Assistance from the European Union to boost the development of an efficient and privately owned forestry sector in the eastern European countries wanting to become Member States is crucial, EU enterprise commissioner Erkki Liikanen has claimed.

In a speech to the European Economic and Social Committee, he said that the move from 100% state ownership of forests in these former communist countries had created a number of problems that needed to be addressed.

These, he said, had included difficulties regarding the registration of claims, demarcation of plots, valuation of forests and budgetary constraints. There were also a few local instances of unchecked clear-cutting, although this was not common, he added.

Other challenges have included undersized enteprise units, a lack of co-operation on the part of family forest owners, and shortages of funds to finance improvements in forest infrastructure.