Fight against illegal logging


Since coming into force, the European Union’s Timber Regulation has helped to combat the illegal timber trade and ensure that wood comes from legal sources around the world.

That is the finding of a review of the Timber Regulation during its first two years of implementation by the Member States since it entered into force in March 2013. The Regulation prohibits putting illegally harvested timber and products made from it on the EU market. It is supporting international efforts to halt deforestation and protect biodiversity by ensuring there is no market for illegally harvested timber.

We all want action, not words, on illegal logging.

EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella

There is evidence that EU importers are checking the sources of their supplies more closely, and that European consumer awareness of the consequences of illegal logging has grown. This is helping to change market behaviour, and create an incentive for producer countries to step up efforts to prove their exports are legal. 

Countries like Indonesia that have introduced systems to control supply sources have been able to export more to Europe, which is one of the largest global consumers. This sends an important signal to other EU trading partners.

It is hard to estimate the extent of the trade in illegal timber and timber products because of the clandestine nature of logging activities. “Illegal logging has a real cost,” explained EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella. “We think of climate change, of biodiversity loss, of soil degradation. We think of instances where timber trafficking leads to corruption, or finances conflicts and deprives local communities of their economic livelihood.”

Progress but no room for complacency

Despite the initial encouraging signs, more effort is needed from both the Member States and the private sector to address gaps in implementation.

The review found that effective enforcement has stalled in some EU countries due to a lack of resources. But by June 2015, only four countries were failing to comply fully: Greece, Hungary, Romania and Spain. The European Commission will continue to support Member States and monitor their efforts.

Civil society organisations play an important role in tracing illegal timber. For example, allegations from Greenpeace about logging in the Brazilian state of Para led to coordinated action by Belgian, Dutch and Swedish authorities, and the blocking of exports from some firms not complying with Brazilian law. EU operators, in turn, changed their supply chains to minimise the risk of illegal imports.

It takes time to gauge how well a new law is working but the Commission will now consider extending the range of products covered by the Timber Regulation, subject to an impact assessment. The review will feed into wider evaluation of the 2003 Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade later this year.


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