What are the EU’s Partnerships with forested countries?

When she became President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said that the under her mandate, the Commission would be “geopolitical”.  

This meant that the European Union's (EU's) strategic priorities for a green, digital and fair Europe should be coupled with international partnerships. "My mission is to work strategically and effectively with international partners to build the world we want to live in tomorrow. A world that is green, digital and fair, with equal opportunity for all," said the Commissioner for International Partnerships.  

Over the years, and particularly since 2019, the EU has developed a wide range of partnerships that are relevant to forests, such as “forest partnerships”, cooperation measures and multistakeholder dialogues to support compliance with the new EU deforestation regulation (EUDR) as well as coordinated “Team Europe Initiatives” and “strategic partnerships” to work on critical raw material. 

These partnerships have very different aims. But to work, they must be well developed.

What Fern and our partners work on

We create space for civil society, including Indigenous Peoples, local communities, ethnic minorities and smallholders, to be heard in EU policy debates. 

Fern campaigns to ensure that international EU partnerships with forested countries incentivise efforts to tackle deforestation’s root causes, which include weak forest governance and unclear land tenure.  

Such partnerships should contain an unbreakable commitment to include those who are so often marginalised in decision-making processes, but whose voices are nevertheless crucial to their success - including civil society organisations, Indigenous groups and smallholders.  

Yet supporting these groups to shape policy is just one part of the jigsaw: it is also vital that the negotiation and implementation processes are transparent, and that changes to the forests are independently monitored. 

What are the next steps?

Fern and our partners want to improve the EU’s partnerships with forested countries, and the way these partnerships are monitored (and enforced through EU and national legislation) once they are up and running.  

The EUDR has the potential to drastically reduce the role that EU consumption plays in driving deforestation and violating communities’ tenure rights. 

But to really help halt deforestation, the EU must develop meaningful partnership agreements with producer countries that include those who are directly impacted.

The EU is currently trying to secure its supply of Critical Raw Materials to achieve a green transition.

To support this, the EU is developing Strategic Partnerships with resource-rich countries, many of whom are also highly forested.  

The EU’s Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) timber trade deals with forested countries are a crucial component of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan.

The VPA model has improved forest conditions, governance, and local communities’ rights, but innovations and revisions are needed to keep helping tackling legal deforestation. 

Fern and our partners also work on commodity specific collaboration measures, such as cocoa talks.

Civil society has a key role to play, as it can support the process with monitoring and provide expertise and data on an objective basis.


Find out what the minimum objectives of supply-side partnerships should be

This paper outlines options for partnerships to accompany the EU Deforestation Regulation.

Read the report


Discover how the Partnerships for Critical Raw Materials can improve

Our briefing presents ways to ensure these Partnerships benefit local development and help reduce overall demand for Critical Raw Materials.

Read the briefing

Delve into our report on Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs)

This discussion document highlights potential innovations and revisions to the VPA model and options to ensure its full integration into the global action against legal deforestation.

Read the document 

Alexandra Benjamin

Alexandra Benjamin

Responsable de la campagne gouvernance forestière

Julia Christian

Julia Christian

Responsable de la campagne Forêts

Perrine Fournier

Perrine Fournier

Responsable de la campagne Commerce

Tyala Ifwanga

Tyala Ifwanga

Forest Governance Campaigner

Nicole Polsterer

Nicole Polsterer

Responsable de la campagne Production et Consommation durable

Indra Van Gisbergen

Indra Van Gisbergen

Responsable de la campagne Forêts et Consommation