Lithuanian government has supported the ambiguously viewed forest management reform. As part of this reform, instead of the current 42 forest management companies, the country would form a single state forest management company Lithuanian State Forests. The final decision in this matter will be made by the Lithuanian Seimas.
Environmental Minister Kęstutis Navickas said after the government meeting on Wednesday, 8 March, that development of this reform was based on experience of multiple countries, except Latvia.
«We decided not to follow Latvia’s example in this. We see multiple problematic aspects in Latvia’s side of things – Latvia’s company is commercialized. We want to preserve the values associated with environmental protection and regional development. This is why we will retain nearly all employees. Another aspect is that the company in Latvia makes decisions on logging volumes. We, on the other hand, have to pass those decisions through the law and government,’ he said.
Prime Minister Sauļus Skvernelis expressed confidence that the parliament will make the decision on the industry’s reform during the spring session. Actual reformation could begin at the beginning of next year. According to him the government’s decision will be the first stem in this direction.
Only the opposition party – Lithuanian Christian Democrats – offers confident support for this reform in the Seimas. Ruling social democrats and opposition party Order and Justice criticize the proposed changes. The two parties are not prepared to vote in support of the reform. The parliament’s largest faction – Farmers and Greens Union – have not yet made a final decision in this matter.
On Wednesday, a protest act organized by Lithuania’s green movement took place outside the Cabinet of Ministers building. Participants of the protest act expressed the opinion that the current system is effective enough to satisfy environmental, state and economic requirements. According to the movement’s leader Rimantas Braziulis, formation of a single state company would mean several thousand people losing their jobs.
The prime minister believes that the forest management industry is currently politicized, and this is one of the main reasons why there is so much opposition against the reform.
Lithuania’s Environmental Ministry is confident that merging forest management offices into a single company would mean more efficient management of the country’s forest treasures. Government representatives note that centralization of administrative functions and reduction of territorial units would help save EUR 10 million in business finances and up to EUR 3 million for the state budget annually.
Critics view the reform as rushed. Virginija Vingrienė, representative of Farmers and Greens Union, said that the reform will not ensure more transparency. According to her, it will only ensure the privatization of state forests.
In 2018, Lithuania wants to join OECD. According to the government, reformation of the country’s forest management sector is necessary for this.