Forests and other wooded land cover over 40% of the land area in the European Union (EU). The forests in the EU belong to many different bioclimatic zones and have adapted to a variety of natural conditions. About 60% of the wooded land in the EU is privately owned. Expansion of the EU’s forest area currently exceeds the loss of forest land. This positive development sets the EU apart from the rest of the world, where deforestation continues to reduce forest area.
Forests fulfill a number of roles: environmental (e.g. protecting soil, preventing landslides or avalanches), economic (forming the basis for the wood industry) and social (through recreational activities). They are also faced with various challenges among which are loss of biodiversity, climate change, and increasing demand for timber and wood-based products.
Given the global importance of forests, a range of international organisations – such as the United Nations (UN), the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), and Forest Europe – have set up initiatives to promote the role of forests and to ensure their continued existence.
The EU Treaties do not provide for a specific forest policy. However, various EU policies – e.g. in the environmental, agricultural and energy fields – impact on forest management. In September 2013, the Commission presented a new Forest Strategy to help improve the coherence of EU forest-related policies.