Log depot, Myanmar

EIA victory in Netherlands’ highest court confirms EU rules for Myanmar timber imports

Kneuterdijk Palace, in The Hague, home to the Council of State

Royal Boogaerdt Timber broke the due diligence requirements of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) when it imported Myanmar teak, the Council of State in the Netherlands has confirmed.

The court on Wednesday (4 August) also upheld the penalty imposed on the company, which barred it from continuing to trade in teak.

Boogaerdt was the subject of a substantiated concern made by EIA following an investigation in 2016. EIA also contributed to the case by submitting an analysis of problems with documents it viewed when investigating Myanmar timber supplied to Boogaerdt via Croatia and participated as an observer at the hearing of the case in March.

Myanmar teak seized in the Netherlands for being in breach of EU law

EIA Forests Campaigner Alec Dawson welcomed the decision, saying: “The outcome of the case vindicates EIA’s stance that imports of timber from Myanmar cannot comply with the EUTR.

“Now all member states of the EU must follow the Dutch and take action against companies continuing this illicit trade.

“Since the EU introduced sanctions on the Myanmar Timber Enterprise in June, nobody in the EU should be importing teak from Myanmar. To do so is to support a brutal military regime and undermine the efforts of the pro-democracy movement in the country.”

A second timber import company met with the same verdict at the Council of State hearing but it has not been named to EIA as we were not a party involved in bringing the case against it.

The companies, which had challenging the penalty imposed on them by the Nederlandse Voedsel en Warenautoriteit (the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, or NVWA), also tried to challenge the role of EIA in the case, but the court upheld the rights of NGOs such as EIA to initiate cases by informing authorities of breaches of the law.

Teak logs in Myanmar (c) EIA

In its reasoning, the court confirmed a number of EUTR requirements that help ensure the law does the best possible job of ensuring the legality of timber products in the EU, including:

  • that origin and legality of timber must be confirmed to the felling location;
  • that companies must confirm traceability of the timber along the entire supply chain;
  • no relevant documents can be missing.

The Court also upheld the penalty imposed on the companies, which would require them to pay a fine of €20,000 per cubic metre of teak they continued to import without meeting the requirements of the EUTR.

Since the case was heard, the EU has responded to the military coup in Myanmar by imposing sanctions on the Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE) and Forest Products Joint Venture Company (FPJVC) due to the military junta’s attempts to profit from the Myanmar timber industry.

In the formal system for purchasing timber from Myanmar under the previous government, it was impossible to acquire legal timber from any source other than the MTE.