Finnish landowners in anti-EU hunger strike

Forest owners protest against plan to reconvert forest land under Natura 2000 programme

A group of Finnish farmers and forest owners began an indefinite hunger strike today, in protest at the EU's nature protection programme, Natura 2000. In the western Finnish region of Karvia, four landowners are camping in the forest to mark their opposition to a Finnish environment ministry plan to take over 5,000 hectares of privately owned forest land. The plan is part of the national programme to implement Natura 2000, the EU network of protected areas under the 1992 habitats directive. According to the protesters, the government should pay at least FM25 million (Ecu4.3 million) instead of the FM10 million it is offering to compensate for 30 years' investment by landowners to convert peatlands into commercial forests. "People are not against nature protection itself, but we are strongly against having to give up these lands," one of the protesters told ENDS Daily. "We will continue [the hunger strike] until the environment minister promises to come here and see for himself the situation and what kind of tragedy it will be for some families." Finland has notified 415 sites covering 25,600 square kilometres under the habitats directive; considerably more than most other EU countries.

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