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.
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
- the FLEGT Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 2173/2005)
- and Commission Implementing Regulation (EC) No 1024/2008
Find out more
- Summary of the licensing system for imports of timber to the EU
- Brochure containing more detailed information on the voluntary partnership agreements
- Implementation Guidance - support for Customs and FLEGT Competent Authorities to effectively carry out their tasks.
- List of Member States' Competent Authorities responsible for implementing the FLEGT Regulation
Other 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.
The EU is working closely with provider countries such as Myanmar to help them improve their forest governance and prevent illegal logging.
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.
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.