Answer given by Mr Sinkevičius on behalf of the European Commission
The Commission confirms that there is a clear balance of competence between EU and Member States when it comes to forests.
The European Union has a variety of competences shared with Member States that concern forest protection and forestry, including climate, environment, energy and agriculture, which the Union has exercised respecting the principle of subsidiarity. Within these areas of shared EU competences, forests and forestry do not fall exclusively within the competency of Member States.
The Court of Justice of the EU confirmed already in 1999 that ‘[m]easures to defend the forest environment against the risks of destruction and degradation associated with fires and atmospheric pollution’ fall under the EU environmental legal basis.
When the primary aim of the measures corresponds to other fields, such as energy or the support to the objectives of the common agriculture policy, the EU measures are to be based on the corresponding legal basis.
In exercising these competences, the Commission is — and will continue to be — working in close cooperation with Member States' competent authorities and all stakeholders, in full respect of the principle of subsidiarity.
-  The European Court of Justice stated, in its Ruling in joined cases C-164/97 and C-165/97, that when the primary aim of a Community measure is intended to ensure that the natural heritage represented by forest ecosystems is conserved and turned to account, Article 191 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (former Article 130s EEC Treaty) is the correct legal basis. The case in question related to the legal basis of Union measures to defend the forest environment against the risks of destruction and degradation associated with fires and atmospheric pollution, but the conclusion applies to any Union measure aimed primarily at protecting the natural heritage represented by forest ecosystems.