Sweden’s Presidency of the Council of the EU is taking up a lot of Sweden’s Minister for Rural Affairs, Peter Kullgren’s time. Negotiations are being conducted in several legislative processes in parallel that are set to affect forests and forestry. But what is his take on the role of the forest-based industry and the work of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council for a sustainable and circular bioeconomy?
What do you see as your most challenging tasks as Minister for Rural Affairs?
“In relation to the forest-based sector, it’s to negotiate the often difficult trade-offs that exist between legitimate economic, social and environmental interests.”
What is your own relationship to forests?
“Forests mean so much to me. They’re a place for recreation and recovery. As a dog owner, I often walk in the forest, and as a hunter, I feel at home there.”
How do you see the forest-based sector’s role in the green transition?
“The forest-based sector is helping the world to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Its traditional and new products contribute to reducing society’s emissions at home and abroad. The sector’s investment in forestry contribute to maintaining the growth that enables a high rate of carbon sequestration, even in a changing climate. Climate adaptation for environmental and economic values will continue to be relevant in the future.”
How does Sweden’s Presidency affect the Swedish government’s opportunities to promote forest-related issues in the Union?
“The government wants to have a professional and efficient Presidency that acts as a fair broker with the aim of reaching solutions that are in the interests of all Member States. At the same time, the Presidency offers an opportunity to create a closer relationship with the European Commission, other Member States, and EU parliamentarians, which will also be advantageous for Sweden in forest-related negotiations after the Swedish Presidency.”
The Swedish government does not want the EU to regulate Swedish forestry in detail. Which EU legislative processes does the government believe has the greatest impact on Swedish forestry? How do you work with these issues?
“During the spring, negotiations were concluded on sustainability criteria in the revised Renewable Energy Directive and negotiations continue, among other things, on a regulatory framework for reversing the degradation of ecosystems and proposals on carbon storage certification. Further legislative proposals are expected, such as a new soil health law and a proposal on forest monitoring and strategic forest planning. As there are several parallel proposals being negotiated, the cumulative effects on Swedish timber production have generally been difficult to fully assess. The government’s position is that forestry should not be restricted; rather, it should contribute fully to achieving the climate goals, as well as create jobs and growth throughout the country.”
The Agricultural and Fisheries Council recently adopted conclusions on the opportunities that a sustainable and circular bioeconomy offers to the green and digital transition. How do you see these conclusions affecting the EU’s political orientation going forward?
“The bioeconomy has the opportunity to contribute to several of the challenges we face and has a key role in job creation and sustainable growth throughout the economy, the climate, and for increased self-sufficiency, for example. As holders of the rotating Presidency of the EU, I am convinced that we have been able to raise these issues at the European level and that we have now adopted Council conclusions that well reflect the different perspectives that exist within the EU.”
EU agriculture and fisheries ministers met on 25 April 2023 in Luxembourg. The meeting was chaired by Peter Kullgren, Minister for Rural Affairs of Sweden.
Ministers held a policy debate on the agricultural and forestry aspects of the proposed carbon removal certification regulation and endorsed conclusions on the opportunities offered by the bioeconomy in light of current challenges, with a focus on rural areas. They also exchanged views on the state of member states’ strategic plans under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for 2023-2027 and took stock of the market situation for agricultural products in the EU, with a particular focus on the impact of the war in Ukraine.