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Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) – Questions and Answers
Commission Européenne - MEMO/04/194 20/07/2004
Brussels, 20 July 2004
Q - Is the scheme to prohibit trade with certain timber products compatible with WTO-rules?
A - The proposed measures will be based on voluntary, bilateral agreements with wood-producing countries and are entirely compatible with WTO rules.
Q – Why not simply introduce a ban against imports of illegal logging?
A – Combating illegal logging requires a clear definition of legal timber against which compliance can be checked. There is currently no mechanism whereby customs authorities in the Member States can recognise illegal timber and prevent it from entering the EU.
A unilateral prohibition on imports of illegal timber by the EU would not be effective, as it would not give EU customs authorities a means to confirm the legality of timber. For that we need the full co-operation of producing countries, which is why the Commission is proposing a voluntary system implemented through partnership agreements with wood-producing countries.
Q – What will a partnership agreement entail?
A – The voluntary agreements will address a range of issues, from support for strengthened governance in the producing country, through to a commitment to implement the licensing scheme. All Partner Countries would need to agree a definition of legality and have (or be committed to developing) a credible legal and administrative structure with adequate systems to verify that exported timber is legal according to national laws.
This implies a commitment to: (i) ensuring that the applicable forest law is consistent, understandable, enforceable and supportive of basic sustainable forest management principles; (ii) developing credible technical and administrative systems to make sure that harvesting operations conform with relevant laws, and to track timber from the point of harvest to the point of export; and (iii) developing procedures to license exports of legally harvested timber.
In some wood-producing countries, meeting these commitments would require considerable institutional strengthening and capacity building. To assist countries in meeting these commitments, EU technical and financial assistance could be included in Partnership Agreements.
Q – Is there a financial envelope attached to the FLEGT. If not how will the governance programmes be financed.
A – Approximately €30m is available in existing programmes to support FLEGT.
There is no dedicated financial envelope, but further funds will be made available through country and regional programmes.
Support to FLEGT comes in addition to more than €670m which the Commission has provided to support the conservation and sustainable management of forests since the mid-1990s.
Q – Will FLEGT effectively curb illegal logging?
The EU’s internal market provides a market and profit incentive for illegal logging. By closing its markets to this trade, the EU will undermine the structures which provide an incentive for illegal logging.
A multilateral framework to regulate international trade in timber would be the most comprehensive way to tackle illegal logging. But progress in the international dialogue on this issue is slow. That is why the Commission is proposing to move ahead with FLEGT. Other major markets for timber are encouraged to do the same.
Q – What timber products are covered by the proposal?
The proposal covers logs, sawn wood, veneer sheets and plywood.
Q – Is FLEGT limited to tropical timber?
A – No, FLEGT can also apply to temperate timber. The EU intends to work in partnership with all countries that face problems caused by illegal logging. A number of temperate countries face such problems, and are in the process of developing their own initiatives to combat illegal logging. For example, Russia is leading an initiative to combat illegal logging in Europe and Northeast Asia. Through FLEGT, the EU will provide strong support to this initiative.
Q – Why are timber products from industrialised countries not covered by FLEGT.
A – Timber products from industrialised countries are not covered by FLEGT, because in general illegal logging is not a serious problem in industrialised countries. That is not to say that it doesn’t exist, but it certainly doesn’t reach the damaging proportions seen in badly affected developing and transition countries.
FLEGT aims to support producer countries to strengthen governance for forest resources. In general the underlying governance structures in industrialised countries are sound, even if illegal logging does sometimes take place.
Q – Will FLEGT generate an increase in timber prices in the EU?
A – The Commission has conducted an extended impact assessment to analyse the potential impact of FLEGT. If FLEGT proves to be successful in curbing illegal logging, then timber prices could rise within the EU. This is because illegal timber is produced at low cost, without due investment in the sustainable management of forests.
Our analysis and consultations suggest that the market in Europe is willing to pay a premium for timber that has been harvested legally, as the result of growing public concern at the serious and damaging impact of illegal logging.
Q - What are the trade flows of timber to the EU?
A - The EU is an important consumer of timber from areas where illegal logging is a serious problem. The EU is the largest importer by value of African round wood and sawn wood, and the second largest market for sawn wood from Asia.
The EU, as a significant timber consumer, can therefore play an important role in tackling illegal logging and the associated trade in illegally harvested timber.
[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED]
Q – Is there not a risk that FLEGT will penalise poor people employed in the illegal logging industry?
A – Curbing illegal logging may result in some job losses. However, within the framework of the voluntary agreements, efforts will be made to provide people who lose their jobs with alternative livelihoods.
Q – What other measures could be foreseen in the fight against illegal logging?
A – In May 2003 the Commission adopted the FLEGT Action Plan. Measures proposed to combat illegal logging include: (i) support for improved governance and capacity building in timber-producing countries; (ii) development of Voluntary Partnership Agreements with timber-producing countries to prevent illegally produced timber from entering the EU market and (iii) efforts to reduce the EU’s consumption of illegally harvested timber and discourage investments by EU institutions that may encourage illegal logging.
In the FLEGT Action plan a number of areas are identified where the Community or Member States can (or already are) taking action.
These include: Developing robust public procurement policies for timber products; promoting private sector initiatives that encourage companies to use voluntary codes of practice for the harvesting and purchasing of legal timber; including environmental and social criteria in publicly funded financial institutions project screenings to ensure that public money does not promote illegal forest sector activity; examining possibilities to apply existing criminal legislation, such as legislation concerning money-laundering or bribery, to the proceeds of crimes related to illegal logging.