Two key programmes of the European Commission (EC) that provide incentives for afforestation and reforestation are the Community Regulation Directive 2080/92 (later introduced as part of the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP), which promotes afforestation of agricultural land, and the Special Action for Pre-Accession Measures for Agriculture and Rural Development (SAPARD), which focusses on rural development in European Union (EU) accession countries and includes funding for afforestation. Both of these schemes have been widely criticised as perverse incentives (also see the case study that follows this chapter).
Under the CAP, detailed analysis in 1997 suggested that the decrease in utilised agricultural land was marginal and that the role of afforestation under CAP had been overestimated. Also, the application of the directive varied between member states, with six countries accounting for more than 90 percent of total area planted. Lastly, the analysis found examples where funds had been mis-spent—for instance, in Spain, where farmers frequently planted, cleared, and replanted the same plots, all with subsidised funds from the EU.
Under SAPARD, it has been noted that the procedures have proven to be a big burden for many countries. In addition, concerns have been raised about some of the damaging impacts of SAPARD, such as the use of chemical protection, fence building, and construction of new roads. Also, no requirements are given under SAPARD for a minimum percentage of native tree species to be planted or incentives to enhance environmentally sound management practices. Environmental measures related to forests are only marginally included in national plans.
WWF is working both in the context of CAP and the EU enlargement process to ensure that EC policies promote sustainable rural development. For example, in 2001 WWF
undertook a comprehensive review study of SAPARD-related forestry measures, and it also took part in the midterm review of the CAP. Some of the main issues that emerged relate to improving monitoring and follow-up with different beneficiaries of afforestation subsidies.
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