FLEGT update from the EU Support team
by Jade Saunders EU FLEGT Support Team European Forest Institute
Cameroon, Ghana, Indonesia and Malaysia continue to negotiate Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs), with each country planning to conclude negotiations and enter into a system-implementation phase later this year. Licensed timber from these countries is expected to begin entering the EU in late 2009 and, in light of this, interest in FLEGT and legality licensing is growing in forest-rich countries in central Africa and, more recently, in processing countries such as Viet Nam. Incentives for stakeholders in each country are many and varied, but across the board FLEGT licensing is seen as a way to differentiate a country’s products and potentially increase market share with Europe’s increasingly ‘ethical’ consumers.
Given the number of countries now considering a VPA, the European Forest Institute’s new FLEGT team hopes to fill a much-needed role, working with the European Commission and Partner countries to support the implementation of legality assurance systems and to analyse critical elements of partnership agreements and the licensing system as it grows. Its workplan includes around twenty countries, with particular focus on those that do not have Member State sponsors. The team will also be launching a website shortly, which will track political processes in partner countries as well as the development of legality licensing. The team is funded by the European Commission and the Governments of the UK and Finland.
In parallel to Partnership negotiations, debates about how best to support market incentives for FLEGT Partner countries have been underway for some time, with public procurement at the forefront. More recently the question of ‘Additional Legislative Options’ has been at the top of the agenda, looking at the other side of the incentives question – what possibilities exist for making the import or sale of timber that was produced illegally outside the EU, illegal within it? Following lengthy deliberations, the European Commission published an impact assessment of three options in January, around the same time that DEFRA conducted a national consultation meeting on the question. Neither has resulted in a clear policy position yet, but it is clear that there is significant political will behind a measure that reduces the risk of illegal wood under-cutting FLEGT-licensed and certified timber. Whether legislation is pitched at the European or Member State level, it looks likely that the risks of importing unverified timber are only going to increase.