Highlight EU FLEGT VPAs wider impacts, urges EC Director

European Commission Director General for the Environment Daniel Calleja Crespo has stressed the importance of communicating that FLEGT licensing is about more than verifying timber legality and granting a green lane through the EU Timber Regulation.

In an interview with the European Timber Trade Federation Newsletter (http://ettf.info/node/261), Mr Calleja Crespo said that the first year of FLEGT licensing its exports to the EU by Indonesia, the first country to start licensing, had been a success. In total it had issued around 36,000 licences on timber and wood product valued at €1.1 billion.

However, he added, that “for too long communication about FLEGT licensing has been framed around how it facilitates trade through compliance with legality requirements, such as the EUTR”.

FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements with supplier countries, he said, have also been instrumental in supporting establishment of national processes leading to timber and forestry sector policy reforms, participatory decision-making, better law enforcement and increased transparency.

“This contributes not just to better forest protection, but also protection of the rights of individuals, local communities and indigenous peoples,” said Mr Calleja Crespo.

Looking forward, the Director General said the EU FLEGT VPA and licensing programme may need to both support existing participant countries through the process and encourage more to join, although he highlighted that the former already account for 80% of the EU’s tropical imports.

He also said the EU may consider redirecting investment in  countries where VPA negotiations are not advancing to ‘where it’s needed most’.

The ETTF newsletter, published to mark the anniversary of Indonesia’s start of FLEGT licensing, also included a report on the country’s willingness to share its expertise and experience through its VPA and licensing launch processes. This, it said, was going on with a number of other VPA countries at private and public sector and CSO levels.

As part of the EU’s commitments to evaluate market impacts of  FLEGT licensing and the EU FLEGT VPA initiative the FLEGT Independent Market Monitor Project (IMM) has also launched its first newsletter and website (www.flegtIMM.eu). The IMM’s role is to monitor trade flows from FLEGT licensing and VPA countries and to gauge trade response to EU FLEGT initiative both in the latter and in the EU trade.  Surveys of the latter have already been undertaken in the seven leading tropical timber importing EU countries by IMM correspondents. Importers and traders are largely supportive of the FLEGT initiative, although highlight the need for more market communication about it and for more VPA countries to reach FLEGT licensing stage.