ACP-EU Update: illegal logging
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CTA. 2004. ACP-EU Update: illegal logging. ICT Update Issue 19. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands
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Illegal logging is a pervasive problem that causes enormous damage to forests, local communities and national economies.
Illegal logging is a pervasive problem that causes enormous damage to forests, local communities and national economies. The EU is one of the largest markets for timber and forest products, but has virtually no legal means of preventing illegal imports. EU-level actions against illegal logging, such as they are, have been included in the European Commission´s Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), presented in May 2003. The aim of the Action Plan is to control the import of illegally sourced timber by developing bilateral or regional partnership agreements in order to create a caucus of the main wood-producing and importing countries. The agreements will stipulate that timber imports from partner countries must be harvested in conformity with their national legislation, before they can be imported into the EU. In order to control the import, the Commission must draft a regulation that will form the legal basis for a voluntary licensing scheme. As a first step towards such a system, the European Council adopted the Action Plan in October 2003. However, the Commission and the Council recognize that a significant number of producer countries are unlikely to enter into partnership agreements, and that illegal timber traders will import illegally sourced forest products via third countries that have no such agreements with the EU. The Council has therefore asked the Commission to review the options for - and the feasibility of - further legislation to control imports of illegally harvested timber. In reviewing further legislation, the Commission should note that illegal forest use is not just an outcome of poor governance but is often an integral part of local and national political economies. Revenues from illegal forest exploitation often serve to perpetuate existing political parties, policies and practices. There is a clear danger that EU efforts to curb illegal logging will unwittingly encourage national governments to water down their existing environmental laws rather than strengthen them. This could lead governments to weaken existing forest laws, or even to legalize currently illegal logging practices, in order to satisfy the EU. It is therefore essential to start a political dialogue with producer countries focusing not only on illegal forestry practices but also on forest sector reform, increasing transparency, strengthening land tenure and access rights, and reducing corruption. EU Member States have been asked to enter into discussions with producer countries and to report back to the Council by mid-2004 on their readiness for, and their views on, partnership agreements. Their reports will form the basis for future debate on the Commission´s mandate to negotiate with interested partner countries. Moreover, the Council has asked the Commission to draft, also by mid-2004, a regulation setting up a voluntary licensing scheme for identifying legal timber and wood products as part of the partnership agreements. mailto:email@example.com Saskia Ozinga is coordinator at FERN (Forests and the European Union Resource Network). For further information, visit htp://www.fern.org www.fern.org.
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