On November 24-26, in Minsk the FLEG II (ENPI East) program’s round table “Implementation of the European Union Timber Regulation 995/2010: lessons learned, challenges, solutions” took place. The main issue of the meeting was the question “What is the progress in implementation of the European Union Timber Regulation?”
The round table in Minsk was aimed at widening of discussion about EU timber regulation implementation in the Member States (MS) and its implications for all countries participating in the FLEG II (ENPI East) program. Representatives of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, competent authorities from the EU member states arrived to Minsk to discuss how to improve EUTR efficiency while ensuring its effectiveness. Representatives of the state forest management bodies, commercial and non-profit organizations expressed their views regarding the timber regulation implementation in the European Union and FLEG II (ENPI East) countries.
Illegal logging poses a significant threat to global forest resources. It is a major threat to the world’s forests, and to the biodiversity and people they support. It destroys wildlife habitats, increases greenhouse-gas emissions and depletes the natural resources that more than a billion of the world’s poorest people depend on.
Speaking at the event Costel Bucur FLEG II Program Manager from WWF said: “There are two fundamental aspects of the Regulation that need to be addressed for it to be effective at achieving its objective: ensure the EUTR is effectively and consistently implemented, applied and enforced across all 28 MS and expand its scope so that all wood-based products are covered.”
The EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), which came into force in March 2013, grew out of the EU Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), first adopted in 2003. By developing the EUTR, the EU has created a regulatory approach that aims to stop the trade of illegally harvested timber or wood products on the EU market, to help reduce the impact of the EU on deforestation, and to support legal forest practices.
One of the stipulations of the EUTR is that anyone placing timber or wood products on the EU market for the first time is required to exercise ‘due diligence’. According to guidance given by the European Commission, the core of the 'due diligence' is that operators (those first placing timber on the EU market, which could for example be an importer or a forest owner) undertake a risk management exercise so as to minimize the risk of placing illegally harvested timber and wood products on the EU market.
A Competent Authority(CA) which is responsible for ensuring implementation of EUTR requirements was appointed in each EU member state; The CA shall carry out checks to verify if operators comply with the required ‘due diligence’ system developed by themselves or by an EU accredited Monitoring Organization(MO). “Capacity of these competent authorities, their technical and financial resources wary from country to country“- remarks Elena Kulikova, leading expert at European Forest Institute. “And this is one of the obstacles against successful implementation. It’s absolutely necessary to harmonize work of different competent authorities across EU member states, to introduce best practices in order to raise quality.”
Experts discussed EUTR’s successes and challenges and its importance in combating illegal logging in timber products producing countries; the participants shared information and recommendations on potential value of the European Commission, the MOs and other interested organizations to strengthen EUTR implementation for decreasing volume of illegal logging.
Participants expressed common concern about lack of consistency in implementation and enforcement in the EU’s 28 Member States combined with loopholes which mean that major product groups such as chairs, toys, books, musical instruments, charcoal, wine racks, clothes pegs, and many more aren’t covered, thus reducing EUTR effectiveness.
Minsk, as a place for the round table has been chosen deliberately. As Dmitry Krasovsky, the Deputy Head of the Department of Forestry in Belarus Ministry of Forestry said: "Belarus has considerable experience in fighting illegal logging; efficiency of our state systems for the control of legality of harvested timber has been highly appreciated by international experts".
The EUTR is currently being reviewed. This presents a great opportunity to fix the gaps and ensure once and for all that governments, consumers and businesses in the EU are not contributing to illegal logging.
Nikolay Shmatkov, WWF Coordinator of the FLEG II (ENPI East) program in Russia and Belarus believes that in order to let EU timber regulation a chance to reduce volume of illegal logging, EU authorities should better control timber trade operations and work of MOs; otherwise the timber regulation might turn into mere formality.