The EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) still requires much improvement with regard to administration and enforcement before it can fully flex its muscle in preventing illegal timber from entering the EU. But it has achieved some results for the EU and international timber trade, according to an evaluation report submitted by the European Commission.
The review, conducted by independent analysts, analysed the first two years since the EUTR was implemented. Methodology included online surveys, field evaluation, working to EU Better Regulation guidelines, and measuring the EUTR against five core criteria; relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and EU-added value.
The report also stated that implementation has been slow in most Member States with four—Hungary, Romania, Greece and Spain—still not fully compliant.
Although companies have done a due diligence risk assessment, “private sector compliance has been uneven”. One of the problems faced is the insufficient and uneven allocation of resources to the national enforcement bodies, the Competent Authorities (CA). Across the EU, infringement penalties also vary widely and there are different levels of understanding amongst the CAs. The difference in compliance costs between countries also goes against its objective to “create a level-playing field that keeps illegal timber and timber-based products out of the market”.
It is still premature to determine its impact on illegal trade and trade flows, but the EUTR is still considered “highly relevant for tackling illegal logging and related trade by changing market behaviour patterns and progressively establishing supply chains free of illegally harvested timber”. It is also an “important instrument in the EU’s international efforts to halt deforestation”.
In addition the EUTR has encouraged consumer countries such as Australia, China and Japan to adopt similar measures and incentivised suppliers to conclude Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) under the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade legality assurance initiative. (The ultimate aim of a VPA is to start exporting FLEGT-licensed timber and wood products, which are exempt further due diligence risk assessment under the EUTR.)
In conclusion, the report stated that the EUTR can be improved by uniform pan-EU implementation to maximise its market leverage with suppliers. It is working coherently with other policy instruments, “in particular the VPA and FLEGT-licensing scheme”. In addition, “[EUTR] communication campaigns have also raised consumer awareness of illegal logging and it has incentivised producer countries to develop systems to demonstrate compliance with its legality requirements”.