Sustainable forest management (SFM) is presently widely accepted as the overriding objective for forest policy and practice. Regional processes are in progress all over the world to develop and implement criteria and indicators of SFM. In continental Europe, a set of 35 Pan-European indicators has been endorsed under the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) to measure progress towards SFM in the 44 countries of the region. The formulation of seven indicators (forest area, growing stock, age structure/diameter distribution, deadwood, tree species composition, damaging agents, naturalness) requires national data to be reported by forest types. Within the vast European forest area the values taken by these indicators show a considerable range of variation, due to variable natural conditions and anthropogenic influences. Given this variability, it is very difficult to grasp the meaning of these indicators when taken out of their ecological background. The paper discusses the concepts behind, and the requirements of, a classification more soundly ecologically framed and suitable for MCPFE reporting than the three (un-informative) classes adopted so far: broadleaved forest, coniferous forest, mixed broadleaved and coniferous forest. We propose a European Forest Types scheme structured into a reasonably higher number of classes, that would improve the specificity of the indicators reported under the MCPFE process and its understanding.