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Minister Podgoršek at the Third Ministerial Conference of the Mechanism for the Cooperation in Forestry between China and Central and Eastern European Countries

At the invitation of Mr Guan Zhi'ou, the administrator of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration of the People’s Republic of China, Minister Podgoršek attended today by videoconference the Third Ministerial Conference of the Mechanism for the Cooperation in Forestry between China and Central and Eastern European Countries (17+1 Forestry Mechanism). 17+1 Forestry Mechanism strengthens business, scientific research and political cooperation in the field of forestry and forest-wood chains.

Minister Podgoršek at the Third Ministerial Conference of the Mechanism for the Cooperation in Forestry between China and Central and Eastern European Countries

Minister Podgoršek at the Third Ministerial Conference of the Mechanism for the Cooperation in Forestry between China and Central and Eastern European Countries | Author MKGP

In his opening speech at the conference, Minister Jože Podgoršek greeted all the ministers, heads of delegations and participants in the conference. He said that it has been five years since the establishment of the 17+1 Forestry Mechanism and that "Slovenia attaches great importance to cooperation in forestry and beyond in the entire community of the 17+1 initiative and remains committed to working closely with all partners of the initiative to address our shared interests and accomplish major goals". He stressed: "Together we have achieved quite a few important results in the field of cooperation in scientific research and education and in the field of business and investment opportunities in the entire forest-wood chain. Yet, our task within the partnership remains the same – to find the best possible solutions – not only in terms of funding joint scientific and research projects, but also for business and investment opportunities and the rise of new start-ups in the field of forestry and forest-wood chains."

The ministers went on to discuss the role of forests and forest-based industry in bio-economy, in particular in the light of the challenges in attaining sustainable development and solving climate change. They also discussed the opportunities for cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries in the field of bio-economy in forestry.

Mr Podgoršek presented Slovenia as a country rich in forests, stating that 60% of its territory is covered with forests. "In Slovenia, we follow the principles of close-to-nature and sustainable forest management, which reflects in stable and biologically diverse forests. We devote a lot of attention to protective, biotic and hydrological functions of the forest. Because of these roles, forests are of great importance in mitigating the effects of climate change. In addition, forests are also an important carbon dioxide sink. Slovenian forests thus make a significant contribution to the preservation of biodiversity, employment and the income of rural communities," added the Minister.

Taking into account the natural conditions, wood biomass is the most common raw material in Slovenia. Its accessibility and availability are crucial for the transition to the bio-economy, which is one of the strategic development priorities in Slovenia. Bio-economy is related to sustainable development goals from key national documents, such as the Vision of Slovenia 2050, the Slovenian Development Strategy 2030 and the Smart Specialisation Strategy.

Minister Podgoršek went on by saying that, in the Slovenian Development Strategy 2030, the Government of the Republic of Slovenia summarises the concepts of the bio-economy in two of the twelve objectives: a low-carbon circular economy (with the aim of increasing the share of renewables in the final energy consumption) and sustainable natural resource management (with the aim of increasing the share of utilised agricultural area in relation to the total area, improving the quality of watercourses and reducing the ecological footprint). 

At the policy level, bio-economy is also defined in the 2018 Roadmap for the Development of the Circular Economy, which highlights four areas: food system, forest value chains, manufacturing and mobility.

In the field of forestry, the goals are set out in more detail in the National Forest Programme, which defines the most important long-term and short-term orientations in forest management, and the Operational Programme for the Implementation of the National Forest Programme 2017–2021.

In the field of wood economy, the Slovenian Industrial Strategy 2021–2030 is under preparation. It will set guidelines for the further development of Slovenian industry in the period 2021–2030, aiming to make Slovenian industry greener, more creative and smarter. This includes the transition to a low-carbon circular economy, the decarbonisation of energy-intensive industries, sustainable mobility and the transition to an industry based on wood and other natural renewable materials.             

Wood plays an important role among energy products in the Renewable Energy Sources Act, which is in the process of being adopted. The broader area of climate change is regulated by the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan. This action strategy document sets out goals, policies and measures for each of the five dimensions of the Energy Union for the period up to 2030 (with a view to 2040): decarbonisation (greenhouse gas emissions and renewable energy sources), energy efficiency and security, the internal market and research, innovation and competitiveness.

"Slovenia considers that cooperation in the field of science and development is the most important part of the Mechanism for Cooperation in Forestry. We believe that cooperation in the development of new materials and new wood products would contribute to the development of the bio-economy. In doing so, it is important to promote and encourage the integration of companies operating in the field of forest-wood chains," highlighted Mr Podgoršek.

The exchange of experts and young scientists is also crucial to increase the exchange of existing knowledge and the development of new products and materials.

At the end of the Third Ministerial Conference, the ministers declared the Beijing Statement on Forest Bio-economy Cooperation, which is not binding under the international law for the member countries of the 17+1 initiative.

Cooperation in the 17+1 Mechanism is part of the wider initiative for a stronger cooperation between seventeen Central and Eastern European countries (Albania, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia) and China. The countries play an important role in promoting sustainable and multifunctional forest management, protecting wetlands and wild animals, developing green economy and ecological culture. They work together to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular the goal of sustainable forest management.

The 17+1 Forestry Mechanism is open to all interested businesses and scientific research institutions aiming to develop cooperation with their partners that operate in Central and Eastern European countries and China in the field of forestry and forest-wood chains. The Republic of Slovenia coordinates the 17+1 Forestry Mechanism. Its executive coordinating body is based at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food of the Republic of Slovenia.