In a statement released today, WWF called on agriculture ministers to reject the strategy when they meet in Brussels next week. The document fails to acknowledge the extent to which EU policy should be used in forest issues, WWF claims. The group is incensed by the Commission's apparent satisfaction with the status quo and its assertion that "existing forestry measures provide an adequate contribution to an EU forestry strategy" (ENDS Daily 18 November).
The Commission's paper responds to a request from the European Parliament for an EU strategy on forestry - an area where the EU has no explicit constitutional jurisdiction. But WWF claims that the strategy fails to provide any new thinking and reneges on an undertaking made by the Commission in its biodiversity strategy earlier this year to draw up an action plan for forests (ENDS Daily 4 February).
The environmental group also criticises what it says is the strategy's only new proposal - to develop an EU logo for forest products certified to come from sustainable sources. The existing international certification and labelling scheme run by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is perfectly adequate, WWF says.
A key promoter of the FSC scheme, WWF also takes a swipe at a certification scheme being developed by the European forestry industry and cited by the Commission in its draft strategy. The FSC is "the only existing scheme credible to consumers and NGOs," WWF warns.
Initial industry reaction to the forest strategy has been much more favourable. In contrast to WWF, which claims the Commission devised the strategy without external consultation, European paper manufacturers body, Cepi said today that it had worked closely with the Commission's agriculture and industry departments over recent months "to ensure that the strategy takes account of certain key principles," including the need to improve the competitiveness of the EU forestry industry.
Cepi also gave a cautious welcome to the idea of an EU logo for certified timber. At the Cepi general assembly this week, Cepi forest committee chairperson Patrick Ollivier stressed that, even if the Commission gets involved, the industry initiative must remain under the control of industry.
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