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Workshop in preparation for VPA negotiations held in Lao PDR

A workshop was held in Vientiane on 22–23 November in preparation for the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) negotiations between the European Union and the Government of Lao PDR, which are about to start.

The workshop was organised jointly by the Government of Lao PDR, the European Commission and GIZ. The objectives were to increase stakeholders' awareness of the FLEGT VPA process, create a common understanding of the VPA and the negotiation process, and identify the next steps leading up to the formal start of negotiations. The workshop was attended by representatives of various Lao government departments involved in the VPA process (including provincial authorities), the private sector, local civil society and international organisations based in the country.

During the workshop, participants exchanged information and had preliminary consultations on issues related to the definition of timber legality, the need for extensive stakeholder consultation in the VPA process and the issues related to the development of a timber legality assurance system to track and monitor timber flows in Lao PDR.

Also, stakeholders elaborated and agreed on a work-plan schedule (roadmap). This envisages further preparation work on the Lao side, technical level meetings between European experts and Lao stakeholders, and a first VPA negotiation session in mid 2013.