A key element of the FLEGT Action Plan is a voluntary scheme to ensure that only legally harvested timber is imported into the EU from countries agreeing to take part in this scheme. The internal EU legal framework for this scheme is Flegt Regulation adopted in December 2005, and a 2008 Implementing Regulation, allowing for the control of the entry of timber to the EU from countries entering into bilateral FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) with the EU. Once agreed, the VPAs include commitments and action from both parties to halt trade in illegal timber, notably with a license scheme at the partner country and the issuance of FLEGT licences that verify the legality of timber exported to the EU. To issue FLEGT licences, a VPA partner country must implement a timber legality assurance system and other measures specified in the VPA. When fully operational a timber legality assurance system is both robust and credible, as it includes effective supply chain controls, mechanisms for verifying compliance and is subject to independent audits. A VPA timber legality assurance system is built around a practical definition of legality that has been agreed through participatory processes involving stakeholders from government, the private sector and civil society. The VPA also promote better enforcement of forest law and promote an inclusive approach involving civil society and the private sector.
The European Commission has been given a mandate from the Council of Ministers of the EU to conduct negotiations in view of concluding such FLEGT VPAs. While the European Commission is leading in these negotiations, EU Member States play a key role in supporting the negotiations and implementation. The first VPA to be signed was with Ghana, followed by the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Indonesia, the Central African Republic and Liberia.The EU recently concluded negotiations on a VPA with Vietnam (May 2017). The two sides will now undertake a legal review of the negotiated text which will then be followed by translation of the Agreement into the EU's official languages and Vietnamese. Before the agreement can enter into force, each Party will have to complete the procedure for signature and ratification of the Agreement in line with its internal procedures.
Indonesia is the first country in the world that started issuing FLEGT Licences on the 15 November 2016. FLEGT Licences are issued by Licensing Authorities, which are independent organisations registered with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.
A series of Briefing Notes have been prepared with more information on the FLEGT VPA approach, which have been used to brief potential partners and clarify the parameters and framework the EU has adopted for FLEGT negotiations.
Signature of EU-Ghana FLEGT
Voluntary Partnership Agreement