An agreement to open negotiations is expected to be reached by the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe, which will take place in Oslo, Norway, on 14-16 June.
During the meeting, ministers responsible for forests will decide whether to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee with a mandate to develop a holistic, legally-binding framework agreement on forests in Europe (see October 2010 non-paper).
The agreement concerns sustainable management and use of forests, and focuses on issues ranging from national forest programmes to biodiversity protection and making European forests contribute to a green economy, primarily by putting a value on forest ecosystem services.
The intergovernmental talks are expected to last for two years. In parallel, a specific work programme will develop policies for sustainable forest management and facilitate implementation of commitments.
The European Commission will take part in the discussions but does not represent the EU-27, which will be represented by their national ministers in charge of forests. The Commission has expressed willingness to lead the negotiations on behalf of the EU-27, but member states' views on the matter diverge.
The June conference will also see the launch of a report on the state of Europe's forests, preliminary findings of which were presented at last week's expert meeting.
EU forest policy review to be launched next week
In parallel to the pan-European talks, the European Union is about to review its forest policy.
Forest policy is not an EU competence, although forestry issues are partly addressed under the bloc's trade, environmental and agricultural policies.
The Commission will next week (15 April) convene the first meeting of member-state and stakeholder representatives to discuss the post-2011 forest action plan. Following the workshop, a working committee will be established to prepare, by the end of 2011, proposals for updating and revamping the EU's forest policy.