The EU adopted the action plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) in 2003. FLEGT is rooted in the recognition that illegal logging is causing substantial damage to forests and people, and that the EU could be part of the solution by buying only legally sourced timber. Through a series of supply- and demand-side measures, FLEGT has improved forest sector governance and reduced illegality in a number of the main countries producing tropical timber
The FLEGT Action Plan, adopted in 2003, combines measures in producer and consumer countries to facilitate trade in legal timber and eliminate illegal timber trading with the EU, through measures such as:
- support for reforms to improve forest governance and law enforcement in timber–producing countries;
- regulatory measures and partnership agreements to promote trade in legal timber;
- responsible public procurement policies that favour legal timber;
- support for private-sector initiatives to promote corporate social and environmental responsibility;
- safeguards and transparency measures for financing and investment;
- measures to address the problem of conflict timber.
Two broad policy measures are at the core of the FLEGT Action Plan: Voluntary Partnership Agreements and the EU Timber Regulation.
A Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA)
is a legally binding trade agreement between a timber-producing country and the EU to work together to stop illegal logging. The goal of a VPA is to ensure that all timber imported to the EU from the timber-producing country has been produced legally according to the laws of that country. This normally requires that measures be taken in the partner country in regard to:
- policy and legal reform,
- governance and transparency,
- capacity building,
- improving traceability throughout the supply chain,
- improving systems for the collection of revenues and rents.
The EU has so far concluded six VPAs, with Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Congo (Brazzaville), Ghana, Indonesia and Liberia. These countries are actively developing their timber legality assurance systems and FLEGT licensing schemes. Nine other VPAs are being negotiated, with Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa), Gabon, Guyana, Honduras, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
The EU Timber Regulation
(EUTR) reflects the EU’s determination to prohibit trading on the EU market of illegally harvested timber, regardless of its origin. The Regulation defines the obligations of operators that place timber and timber products on the market. It was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in October 2010, and entered into application on 3 March 2013.
The Regulation introduces three key obligations:
It prohibits the placing on the EU market for the first time of illegally harvested timber and products derived from such timber.
It requires operators who place timber products on the EU market for the first time to establish 'due diligence
' systems through which they assess and minimise the risk of illegal timber entering their supply chain.
It requires timber traders on the EU market to keep records of their suppliers and customers to facilitate the traceability of timber products.
FLEGT-licensed timber from VPA countries with an operational legality assurance system is considered to comply with the requirements of the Regulation and does not require any further due diligence processes.
The EU was recently undertaking an evaluation of the EU FLEGT Action Plan over the first 11 years of its implementation, 2003-2014. The evaluation is based on a wide-ranging consultation process that included an independent evaluation undertaken by an external consultant, surveys, single and multi-stakeholder workshops, targeted interviews, as well as unsolicited inputs from stakeholders.
The evaluation process was concluded with the release of a Commission's Staff Working Document.
Read the report from the independent consultants.
Other achievements under the FLEGT Action Plan include the adoption by 11 EU member states of procurement policies favouring timber from legal and sustainable sources, the expansion of private certification schemes and new transparency and accounting obligations for companies involved in forestry.
The European Union cooperates with a number of international and local organisations and programmes to support the implementation of the FLEGT Action Plan, including: