EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) put to the test
Just Forests welcomes the actions of the German authorities in seizing two batches of illegal timber from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The German case is encouraging, given earlier disappointments where illegal timber entered the EU after the entry into force of the EUTR.
10th December 2013
EU Timber Regulation put to the test
In a move that could set an important precedent for enforcement of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), German authorities seized two batches of illegal timber from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This seizure represents a positive step in enforcement of the EUTR, nine months after it entered into force. The German authorities are conducting further inquiries; if illegality is confirmed, it is hoped that sanctions will be imposed on the companies involved, sending a clear signal to all timber operators and serving as an example for competent authorities within the Member States.
Photo source BBC News: The Congo basin rainforest is the second largest in the world
The EUTR prohibits placing illegally harvested timber on the EU market; it requires EU traders to exercise due diligence and to take steps to mitigate the risk of illegal timber. In this case, Lebanese-owned Bakri Bois Corporation (BBC; FW185) logged the seized timber under an illegal concession contract, according to a report by Resource Extraction Monitoring (REM), acting as the independent forest monitor in DRC. A joint field mission by Greenpeace Africa, Global Witness and local NGOs further confirmed illegal logging activities by BBC, yet the logs were placed on the EU market by three German timber companies. The extent of the companies’ due diligence is unclear. Greenpeace tipped the German authorities about the illegal timber
The German case is encouraging, given earlier disappointments where illegal timber entered the EU after the entry into force of the EUTR. In April, Belgian authorities blocked Afrormosia timber from DRC in Antwerp,2 but later released it despite lack of clear proof of legal origin (FW182). Also, Okoume logs with altered markings concerning the place of origin had entered France without difficulty.3 The current case highlights the importance of closer collaboration between traders, independent monitors, NGOs and competent authorities to give the EUTR the teeth it needs.