Forest Europe summit 'to shape' policy

Multi-stemmed beech tree (Image: Emma Murtagh) Forests cover almost one half of Europe's land area

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Forestry ministers from across Europe are attending a summit to shape future policy on how woodlands are managed.

Delegates from 46 nations are expected to decide whether they will go ahead and establish a legally binding agreement on forest management.

Ministers at the three-day gathering in Oslo are also set to adopt resolutions that will help shape European forest policy for the next decade.

It is estimated that forests cover more than half of Europe's land area.

"Forest Europe is a unique process for sharing information and experience between different countries," said host minister Lars Peder Brekk.

"It is a very important conference, and I hope we can get good results," he told BBC News.

High hopes

Start Quote

It can be a model for such legislation and work in other parts of the world”

End Quote Lars Peder Brekk

Mr Brekk explained that there were two main goals for the sixth meeting of ministers.

"One is to consider the goals, targets and actions for Forest Europe for the coming years.

"And for me, as the minister that is leading this work, it is also very important to make progress and launch the proceedings for the legally binding agreement."

He added that launching the process towards such an agreement would be a "huge success" for the sixth ministerial gathering since Forest Europe was established in 1990.

Mr Brekk said: "It is very important for the future - it can be a model for such legislation and work in other parts of the world."

However, he was keen to stress that management of forest resources remained under the sovereignty of individual nations, and any agreement through the Forest Europe process would be more about sharing information and experiences.

Royal opening

Among the resolutions to be considered by ministers are targets for nations to achieve by 2020, including developing and implementing national forest programmes.

Also, it is hoped that the conference will agree to look at standardising ways to assess the value of ecological services provided by forests.

As far as making progress on a legally binding agreement, delegations have been presented with plans to establish a working group that will oversee progress towards a universal approach.

On Tuesday, the conference is being officially opened by Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, and the State of Europe's Forest 2011 report is set to be published.

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