Finnish Forest Research Institute  Metla

Press release 02.06.2006

The forest sector of transition-economy countries in the process of change

Metla studied the changes that have occurred during the 15-year transition process

During the past 15 years the transition-economy countries in Central and Eastern Europe have experienced thorough and fast change to their forest sectors due to the disintegration of the central planning system. Some of the countries have survived the change with success, while others are just starting their process of change. The Joensuu Research Unit of Metla has studied the transition process, its results and future activities. Suggestions for necessary actions to be implemented and to enhance international discussion were published in a Working Paper of the Finnish Forest Research Institute.

Reconstruction of the forest sector will take several decades, because the changes are connected with development of know-how and structures in the private forest sector, with improvement of efficiency in forest management, in implementation of innovative but effective and environmentally friendly technologies, and with investments in infrastructures, information, communication and industry.

The new EU member countries have the advantage of being able to participate directly in the decision-making process and utilizing the sources of funding. Available to them is plenty of experience and information on forest sector development, which could be exploitable also in the other transition-economy countries. The new EU countries also participate actively in international processes.

In the other goups of transition-economy countries, including the countries of south-eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) within Europe, and the Russian Federation , in most countries special attention needs to be paid to establishing a basic institutional infrastructure. In some of the countries there is a need to initiate the collecting and compiling statistics, processing and disseminating of forest resource information. Attention must also be paid to the weakness or even absence of research, education, training and advisory Attention must also be paid to the weakness or even absence of research, education and training organizations and advisory bodies. Additionally, the private forest sector can be fragile or totally non-existent. In some countries, post-war reconstruction is also needed.

Eight countries that have been the most advanced in the transition process are currently members of the EU and they wish to contribute to the international co-operation by sharing their experiences with others. At the 33 rd session of the FAO European Forest Commission (EFC), held in May 2006 in Slovakia, discussion topics included the challenges faced by the forest sector and the lessons learned during the transition process.

Metla’s analysis shows that the transition process has proceeded in a different way in different countries. When the process is being monitored, items to be taken into account include the initial starting situation, the changes implemented in the first phase of the process, as well as the recent country-specific situation. This helps to identify appropriate actions needed and to select the best possible solutions. The countries are grouped by sub-regions, and the grouping is based on possible shared parameters and different phases of the transition process. However, this does not mean that the same solutions are appropriate, or even could be applied to entire groups. It is impossible to create a single transition model that all countries could copy. The first phase of the transition process for the new EU countries was accomplished when the countries joined the EU in May 2004. Yet the complete transition process towards a full, mostly economic, integration will continue for several decades.

Several new issues have also appeared, such as law enforcement, illegal logging and corruption. It is essential that people understand the importance of dealing with the problems and that they are committed to solving them. Without people who understand the problems related to the forest sector’s transition to a market economy, there is no guarantee for the success of the process. That is why the key issue is to expand expertise and know-how by capacity building.

Publication: Ilavský, Ján. 2006. 15 years of economies in transition: Lessons learned and challenges ahead for the forestry sector. A contribution to the work of the UNECE Timber Committee and the FAO European Forestry Commission. Working Papers of the Finnish Forest Research Institute 24. 74 pages + appendices

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