EUTR perspectives - The non-governmental organisation (NGO) view

Saskia Ozinga, FERN and Emily Unwin, ClientEarth: "Challenge of making it work – The non-governmental organisation (NGO) view"

The EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) is the element of the EU FLEGT Action Plan that has seen most heated discussion between NGOs and the European Commission. NGO pressure and even a draft regulation presented to the Commission by Greenpeace, FERN, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2004 were needed before the Commission came up with a proposal in October 2008 (1).

Although the proposal has been widely welcomed by NGOs, much needs to be done before the Regulation will be effectively implemented. Consistent enforcement by all EU Member States in a manner that is coherent with the operation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) under FLEGT is, for example, critical to ensure its effectiveness. VPA licensed timber gets a ‘green lane' under the EUTR – the fair operation of the EUTR therefore demands consistency between the terms and application of VPAs and the EUTR, with regard to excluding illegally harvested timber from the EU market.

There remains a risk though that if the EUTR is not strongly enforced it will become a shortcut, which may ultimately undermine the VPAs. All will depend on the implementing and delegated regulations and the implementation by Member States, which should ensure that no business to business deals can be concluded under the EUTR.

Critical Issues

The most important things to be addressed before an effective implementation include:

• The Commission must give clear directions in the implementing act, requiring frequent, regular, detailed checks by competent authorities in the Member States on monitoring organisations and the Member States must ensure that these are implemented.
• The Commission should give clear guidance to Member States on what is required for checks on operators by Member States' competent authorities.
• The term ‘places timber on the market' is to be interpreted broadly in order to avoid loop-holes and to ensure a level playing field.
• The Member States must create penalties for operators, monitoring organisations and traders
that are ‘effective, proportionate and dissuasive', and commit to frequent compliance checks to ensure the impact of the EUTR is the same across the EU.
• Legality verification and certification schemes should not become ‘green lanes' like the VPA licenses. Certification schemes are tools that operators may choose to use as a part of their due diligence system.

Ten years ago, illegal logging was an unspeakable issue with most governments denying that illegal logging occurred in their country. With six VPAs finalised and legislation in place to control trade in illegal logging in the EU and the US and similar moves under discussion in other consumer markets, much progress has been made.

Having invested in these targeted measures, the challenge now is to make them work in practice. The EU and Member States must develop and apply systems and penalties for the Timber Regulation that are sufficiently clear, coordinated and robust to ensure the intended aims of both Timber Regulation and VPAs are achieved.

1. Commission Proposal COM(2008) 644/3. Available at:

This article can be found in the latest issue of EFI News, which concentrates on the countdown to the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR). The issue offers points of view from industry, an NGO, the European Commission, a producing country and a trade federation. 

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