Forestry and agriculture sectors are heard and seen - PM Silina

  • 2024-03-05
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - The forestry and agriculture sectors are being heard and seen, Prime Minister Evika Silina (New Unity) told picketing farmers and forest owners outside the government house in Riga on Tuesday.

The prime minister said that it was important to protect nature while also taking into account the interests of the economy, and therefore called on the sector to develop proposals for compensation mechanisms and other issues that were painful for the sector, so that they could later be discussed in the government. 

Silina noted that the contested regulation on protected habitats, which in the forest owners' view provides inadequate compensation for land properties that are designated for nature protection, is still in the drafting stage and the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development,  Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Climate and Energy and the Ministry of Finance are working on its implementation mechanisms.

"We have not yet fully developed the new compensation framework, nor have we fully worked out how and for what these compensations will be paid, nor how big these restrictions will be," said Silina, adding that it is now essential to maintain a dialogue between policy makers and the industry.

Arturs Bukonts, executive director of the Latvian Forest Industry Federation, stressed in his speech at the picket that the forest industry must first and foremost fight for jobs, as well as the opportunity to manufacture products from Latvian-grown wood.

He said that the ministries alone are not capable of solving the painful issues of the forest sector and called on Silina to take the lead in joint and coordinated action in implementing the requirements of the European Green Deal in Latvia.

"More and more often, unfortunately, we have to ask ourselves who we are - are we the landlords or are we just tenants on our land," Arnis Muiznieks, Chairman of the Board of the Latvian Forest Owners' Association, said in his address to the picketers.

He said that such a protest action is a historic moment, as the involvement of the industry in the protest is a sign that it's high time to tackle the problems.

A number of business people also expressed their views on issues of concern to the sector at the picket. Among other things, speakers highlighted pay rises in the forestry sector, uncertainty about the future, and the need to work together to ensure that the requirements of the European Green Deal are implemented fairly in Latvia, taking into consideration the interests of employers and landowners.

As reported, nearly 1,000 farmers and forest industry representatives gathered for a picket outside the government house in Riga on Tuesday to demand fair compensations for land that is designated for nature protection.

Also, six units of heavy agricultural machinery were parked by the government building and a large installation featuring a chair with the sign "Come to your senses! You'll fall!" placed next to it.

The protesters also held posters with slogans like "For Green Development! Against Green Stagnation!", "Let Us Work!", "You Don's See the Forest Industry Behind the Trees", etc.

Participants of the picket included representatives of several forest industry companies like Krauzers, Lignum Latvija, Amber Birch, and Erte Grupa among many others.

As reported, farmers have joining the protest Latvia's forest owners and timber industry representatives are staging outside the government house in Riga on Tuesday, March 5.

The protest is intended to raise awareness of long-neglected problems affecting Latvia's forest owners and people working in the forest industry.

According to the association, the industry is suffering from unfair treatment both on the national and European Union (EU) level. One of the most painful issues is compensations for forest owners whose forest lands are designated for nature protection.

The protest's organizers want the government to pay fair compensations to the forest owners and to refrain from designating new territories where business activity is restricted until fairer compensations are introduced.

The forest industry is also calling for a concept to be developed for a voluntary nature conservation system in Latvia and to prevent the forest sector in Latvia from being placed at a significant disadvantage compared to other EU member states, while cutting red tape that undermines the international competitiveness of the forest sector.