A FLEGT licence guarantees that timber from a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) country has been harvested, processed and exported in accordance with national laws. FLEGT licences serve border control requirements and are not intended as a product label.
An annex in each VPA provides a format for FLEGT licences, based on an EU template. A common format ensures that licences issued by different VPA partner countries are similar while making provision for country-specific information.
The FLEGT licensing authority in a VPA partner country issues FLEGT licences for consignments of timber or timber products exported to the EU, provided the verification system has evidence that consignments are legally compliant.
The licensing authority can take two approaches to issuing FLEGT licences:
- Shipment-based. The licensing authority issues licences on a consignment-by-consignment basis, after first checking that each consignment of timber has met the requirements of the legality assurance system.
- Operator-based. If the licensing authority is satisfied that a particular operator, such as a timber processor, can control the legality of wood according to the requirements of the legality assurance system, the authority issues all consignments from that company with FLEGT licences.
In both approaches, each individual consignment of timber or timber products has a FLEGT licence.
Once a FLEGT licensing system becomes operational, EU border control agencies, or ‘competent authorities', will inspect any products from a VPA partner country that are listed in the VPA annex on product scope. Products accompanied by a FLEGT licence are permitted to enter the EU market. If not accompanied by a FLEGT licence, the competent authorities will not allow the products to enter the market. By ensuring that only legal timber enters the EU market, EU controls reinforce the efforts of the VPA partner country to eliminate illegal logging.
Each EU member state is responsible for setting up a mechanism to prevent the entry of unlicensed timber from VPA partner countries. A standard annex to VPAs describes the EU procedures for verifying FLEGT licences, as set out in the EU FLEGT Regulation of 2005. Shipments without licences are rejected at the EU border. See the section of VPA Unpacked on the annex on EU procedures for imports of FLEGT-licensed timber products.