October 9, 2013  
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EU and Indonesia sign historic deal to curb illegal timber

(Editor's note: Based on a European Commission Press Release of September 30, 2013.)

On September 30, 2013, the European Union and Indonesia signed a historic trade agreement which will contribute to halting the trade in illegal timber. Under the agreement, only verified legal timber and timber products will be exported to the EU. Indonesia is the first Asian country to enter into such an agreement, and by far the largest Asian timber exporter to the EU.

European Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said: "I am very pleased that the EU and Indonesia have joined forces in a practical way to achieve their shared goal of eliminating illegal logging and related trade. This agreement is good for the environment and good for responsible business, and it will boost consumer confidence in Indonesian timber."

Once fully implemented, the bilateral agreement--technically a Voluntary Partnership Agreement--will see Indonesian timber and timber products systematically checked under an independently monitored traceability system to ensure they are produced in compliance with relevant Indonesian legislation. The EU is providing support to establish and improve the control systems that will be used. This will reinforce other measures already in force in the EU, such as the Timber Regulation, which stop it serving as a market for illegally harvested timber. The agreement was negotiated over six years, with strong involvement of NGOs and businesses as well as government officials. Similar agreements have already been signed between the EU and some African countries.

Voluntary Partnership Agreements represent a key element of the EU's Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, under which the EU aims to strengthen forest governance and contribute to global efforts to eliminate illegal logging and related trade.

After the signing ceremony, both Indonesia and the EU will need to ratify the agreement following their respective procedures. For the EU this will mean obtaining the consent of the European Parliament. The two sides will agree a start date for the full operation of the FLEGT legality licensing scheme when they consider that all necessary preparations have been made.

Illegal logging is a major problem in many developing countries, posing a significant threat to forests. It contributes to the process of deforestation and forest degradation, threatens biodiversity, and undermines sustainable forest management and development.

In March 2013, a new EU law entered into force prohibiting the sale of illegally harvested timber. The new law obliges EU operators to ask suppliers for evidence that timber has been legally harvested. Once fully implemented, the FLEGT agreement with Indonesia will mean that Indonesian timber exports are considered to be fully compliant with the new law. In this way EU demand for legal timber is expected to reinforce Indonesia's efforts to eliminate illegal logging. Indonesia is already rolling out a timber legality verification system on which the agreement with the EU is based. Known as the SVLK system, it foresees checks at various levels to ensure that the scheme is transparent and credible.

Indonesia covers about 181.2 million ha, spread over 17,000 islands, about the same area as France, Spain, Germany and the UK together. About 70 percent, or 133.6 million ha of the land area, is forested. Approximately 37 percent of the forestland has been set aside for protection or conservation, 17 percent for conversion to other land uses, while the remaining 46 percent is destined for production purposes. The EU is the biggest export market for Indonesian timber products, the main destinations being Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, French, Spain and Italy.

The first Voluntary Partnership Agreement to be formally concluded was with Ghana, followed by Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Liberia and Central African Republic. Negotiations are on-going with Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Guyana, Honduras, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

For more information: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/forests/flegt.htm


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