Ladies and gentlemen,

This final session has been a perfect end to this conference, moving from policy and technical discussion towards action and implementation. Finding ways to turn policy into action and to get society more involved are crucial for the future of our forests.

I would like to take the occasion to thank all the participants who contributed to the discussion during these last two days.

But don’t worry, the conference is not over yet! After this session, we will see some real policy in action when we will head to one of Brussels' beautiful parks for the tree planting ceremony.

Citizens enjoy our green spaces with trees and forests, but they often don’t understand why we need to manage them.

The review of the EU Forest Strategy identified this communication gap, showing a growing mismatch in the perception of forests by experts and by society.

There is a clear need to communicate to 21st century urban dwellers about the role and value of forests and the importance of managing them to address many of the challenges we face today. In this context, I am very thankful for the initiatives presented at this conference.

Planting trees, creating and restoring forests: these things are crucial for our climate and a more sustainable management of our natural resources, but also for raising awareness. The initiatives presented today are fantastic examples of forests and tree planting as solutions for global and regional problems.

I would also like Member States to encourage similar initiatives, combining policy objectives with citizens’ involvement and education. Initiatives like this could be supported through the tool-box provided with our Common Agricultural Policy – but it is a choice that must be made by Member States.

I invite Member States to make the best possible use of EU funds to support forests and forestry. I count on your support for maintaining a strong and well-funded CAP, as the policy is the major source for ensuring significant budgetary resources for forests in the future EU budget.

I am also supportive to more specific schemes promoting tree-planting as a tool for farmers in support of many ecosystem services, and I hope this suggestion can find some echo in the political process towards a future CAP.

I believe that the initiatives presented here today have shown that concrete policy action should include educational and awareness raising programmes.  Let me therefore also propose another new scheme similar to today’s existing “School milk programme”.

Under the Common Agricultural Policy, a new “Trees for Kids” scheme could be established.

The aid scheme would be aimed at children who attend primary or secondary-level schools in the Member States.

Support could be granted

for the planting of trees,

for accompanying educational measures; and

could cover certain related costs linked to equipment, logistics, or publicity.

In my view the Trees for Kids scheme financed through the CAP could raise the awareness we urgently need. It will encourage the next generation to highlight the great value our forests have for our future.

Should you think this is a worthwhile policy initiative, you have me on your side.  

Now I invite you all to join me for a short walk to the nearby park, where we will symbolically plant a tree with local schoolchildren.

This tree will symbolise a promise to our younger generation that we are serious about protecting our forests to benefit their future.

It will signify the huge importance of trees as a source of good for the environment, for climate mitigation, for mental well-being, for passive recreation and amenity in rural and urban areas.

Young people will mature in life as their favourite tree grows with them.

Thank you.