‘Does well, could do better’ – we turn in our report card on the European Union Timber Regulation

In 2013, after years of campaigning by EIA and others, the European Union brought in new laws to combat illegal timber trade.

Between them, the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) and the Forests, Law, Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Regulation banned the trade in illegally harvested timber in the EU, no matter where it was obtained.

The first official shipment of legal FLEGT-licensed timber from Indonesia arrives in the UK in November 2016They also required importing companies to carry out ‘due diligence’ checks to be absolutely certain of the legal origin of the timber they were putting on European markets.

In addition, these laws provided a way for companies to obtain timber which had been verified as legal by using FLEGT Licences which were issued through partnership agreements between the EU and timber-producing countries.

Eight years on, the EU is now asking the questions ‘have these laws worked?’ and ‘how can they be improved?’.

Having been instrumental in bring them about, EIA’s Forests Campaign has been working diligently to assist with their enforcement since they came into effect.

Today we publish our new briefing Does Well, Could Do Better – EIA’s recommendations for the EU Timber Regulation ‘Fitness Check, which gives our answers to these questions.

These mostly focus on the EUTR, which provides the EU’s ban on trade in illegal timber.

So does the law work? Yes, when it is enforced properly. In the course of our work, EIA has seen declines in the trade of high-risk timber from Myanmar in EU countries which have taken strong enforcement steps, such as Germany, the Netherlands and Slovenia.

The EUTR also provides a tool to encourage reform in producer countries; in Indonesia, there have been significant improvements in timber legality verification and the Government now issues FLEGT Licences.

However, more can be done to improve the law’s effectiveness. High-risk timber, such as Myanmar teak, has not stopped coming into the EU because of inconsistent enforcement by different EU countries. Where enforcement has been good, measures that have been taken could be expanded to be more comprehensive.

We are making the following key recommendations in our briefing:

  • Member States and the European Commission must expand and consistently apply approaches to enforcement;
  • the language of the EUTR should be made clearer to ensure enforcement will be easier;
  • competent authorities must be better-resourced and supported by national governments to better check due diligence systems and bring prosecutions;
  • implementing legislation must be amended to enable enforcement by competent authorities.
  • with these changes, the EU Timber Regulation will be able to better help in the fight against illegal logging and the illegal timber trade.