Hungary is ready to defend the interests of sustainable forest management

Hungary was among the 11 EU Member States to sign a letter sent, at the initiative of Austria, to Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission, requesting him to immediately review the draft forestry strategy of the EU.

Minister of Agriculture István Nagy highlighted that forestry serves as a model for sustainable management throughout Europe since it simultaneously takes social, environmental and economic aspects of sustainability into account. It is wrong and unacceptable for Brussels bureaucrats from this unit to unilaterally seek to enforce only green aspects because then there would be no social and economic basis for implementing the otherwise necessary environmental and climate protection measures. It is not possible to protect Europe’s forests by making farmers’ lives impossible, he underlined.

The leaked document, he said, would limit the tasks of sustainable and multifunctional forest management to biodiversity conservation, contrary to the already existing principles of forestry, previous EU forestry strategies and the decisions taken at the European Forest Ministerial Conferences. This would marginalize the economic and social functions of forests, endangering the jobs linked to the forest sector and its role in the circular bioeconomy.

The minister recalled that Hungary joined the protest initiative launched by Austria to protect the interests of the 500,000 forest owners and 37,000 forest farmers in the country while preserving the economic and social foundations for sustainable management and nature conservation. In addition to Hungary and Austria, the document was signed by the ministers responsible for the forests of the Visegrád Four countries as well as Estonia, Finland, France, Latvia, Germany and Romania.

He stressed that similar to recent successful negotiations on the Common Agricultural Policy, where the interests of small farmers had been defended and environmental and climate protection ideas had been made feasible, we are also taking action on forest management to ensure that the Commission will not achieve green objectives at the expense of farming and the countryside.

István Nagy also said that, according to the EU’s founding treaties, forest-related matters currently fall under the competence of member states due to the different natural and socio-economic circumstances of each country. Since forests are of key importance in terms of Hungary’s environmental state and climate protection, the Ministry of Agriculture aims to maintain the quality of existing forests and increase wooded areas, even in changing environmental conditions. To this end, Hungarian farmers applied for 31,000 hectares of new forest and tree plantations until June 30, 2021, under the National Afforestation Program launched in 2019, and state forestry enterprises have implemented several model afforestation programs, including the government’s commitment to plant at least 10 new trees every year after the birth of a child. The Settlement Afforestation Program is also underway with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture; a total of 36,000 trees are being planted in two phases in settlements with a population of less than 10,000, making it the largest inland afforestation program since 1990, the minister said.