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At its sitting, the Riigikogu discussed issues relating to forest as a matter of significant national importance on the proposal of the Estonian Free Party Faction. Reports were by ecologist and forest scientist Toomas Frey, Asko Lõhmus (University of Tartu, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, Lead Research Fellow; member of the Estonian National Forestry Board), and member of the Estonian Free Party Faction Artur Talvik.

Toomas Frey said that developments in the Estonian forest were complicated and worrying. He referred to section number five of the Constitution which states that the natural wealth and resources of Estonia are national riches which must be used economically. Frey said that that provision is undermined at present.

Frey added that if the increment of maturing forest is 1.8 million hectares this year, then that should be the amount allowed to be cut. This is important for two reasons. In the course of ecological development, only mature forest is perfect in terms of biological diversity and ecological diversity of habitats, and the volume of wood fixed in this way also means regulating CO2 quota. The total area of spruce stands is 192 000 hectares in Estonia at the moment, and 1.9 thousand hectares of that is permitted to be cut every year. Frey said that there is no such volume in the spruce stand mature for cutting anymore because it has been cut already. Frey thinks that, therefore, cutting in spruce stands should be stopped, and that could be done by declaring the Forest Act null and void.

Asko Lõhmus said that forests are very complex and large-scale systems. Scientists are worried because the states, societies and politicians tend to manage forests through very primitive simplifications. In his words, Estonia has got both a clear methodological guideline and a political agreement for wise management of forestry and forests in the form of the sustainable forest management concept, but over the past ten years the actual forest policy of Estonia has little by little been drifting away from this basis and agreement. Lõhmus said that, at present, the state is vigorously developing the wood industry already at the expense of other forest goods, and this trend is a long-term security risk that needs to be addressed quickly.

Lõhmus also pointed out statistics relating to Estonian forests. About 85 per cent of the Estonian mainland would be covered in forest if no people lived here. At present, about a half of the Estonian mainland is covered in forest, and around a half of all animal species found in Estonia live in the forest. At the same time, about 10 per cent of the Estonian population is materially connected with the forest. This includes forest owners and the people working in the forest industry. The percentage of the forest and wood industries accounts for five per cent of GDP.

Artur Talvik admitted that the obligation to earn dividends should be taken away from the State Forest Management Centre. That would reduce the wish of the manager of the state forest to make clear cuttings. Talvik said that the attitude of people towards forest also needed to be changed. As there are more than 100 000 forest owners in Estonia, a relatively wide variety of mentalities can be met among the owners of forest. About a half of the Estonian forest belongs to the state and it is managed by the State Forest Management Centre.

Rainer Vakra, Jaanus Karilaid, Andres Metsoja, Mart Helme, Kalle Palling, Peeter Ernits, Külliki Kübarsepp, Jüri Adams and Jürgen Ligi took the floor during the debate and presented their observations.

Today, the Riigikogu passed with 83 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Citizen of the European Union Act and the Equal Treatment Act (189 SE), initiated by the Government, which brings Estonian legislation into conformity with a European Union directive. Six members of the Riigikogu voted against.

The amendment aims to facilitate the exercise of rights conferred on workers and the members of their family in the context of freedom of movement, and to ensure that they are not discriminated against on grounds of nationality.

The directive applies to matters in the area of freedom of movement for workers, for example, access to employment, conditions of employment and work, access to social and tax advantages, membership of trade unions, access to education for the children of workers, etc.

In addition, the directive provides for the designation of a contact point in every Member State who monitors compliance with the relevant rights of workers of the Member State and their family members. According to the Act, the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner will be such contact point in Estonia.

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)

Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu

(NB! The recording will be uploaded with a delay).

Riigikogu Press Service
Eva Vahur
631 6592, 53300619
Questions: press@riigikogu.ee