Failure of the EU Timber Regulation

Recently, I have found an interesting article, in which Vladislav Vejnovic is analyzing why the EU Timber Regulation is still ineffective after 3 years since its implementation.

The European Union (EU) accounts for 35% of the world’s primary timber consumption. Since the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) entered into force on 3rd March 2013, three years have passed and its results are often hard to quantify.

The EUTR is one of two main cornerstones designed for fighting illegal logging. The second one is based on Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with timber producing and exporting countries. Both the EUTR and VPAs create together something what is called the EU Forest Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), which is supposed to address the supply (export) and demand (import) side of the timber product trade.

Let us focus on the EUTR. The main target of the EU Timber Regulation is to reduce illegal logging by ensuring that no illegal timber or timber products can be sold in the EU. The Regulation applies to wood and wood products being placed for the first time on the EU market. However, the analysis of Mr. Vejnovic points that after three years since the program implementation, the EUTR seems to be ineffective by failing to prohibit illegally logged wood products from entering the EU market and, what is more shocking, it could even have a detrimental effect in developing countries by potentially harming their progress.

Mr. Vejnovic pointed that the main reason, why such policies fail, is related to the weak enforcement and late implementation of the EUTR by member states, which are undermining the effectiveness of the regulation. In addition, author points that private industry companies are not adequately and consistently implementing the due diligence requirements imposed by the EUTR.

Interestingly, it was also mentioned that due to policies such as EUTR, there can be a big side effect in terms of significant changes in developing countries and their industries. Mr. Vejnovic pointed that “the larger exporting companies have more capacity and resources to swiftly adjust and to comply with the EUTR requirements, unlike the small and medium companies that are lacking predominantly financial resources”. Furthermore, the additional costs that the regulation imposes on governments and private sectors make a significant obstacle for companies outside EU to enter the wood market. On the other hand, the regulation affects the wood-processing companies inside the EU, which have also higher costs of implementing “due diligence” requirements.

Whole article by Mr. Vejnovic you can find here:
The EU Timber Regulation: Three years of ineffective implementation

My opinion

In my opinion, the results of such policies are miserable and it will always be, even after 10 years from now. The main reason is that policies such EUTR do not solve the source of the problem of illegal logging, as they are based on bad economical premises. Therefore, I do not agree with Mr. Vejnovic concerning his opinion, in which he claimed that if these arrangements and conditions mentioned before, will be in place, the EU will certainly contribute to reducing the illegal logging and related trade problems. I argue also that consistent assistance provided by the EU to the developing countries will not change anything.

I expressed my opinion in my former post, where I discuss how to solve finally the problem of illegal logging. You can it find here:
Problem of the illegal logging finally solved! Norway takes a bad way!

To my previous arguments, I would like to add few extra. It is true that most of the EU member states had not had national legislation on illegal logging until recently.
Around two weeks ago, the EU Commission updated the table with information on the state of implementation of the Regulation by the EU Member States as regards whether they have complied with their obligations provided for by the EUTR.

Here is the pdf file you can download and see:
State of implementation of EU Timber Regulation in 28 Member States

In this beautiful table, we can see that except Greece, Romania and Spain, all other countries in the EU have fulfilled the obligations perfectly. Three mentioned countries are still in the process of fulfillment.

Should we expect now that illegal logging will stop in developing countries?

I think, the answer is: NOT! 

Recently, Jonsson, Giurca et al. (2015) assessed the EU Timber Regulation and FLEGT Action Plan. On the first page of their report we can read that: “We cannot yet definitely say that the policy measures have reduced illegal logging in suspected source countries, although they could have”. Researchers expressed their doubt and, in my opinion, they provided very good arguments why they are in doubt of such policies.
They mentioned that it is possible that source country producers could have redirected their illegal timber production to other countries without comparable policy measures. Secondly, it is also possible that more illegal wood in source country markets has been redirected to domestic consumers, pushing more legal wood into world markets. Therefore, it was concluded that the net effect on illegal timber remains unclear.

In my opinion, their doubts are correct, and worst case scenarios for tropics are happening now. I recommend you to read this good and comprehensive report under this link.
Assessment of the EU Timber Regulation and FLEGT Action Plan

2 thoughts on “Failure of the EU Timber Regulation

  1. The EUTR and FLEGT does not specifically control illegal logging. It is specifically targeted at eliminating illegal timber from the supply chain into Europe. By and large, I think these EUTR programs have been successful at separating legal wood supplies from illegal which is positive. However, as you point out the EUTR may not have significantly impacted on the rates of illegal logging. What then can now be done to address the problem of domestic illegal logging in supplier countries?

    1. George,
      I think that 2 main things can be done:
      1) privatization of state forests by distributing them among private people and local communities, which will be responsible for these forests, and will also rely on them
      2) later I think it would be good to legalize illegal activities and products

      Relating to the first point, it is evident that most of the illegal logging is occuring in public forests, not private where forest onwers take care about their property.
      Public administration is very susceptible to corruption. It is completely opposite that private forests (I have never heared that private forest owner took bribe in order to harm his own property). Therefore, decentralization makes a lot of sense in developing countries. It was discussed recently here:
      Concerning point 2 it was discussed in more detail here:

      What potential solutions do you see, in order to solve such problem?

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