Three years after it came in to force, the EU regulation prohibiting illegal timber imports (EUTR) publicly showed its teeth this month. The Netherlands and Sweden each formally and publicly notified wood-importing companies that they may be subject to sanction for allegedly not carrying out effective due diligence required under the EUTR.
The moves come just a few weeks after new guidelines on the EUTR were published, highlighting that government information from high-risk timber-exporting countries should not be automatically regarded as reliable.
In Sweden, the government authority has demanded that Retlog, an importing company, take further risk mitigation measures within three months or face sanctions under the EUTR. The case concerns wooden flooring made in Thailand from timber felled in Myanmar.
(errata corrected:) In the Netherlands, the government authority notified Fibois VB Purmerend that it would be required to pay a non-compliance penalty per cubic metre of timber it places on the market if it does not tighten up its due diligence system, unless it is able to challenge the accusation. The notification comes after repeated calls from civil society groups in Cameroon for EU Member States to enforce the EUTR more strictly, in order to help their own efforts to improve the way forests are owned and managed.
Cameroon has signed, but not yet implemented, a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU defining a ‘legality assurance system’ that could, if implemented properly, make it easier for European companies to meet their due diligence requirements under the EUTR.
In March, nine leading European forest and rights organisations, including Fern, called for strengthened enforcement of the EUTR and renewed political commitment for effective implementation of VPAs, which are both part of the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Action Plan.
Image: Timber worker tracing and marking timber in Cameroon (Marc Vandenhaute for FAO Forestry via Flickr)