EU forestry explained
In 2020, the European Union (EU) had about 160 million hectares of forests, covering about 39% of its territory (source: Eurostat), while other wooded lands covered about 20 million hectares. This area covered by forests and other wooded land equated to 45.1% of the EU‑27’s land area (source: Eurostat). EU forests are exceptionally diverse, with a large variety of forest types, characteristics and ownership structures. They provide multiple benefits for society and the economy whilst being a major source of biodiversity. Additionally, they are a key resource for improving quality of life as well as well-being, and in the creation of jobs.
These societal benefits are why the EU supports forestry; in particular, it does so through the common agricultural policy (CAP). The EU also plays a role in helping EU countries to coordinate their approaches and to tackle the problems faced by forests, such as climate change.
Financial support for forestry in the CAP
The CAP provides financial support to rural areas and EU countries can choose to fund forestry interventions through their CAP Strategic Plans. These interventions are aimed at protecting the forest, making it more resilient to climate change, safeguarding its multiple functions, including the provision of environmental services, as well as supporting investments, innovation and training to the benefit of the rural economy.
In the forestry sector, these interventions can support both investments and specific forest managements:
- afforestation or creation of woodland, both their establishment as investments and their maintenance;
- creation and maintenance of new agroforestry systems, regeneration or renovation of existing agroforestry systems (where trees and agricultural crops or pastures occupy the same land);
- prevention of forest damage caused by fires, natural disasters or catastrophic events, and restoring damaged forests;
- investments in improving climate resilience and environmental value of forest ecosystems;
- investments in forest technologies, mobilising, processing and marketing of forest products;
- land management contracts for forest-environment-climate services and forest conservation;
- conservation and promotion of forest genetic resources.
As part of its commitment to ensuring that public money is used effectively, the European Commission has evaluated the impact of forestry measures carried out through rural development programmes. The findings from this evaluation can be used to inform future policy.
New EU Forest Strategy for 2030
The new EU Forest Strategy for 2030 sets out how to protect and restore forests in the European Union, to ensure they continue to deliver their many services on which society depends. The Commission also published a biodiversity strategy for 2030 as part of the European Green Deal, with the aim to put EU biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030.
This new EU Forest Strategy sets out a policy framework to increase the quality, quantity and resilience of our forests, allowing to better plan for the forests of the future, and identifies areas for actions.
Guidance on the Development of Public and Private Payment Schemes for Forest Ecosystem Services
The Guidance is voluntary. It aims to provide a useful and user-friendly source of information. The advice provided will help public and private entities, and forest owners and managers, to develop and implement payment schemes for forest ecosystem services.
This Guidance builds on the Commission workshop on public and private payments for forest ecosystem services as well as publicly available information.
Cooperation and expert advice
The Standing Forestry Committee
The Standing Forestry Committee (SFC) has a three-fold role:
- it acts as an advisory and management committee for specific forestry measures;
- as ad-hoc consultation forum that provides expertise in connection with the development of forest-related initiatives in the framework of various EU policies, such as those on rural development and the environment;
- it provides a space for the exchange of information amongst EU countries, and between EU countries and the Commission.
The SFC has members representing the EU countries whilst the Commission chairs the committee. Members of the committee are nominated by the governments of EU countries.
The Commission proposes to amend Council Decision 89/367/EEC that sets up a Standing Forestry Committee, through a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council, as part of its commitment in the new EU Forest Strategy for 2030 for an updated EU Forest Governance. The aim of the Commission Proposal is to create a renewed, inclusive and inter-disciplinary Expert Group of EU countries competent on all forest and forestry matters, reflecting all the environmental, social and economic objectives of the EU Forest Strategy.
Dialogue with stakeholders
Due to the re-organisation of the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development's Civil Dialogue Groups (CDG), the former CDG on Forestry and Cork ceased to exist end of 2022. In line with the new EU Forest Strategy for 2030, it is replaced by a new group with a revised mission statement, broader membership and focus on the implementation of the new EU Forest Strategy: the Forest and Forestry Stakeholder Platform.
FOREST EUROPE, also know as the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe, was founded in 1990. It is the pan-European voluntary high-level political process for dialogue and cooperation on forest policies in Europe. FOREST EUROPE develops common strategies for its 46 signatories (45 European countries and the European Union) on how to protect and sustainably manage their forests.
Research and innovation
A strategic approach to forestry research promotes a science-based contribution of multifunctional and sustainable managed forests to the achievement of the EU’s climate policies, the transition to a circular and sustainable bioeconomy as well as the preservation of biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services.
Forest related research and innovation is supported through the Horizon Europe thematic cluster on food, bioeconomy, natural resources, agriculture and environment. This cluster provides opportunities to enhance and balance environmental, social and economic goals and to set human economic activities on a path towards sustainability.
The Commission's approach for research and innovation in agriculture and forestry sets out to:
- increase the impact of enhanced sustainable forest management under changing climate conditions;
- enhance benefits from ecosystem services, including non-wood products;
- harness new techniques and technologies that can be used in forest management;
- diversify the income of forest owners and managers, and increase the sustainability and circularity of the forest-based economy;
- foster and share knowledge throughout the forestry sector;
- encourage social innovations that enable rural communities to contribute to the future of forestry.
Facts and figures
Eurostat maintains a large body of data concerning European forests and forestry.