The 28th FLEGT/EUTR Expert Group meeting (June 2020)
At the meeting on 16 June 2020 (held virtually due to ‘The Situation’), the Commission updated Member States on progress towards implementing the Communication on Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests, noting that stakeholder selection for the Multi-Stakeholder Platform has been finalised and represents strong participation from the corporate sector and NGOs.
The Commission reported that the Fitness Check of the EUTR and FLEGT Regulation is underway, supported by a consultant consortium, for which public consultations will be held (see below).
The Commission noted that implementation and enforcement of the EUTR continues during the current situation, in line with national health and safety guidelines but with no general exemption from the rules of regulation.
UNEP-WCMC presented on the 2017–2019 EUTR analysis report and the FLEGT report for 2018, noting that the former will be released shortly following inter-service consultation.
A state of play update on cooperation with Ukraine highlighted that, due to the country’s unclear political situation, there has been no further progress in EU-Ukraine discussions.
Conclusions on Brazil and Myanmar from previous meetings are upheld. A draft guidance document for Ukraine will be re-developed into a conclusions document, and a conclusions document will be prepared for Myanmar.
Denmark and Belgium presented an update on imports from Brazil and highlighted the importance of close collaboration within the EU, as well as with relevant third-country organisations.
OLAF (European Anti-Fraud Office) presented an overview of how they are supporting Member States with two ongoing EUTR cases related to Ukraine and Myanmar.
Specific updates were given on the FLEGT VPAs withCôte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam, and the Commission delivered a short training demonstration on electronically claiming FLEGT licences from SILK and submitting them in TRACES / FLEGIT.
The summary records for FLEGT/EUTR Expert Group meetings are available from the Register of Commission Expert Groups.
European Commission launches two Open Public Consultations (September 2020)
Public consultations on the EU Timber Regulation and FLEGT Regulation Fitness Check and the Deforestation and Forest Products Impact Assessment were launched on 3 September 2020, seeking input from inter alia EU Member States’ relevant authorities, EU and third-country citizens and stakeholders, non-governmental organisations, businesses and trade associations (closing 26 November 2020 and 10 December 2020, respectively).
The Fitness Check will look at the effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance and EU added value of both regulations in contributing to the fight against illegal logging.
The Impact Assessment will investigate the suitability of a range of different demand-side measures to address deforestation and forest degradation associated with EU consumption, a priority under the July 2019EC Communication on Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests.
European Commission adopts FLEGT Synthesis Report for 2018 (July 2020)
EUTR Biennial report for March 2017 – February 2019, and the first annual EUTR Overview 2019 along with the key obligations and practical aspects of implementation and enforcement in 2019 (October 2020)
On 10 July 2020, the Commission adopted the Annual Synthesis Report on implementation of the FLEGT licensing scheme for the year 2018.
Individual national reports submitted by the EU Member States, on which the report is based, are available together with annexes on the FLEGT licences received in 2018.
These national reports are also summarised in a Background Analysis. On 2 October 2020, the Commission adopted the EUTR Biennial report for the period March 2017–February 2019, based on the related national reports, which are also summarised in a Background Analysis.
On 7 October, the Commission also released the first annual EUTR Overview on the basis of the related national annual reports on EUTR implementation in 2019.
In a separate document, the Commission summarises the key obligations and practical aspects of implementation and enforcement in 2019.
European Commission publishes five overviews of timber source countries (June–July 2020)
EU Timber Regulation country overviews were recently published for Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Malaysia, supporting the implementation of the EUTR by providing operators and Competent Authorities with information on the country’s forest management, legal timber trade flows, illegality risks, and relevant legislation and documentation.
Ten such overviews, developed by UNEP-WCMC for the European Commission, are available on the EC’s Europa website.
Commission notice to stakeholders on withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU (July 2020)
The notice, published on 23 July 2020, advises stakeholders that, following the withdrawal of the UK from the EU on 1 February 2020, the transition period under which EU law still applies to and in the UK will end on 31 December 2020.
After this date, operators importing timber and timber products from the UK into the EU must comply with due diligence obligations under Articles 4 and 6 of the EUTR to ensure that no illegally harvested timber is placed on the EU market.
Additionally and inter alia, the notice reminds stakeholders that UK-based monitoring organisations will no longer be recognised once the transition period has ended.
Introductory webinar on forest sector certification and verification schemes study (June 2020) The webinar provided an overview of the key objectives and phases of the twelve-month study, being undertaken by NEPCon on behalf of the European Commission.
The study aims to create an overview of certification and verification schemes and certificates being used in the area of forest and wood-based products and assess their respective strengths and weaknesses in relation to the EUTR.
Certification schemes identified for potential inclusion in the study will be evaluated based on their relevance and importance to the European wood-industry and forest sector, as well as via a Stakeholder Consultative Forum.
After the selection process, each scheme will be assessed for, inter alia, legality scope, supply chain management, and quality assurance requirements for certificate holders and certification bodies.
Belgian CA provides updates on actions taken to enforce the EUTR (September 2020)
The Belgian CA launched an EUTR information campaign in early July to address the lack of awareness in some timber importing industries.
A letter was sent to 1182 operators identified through customs data, which provided information on the EUTR and its scope, the requirements and guidance for due diligence and where to obtain additional informational.
In particular, reference was made to the LIFE Legal Wood project (driven by NEPCon), in which the Belgian CA is a partner, that will support companies by means of EUTR training workshops, tailormade tools for timber risk assessment and other information resources.
A news release about the information campaign was published on the homepage of the website of the Federal Public Service of Health and Environment.
Portuguese CA provides updates on actions taken to enforce the EUTR (September 2020)
In January and March 2020, the Portuguese CA conducted twelve inspections on domestic operators, importing operators and traders, and analysed twenty transactions. During the period of national restrictions imposed due to ‘the situation’, the CA focussed on finalising reports from previous inspections.
Once restrictions were lifted, the CA resumed field-and document-based checks, carrying out four inspections on importing operators and traders and analysing eight transactions in August.
Three administrative sanctions have been proposed, mainly related to the lack of a Due Diligence System (insufficient information on timber origin and a lack of proper risk assessment).
Swedish CA provides updates on actions taken to enforce the EUTR (September 2020)
One operator importing teak from Myanmar received a prohibition decision in July, which they appealed.
The operator also requested a suspension of the decision, which was granted by the administrative court.
The Swedish CA has, in turn, appealed the verdict on the suspension.
This court case is significant as the EUTR/FLEGT Expert Group has stated on several occasions the importance of even implementation of the EUTR across Member States concerning the inflow of teak from Myanmar.
Two cases concerning imports from Ukraine are still in court awaiting decisions.
Three more operators were inspected via teleconferencing between June and 11 September 2020.
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More details on Atlas Furniture Asia’s compliance with EUTR regulations can be found here: http://www.atlasfurnitureasia.com/accreditation/fsc-eutr/