EU enlargement has had a major impact on the significance of the wood/furniture/forestry industries within the EU economy as a whole (processing industries) as in many of the new Member States these industries have a greater impact on their national economies than in most of the old Member States (EU 15).
As a result of enlargement, around 2.7 million workers are currently employed in these industries within the EU, spread over some 270,000 companies. In all its actions, therefore, the EFBWW must bear in mind that it is dealing with an industry composed primarily of SMEs.
It should also be emphasised that the different sub-sectors of the wood/furniture/forestry industries have not undergone the same economic development in recent years. The forestry and woodworking industries have managed to create slow but steady economic growth, with unfortunately a slight loss of employment, mainly due to ever rising productivity, especially in the new Member States.
The furniture industry, on the other hand, is facing increasingly intense competition from outside the EU, which has led to a dramatic and still growing negative trade balance for the sector. However, the basic situation remains by and large the same as that set out in the action programme 2004-2007. All countries still have similar structural problems and shortcomings which could be resolved by joint political efforts.
We also need to bear in mind that the wood and furniture sector is made up of several subsectors: forestry, sawmilling, wood based panels, building materials, upholstery furniture, kitchen furniture, office furniture and housing furniture.