Illegal logging is the harvesting of timber in contravention of the laws and regulations of the country of harvest. It is a global problem with significant negative economic, environmental and social impact. Illegal logging
- results in lost revenues and other benefits
- is associated with deforestation, climate change and a loss of biodiversity
- is linked to conflicts over land and resources, the disempowerment of local and indigenous communities, corruption and armed conflicts
Illegal activities also undermine the efforts of responsible operators by making cheaper, but illegal timber and timber products available.
The EU’s policy to fight illegal logging and associated trade was defined back in 2003 with the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Action Plan (FLEGT Action Plan). The key regions and countries targeted in the Action Plan are Central Africa, Tropical South America and Southeast Asia. Together they contain nearly 60% of the world’s forest and supply a large proportion of internationally traded timber. The Action Plan covers both the supply and demand side measures to address illegal logging.
The EU aims to
- work with partner countries to improve forest governance and capacity building
- oblige operators who place timber and timber products on the EU market to exert due diligence to minimise the risk of importing illegally harvested timber
- promote dialogue and cooperation with other major markets
- be effective in raising awareness and contributing to forest governance globally
- help reduce demand for illegal timber in the EU
The FLEGT Action Plan has led to two key pieces of legislation
- The Regulation on deforestation-free products (Regulation (EU) No 2023/1115), which repeals the EU Timber Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 995/2010)
- FLEGT Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 2173/2005) - allowing for the control of the entry of timber to the EU from countries entering into bilateral Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA)
Cooperation with partners
The EU has intensified its collaboration with other consumer and processing countries to address illegal logging.
Green public procurement
The EU aims to increase demand for legal and sustainable timber and timber products by encouraging both private and public sector procurement policies that favour legally harvested timber and timber products.
An increasing number of EU countries are adopting green public procurement policies requiring timber and timber products to come from legal and sustainable sources. Countries implementing such policies include Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Many EU private sector timber trade and retail federations and companies have made commitments through Codes of Conduct to eliminate illegally harvested timber from their supply chains. In addition some banks have put in place policies to ensure their clients are not associated with illegal logging activities.
Capacity-building is an important element of the FLEGT Action Plan, particularly for developing countries. The Commission is working with EU countries to provide such capacity-building through its development cooperation instruments including support to NGOs and private sector actions.
The Commission carried out an evaluation of the first 11 years of implementation (2004-2014) of the EU Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), and published a Staff Working Document.
In 2015, the European Court of Auditors carried out a performance audit, focusing on EU support to timber‑producing countries. It acknowledged that the FLEGT Action Plan remains the most powerful EU tool to support a political dialogue on forests, particularly in developing countries.
In 2016, the Commission carried out an evaluation of the FLEGT Action Plan, which confirmed “the relevance and the innovative design of the FLEGT Action Plan, and its important contribution to the international fight against illegal logging and associated trade”.
The Work Plan 2018-2022 for the implementation of the FLEGT Action Plan sets out the response of the Commission services and the Member States to its above findings and recommendations, while contributing to implementing the new political commitments as set in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and the new European consensus on Development.
The first 11 years of implementation (2004-2014) of the EU Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) evaluation report is available in English, French and Spanish. Its Annexes 1-6 and its Annex 7 (Special Report on VPAs) are available in English only, as is the Report on the Public Consultation.