New timber law first step towards banning illegal timber in Europe

7 July 2010

Good implementation and strong penalty system crucial to prevent abuse

Strasbourg/Brussels, July 7 - Friends of the Earth Europe welcomed the majority vote in European Parliament today in favour of the European directive to ban illegal timber from the European market. Friends of the Earth Europe has been campaigning for over ten years for this law, to save the world's forests and to make sure forest dependent people get a fair deal. Friends of the Earth Europe will continue to follow the implementation process, to ensure countries and companies turn it into an effective law.

The directive is a compromise deal between representatives of the European Parliament and Commission. It contains strong and weak points, but is an important first step towards a level playing field in the international timber sector.

Geert Ritsema, Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "This law, if properly enforced, will have a huge positive impact on the world's forests and their inhabitants. It will also mean that developing countries will finally start benefiting from the revenues that, until now, have disappeared due to illegal trade."

The new law obligates operators to be transparent about the origin of their wood. Also, they have to assess the possibility of illegality and try to reduce the risk of selling illegal wood. All operators have to give information on where their timber is bought and sold. These measures will provide more transparency in the chain of trade and will reduce the risk of illegal timber appearing on the market.

Weak penalty system
On a national level, penalties and sanctions will still need to be defined. Unfortunately, no minimum penalties have been set on European level. This makes it possible for companies to move to countries with low penalties, and continue trading illegal timber. The exception of printed products in the new law is also a missed opportunity, with 3.2 billion euro's spent on a yearly basis importing these products. Friends of the Earth Europe, together with other environmental organisations will keep a close eye on the process of implementation of the law in the near future.

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