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The GFTN Guide to Legal and Responsible Sourcing

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7.5 Source Assessed in the Context of Exports to the European Union

Known Licensed Sources in EuropeThe European Union's Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan represents the largest international attempt to use the power of timber-consuming countries to reduce the extent of illegal logging.

The European Commission published its Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) in May 2003. Approved by the Council of the EU in October 2003, it included the following proposals:

  • Negotiation of bilateral FLEGT voluntary partnership agreements (VPAs) with producer countries. The VPAs will feature a licensing system designed to identify legal products exported from partner countries and license them for import to the EU; unlicensed products will be denied entry.
  • Capacity-building assistance to partner countries to set up the licensing scheme, improve enforcement and, where necessary, reform their laws.
  • Examination of EU member states' existing domestic legislation, and consideration of additional legislative options, to prohibit the import of illegal timber.
  • Encouragement for the use of government procurement policy to limit purchases to legal (and sustainable) sources.
  • Encouragement for voluntary industry initiatives to control their own supply chains, and thereby exclude illegal products.
  • Encouragement for financial institutions to scrutinise flows of finance to the forestry industry.

The FLEGT and voluntary partnership agreements process is ongoing across a wide number of countries, mainly in Africa and Asia. The most recent developments, especially the latest information on where VPAs have been signed and where suitable licensing systems have been or are being developed can be found here.

VPA licensing systems have the potential to be a powerful and useful resource for responsible purchasers who can take advantage of sourcing products covered by such licenses. To date no such systems have become available and more advice will be available in 2013-2014.

The FLEGT Action Plan also prohibits the placing of timber from illegally harvested forests and products derived from such timber.  Regulation (EU) No 995/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2010 adopted the EU Timber Regulation (EU TR) to do just that. The EU TR has specific provisions that:

  • Prohibits operators to place illegally harvested timber and products derived from such timber on the EU market.
  • Requires EU operators who place timber products on the EU market for the first time to exercise ‘due diligence’.

Once products are on the market, requires traders of products to keep records of their immediate suppliers and buyers.

Who is affected by the EUTR?

Operators are those that place timber products in the EU market for the first time. Some examples of operators are importers, retailers or manufacturers that directly import wood based products, or forest managers that supply timber from an EU forest. It is prohibited to place in the EU market illegally harvested timber and operators need to apply a due diligence system to avoid the risk of such sources as well as keep records of their immediate customers.

Operators can either use their own due diligence system, use an already existing system or work with Monitoring Organisations. Independently of the due diligence system used, operators remain liable that no illegal timber enters the supply chain.   

Traders are those that buy and/or sell wood based products that were already placed in the EU market (by an operator). Traders need to keep records of their direct suppliers and their direct customer for all wood based products traded. Individual final consumers are not covered by the EUTR. The table below illustrates the specific requirements for Operators and Traders under the EUTR.

A “Due Diligence system” is a framework of procedures and measures to minimise the risk of placing illegally harvested timber, or timber products, on the EU market See the EU TR briefing note for more detailed information or visit the EC website

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