Forest owners from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania gathered in Brussels, Belgium to make their voices heard in front of the Commission and European Parliament. The one-day CEPF Baltic Forestry seminar was held on 26 June 2013, and focused on EU forest policy developments and the specific characteristica and challenges of forest owners’ property rights in the Baltic region,- informing cepf-eu.org.
The first session of the seminar took place at the European Forestry House, in Brussels. Aljoscha Requardt, CEPF Secretary General, warmly welcomed the about 30 participants, which included various representatives from Baltic forest owner organisations, Commission representatives as well as other experts with interest in forestry in the Baltic region. Aljoscha Requardt provided an overview on the recent European forest related policy developments and emphasised that a strong reference instrument for the forest sector is needed to better promote the oprtunities and contrubtions of the sector and balance the multiple interests on forests at the EU level.
Maria Gafo from DG Agriculture introduced the latest developments of the new EU Forest Strategy and emphasized that forest owners play a major role in each element of the strategy. "The resource holders need to be integrated into the whole process", Gafo stressed in her presentation.
The Baltic Members of the European Parliament, Radvile Morkunaite-Mikuleniene and Karlis Sadurskis hosted the second session of the seminar at the European Parliament and highlighted the need to bring the messages from the ground to the European level.
Algis Gaizutis, representing Forest Owners’ Association of Lithuania, Arnis Muiznieks, representing Latvian Forest Owners’ Association and Priit Pollumae, representing Estonian Private Forest Union, presented the current challenges in each Baltic country. It was emphasised that the still ongoing restitution process is relevant for all Baltic countries and leads to a steadily growing number of forest owners in the region. Furthermore examples of unacceptable ownership violations and restrictions were given, including the lack of compensation for areas used or reserved by the State for infrastructure, the lack of compensations for costs incurred or income foregone due to restrictions in protected areas (e.g. Natura 2000), as well as the violation of property rights by national hunting legislations.
Robert de Graeff, representing the European Landowners Organization (ELO), complemented the different statements by adding the European perspective on ownership rights, distinguishing between the competences of the Commission and the European court in this context.
The seminar concluded that the issue of property rights is of high relevance in all three Baltic countries. Especially the participation of forest owners in policy decision making and implementation needs to be improved. Secured ownership rights are the basis for sustainable forest management. Therefore, it is most crucial to safeguard them at national but also European level.