewable resources. To Russia, the EU is a source of foreign direct investments and a provider of know-how in industry, forestry and sustainability. The EU is also considered as an export destination for value-added forest products. In this context, Russia’s WTO membership was seen as a step in a longer term process, where Russia integrates itself increasingly into the rules and business practices of the global economy, but where no miracles are to be expected in the short-term. This is how Dr. Lauri Hetemäki, Head of EFI’s Foresight and Policy Support Programme, summed up the primary interests for cooperation.

The ThinkForest event highlighted the historical momentum in the Pan-European context, with both the EU Forestry Strategy and the Russian Forest Policy Framework being finalised during 2013. Strategic projects and activities to reinforce and maintain a fluent dialogue between the science-policy-business community were seen as key for a mutually benefitting long-term collaboration in the EU and Russia.

Ms. Sari Essayah, Member of the European Parliament, chaired a panel discussion on lessons learned and insights from forest policy and governance. The discussion revealed that there is much interest for new investments towards the forest-based sector in Russia, but a lack of infrastructure is often a hindrance to such investments. ThinkForest participants also recognised that the new National State Forest Policy accepted in September 2013 is bold step forward in addressing the most important challenges faced by the Russian forest sector (as identified in the FAO Russian Outlook Study).

At the end of the event, Dr. Marc Palahí, EFI’s Deputy Director, confirmed EFI’s commitment to supporting and facilitating cooperation between the EU and Russian forest sectors through specific research and capacity building projects, as well as promoting the science-policy dialogue through targeted forums and events. In 2014, the EFI Project Centre on Forest Policy and Governance coordinated by the Saint-Petersburg Forest Technical University will coordinate EU-Russian cooperation under the new ERA-Net scheme SUMFOREST, aiming to integrate national forest research programmes in Europe.

The ThinkForest seminar was held on 13 December and it gathered roughly 40 participants ranging from business leaders and scientists to policy-makers from the EU countries and the Russian Federation. This seminar was one of the side events of the European Forest Week, which was held from 9-13 December 2013 in parallel with Metsä 2013, the joint session of the ECE Timber Committee and the FAO European Forestry Commission, in Rovaniemi, Finland. The Week was celebrated with events in Rovaniemi and throughout Europe, highlighting the contribution of forests, forest products and services to a green economy.

More information: Dr. Marc Palahí, Deputy Director, EFI, marc.palahi@efi.int and from the event website.