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Cooperation with partners

Find out how the EU cooperates with partner countries to address deforestation and tackle illegal logging, through partnership agreements, forest agreements and multilateral environmental agreements.


Given the global nature of deforestation, the EU has intensified its engagement with other consumer and producer countries to jointly address the root causes deforestation, both bilaterally and multilaterally.

Bilateral cooperation on timber legality

EU-China Bilateral Coordination 

With China, the EU established a Bilateral Coordination Mechanism on Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG) in 2009. Through this, the EU and China work together to stop illegal logging and the associated trade in illegal timber globally. Meetings are held each year to share information on policy, discuss areas of mutual interest and agree on annual work plans. 

Voluntary partnership agreements on timber legality

Voluntary partnership agreements (VPAs) between the EU and partner countries aim to ensure that only legally harvested timber is imported into the EU. The bilateral agreements include commitments and actions from both Parties to halt trade in illegal timber.

A license scheme certifies the legality of timber exported to the EU. To issue a license, the partner country must implement a timber legality assurance system. When fully operational, such a system is both robust and credible, as it includes effective supply chain controls, mechanisms for verifying compliance and is subject to independent audits. The agreements also aim to promote better enforcement of forest law and an inclusive approach involving civil society and the private sector.

Voluntary partnership agreements have so far been signed with Ghana, the Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Indonesia, the Central African Republic, Liberia and Vietnam. The EU has concluded negotiations with Honduras and Guyana. Negotiations are ongoing with the Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Laos, Malaysia and Thailand.

Indonesia is the first country in the world that started issuing licences on 15 November 2016. The licenses are issued by Licensing Authorities in Indonesia, which are registered independent organisations.

The legal basis for these agreements are

Fitness check

In compliance with article 20 (3) of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) and with article 9 of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Regulation, the European Commission carried out a Fitness Check on the EUTR and FLEGT Regulation.

The Fitness Check was aimed at assessing the implementation and functioning of the EUTR and FLEGT Regulation and whether they were fit for their purpose of halting illegal logging and related trade. On FLEGT VPAs, the main findings are that the core objective of this instrument - to tackle illegal logging and associated trade globally - has not been met. There has been no discernible advance of VPA partner countries over other producer countries in reducing the level of illegal logging, with the notable exception of Indonesia. The impact on the trade volumes of illegal timber, including to the EU market, has been limited. After almost 20 years, only one VPA country out of 15 being engaged in a VPA process with the EU has an operating licensing system in place.

Positive results were however identified in terms of advancing stakeholder engagement with civil society, governance reforms, transparency, codes of conduct and social safeguards.

Find out more

Implementation and enforcement

See the annual overviews and key obligations and practical aspects of implementation and enforcement of the FLEGT Regulation for the following years

Forest partnerships

Forest Partnerships aim to enhance the role of forests in sustainable and inclusive national development, while addressing challenges related to deforestation, climate change and loss of biodiversity.

Multilateral agreements

The nature of the Commission’s participation in multilateral environmental agreements and processes varies depending on the topics being discussed. For instance, as a trade-related agreement the Commission speaks on behalf of the European Community in the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).  In other cases, the Commission works with the EU Presidency to ensure a common EU position is maintained. 

Agreements and processes 

  • Global Forest Policy - the 1992 Rio Forest Principles are a set of guidelines for development of forest policy that were adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. 
  • The 1997 IPF/IFF Proposals for Action give concrete indications about implementation of the Rio Forest Principles at national and regional level. 
  • The 2000 United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) is a forest policy forum established under the ECOSOC; together with the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, comprises the International Arrangement on Forests. 
  • Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Forest issues are addressed in the conventions in relation to biodiversity and climate change. 
  • International Tropical Timber Organization - The ITTO is a commodity agreement with an environmental dimension, which brings together producers and consumers of tropical timber around the common objective of sustainable forest management.  
  • FAO - The Commission participates in the bi-annual FAO Committee on Forests, which decides FAO’s work programme on forests. FAO is responsible for global forest databases and produces technical publications on forest resources. 
  • UNECE/FAO Regional Commission for Europe - Based in Geneva, the Timber Committee of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe facilitates policy development on Forests in the UNECE region and works together with the FAO Regional Commission for Europe.