European Timber Regulation
The EU Timber Regulation is part of the European Union's policy to fight illegal logging and associated trade, which was defined in 2003 under the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan.
Enforcement and products covered
As of 3 March 2013, the EU Timber Regulation will prohibit the first placing of illegally harvested timber and products produced of such timber on the EU market. The Regulation obliges operators on the EU market to have systems in place that assure that the timber is from legal origin. The definition of legal timber is based on the law of the country of harvest. The Regulation covers a large range of timber products including furniture, pulp and paper, logs and sawn wood.
How it works
Operators who are placing timber or timber products on the EU market for the first time must exercise "due diligence"; the Regulation applies to timber harvested within the EU or imported, and to imported timber products. The core of the ‘due diligence’ obligation is that operators are required to undertake a risk assessment and risk management exercise so as to minimise the risk of placing illegally harvested timber, or products containing illegally harvested timber on the EU market. This means that they need to have access to information on e.g. their supplier, the tree species, the country of harvest of the timber and need to take steps to ensure that their supply contains only legally harvested timber. Each country in the EU designated a competent authority that will be responsible for the enforcement of the Regulation. Countries in the EU will also determine the type and range of penalties that will apply in case of non-compliance with the Regulation.
The Regulation provides for Monitoring Organisations to be recognised by the European Commission. These organisations are private entities, and will provide EU operators with due diligence systems that are ready to use. Operators can thus develop their own system or use one developed by a monitoring organisation.
VPA’s and FLEGT licenses
The EU establishes Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with timber-producing countries to promote trade in legal timber products from these countries. A VPA primarily focuses on forest governance, with the ultimate aim to guarantee that timber and timber products exported to the EU are legal. Each VPA determines a timber legality assurance system that can verify that a consignment of timber is legal. Once such a VPA is agreed and ratified, timber can be awarded a 'FLEGT licence'. A FLEGT licence is a document issued by timber-producing countries, confirming that timber or timber products comply fully with the relevant laws of the country of export. FLEGT-licensed timber and timber products are considered to comply with the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation. EU importers therefore do not need to undertake further due diligence on FLEGT-licensed timber.