Brussels, July 5 – In the week of the European Parliamentary vote for a new European timber law, over 120,000 European citizens have signed a petition asking European law makers to put a stop to the illegal timber trade. The petition was organised by Friends of the Earth Europe and global citzen's network Avaaz.org. Friends of the Earth Europe and Avaaz are calling on MEPs to ban illegally harvested timber and timber products from the EU market, ensure clear obligations for all timber operators and impose a minimum level of sanctions and penalties on offenders.
In 2009 a survey done by Friends of the Earth Netherlands an average of 92% of people questioned in Europe want strong European legislation to stop illegal timber trade. On a yearly basis developing countries miss out on US$ 15 billion through illegal logging;  the driving force is trade in illegal timber. This stands in the way of sustainable development and depletes the world of one of the most important natural resources.
Ricken Patel, executive director for Avaaz, said: "Illegal logging is a disaster - it has massive impact on climate change, destroys the livelihoods of forest communities, costs governments billions of dollars in lost income, and fuels corruption and violence."
"The people of Europe want to protect forests and end this devastating trade. The Council has done the right thing by supporting strong legislation to curb illegal timber from entering the EU and it's now up to the Parliament to follow suit. The pressure is on the MEPs to listen to their constituents and not bow to the powerful timber industry."
Since the development of the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Actionplan in 2003, the possibility of strong legislation is finally near. The plenary vote of the European Parliament next week on the FLEGT directive can be the basis for a level playing field and the banning of illegal timber on the European market.
Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "MEPs have the opportunity to put a stop to the illegal timber trade. They should not let the people of Europe down, and vote for strong, binding legislation to create a level playing field in the timber trade and save the world's forests."
The number of petition signatories is growing by the minute. For the latest: http://www.avaaz.org/en/eu_stop_illegal_timber
1 - OECD Round Table on Sustainable Development (2007) 'The Economics of illegal logging and Associated Trade'