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Forest governance and deforestation policies in the European Union

In the European Union (EU) the responsibility for forest policies falls on individual Member States. Nevertheless in recent years the EU has adopted a number of measures to direct and support forest-related activities in its Member States.  

The EU Forestry Strategy adopted in 1998 puts forward as its overall principles the application of sustainable forest management and the multifunctional role of forests. The EU Forest Action Plan adopted on 15 June 2006 builds on the report on the implementation of the EU Forestry Strategy and consequent conclusions by the European Council. The Action Plan focuses on four main objectives:

  1. To improve long-term competitiveness;
  2. To improve and protect the environment;
  3. To contribute to the quality of life; and
  4. To foster coordination and communication.

Responding to public concerns on illegal logging and deforestation, in 2003, the European Council adopted the EU Action Plan for Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT). The key regions and countries targeted, which together contain nearly 60% of the world’s forest and supply a large proportion of internationally traded timber, are Central Africa, Russia, Tropical South America and Southeast Asia. Though the ultimate goal of the Action Plan is to encourage the sustainable management of forests, ensuring legality of forest operations is considered a vital first step. The Plan focuses on governance reforms and capacity building, to ensure timber exported to the EU comes only from legal sources. It includes ideas for actions in areas such as public procurement and the private sector.  

In 2008 the European Commission presented a Communication on deforestation which sets out the EU's response to the challenge of climate change. It proposes that at the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) negotiations on the future climate regime the EU calls for halting global forest cover loss by 2030 at the latest and reducing gross tropical deforestation by at least 50% by 2020 from current levels.

In 2010, the European Commission adopted a regulation on illegal logging to help protect forests around the world, asking operators to take concrete steps to minimise the risk of putting illegally harvested timber and timber products on the EU market. The regulation will inhibit trade in illegally harvested timber in the EU from 2013 onwards and will make it an obligation for traders to identify the country of origin of their timber while ensuring that the timber they sell has been harvested according to the relevant laws of that country. This new measure will send a strong message to suppliers of the EU market and hence contribute to reducing illegal logging while increasing the protection of forests.

The measures adopted at EU level concern the countries participating in the ENPI FLEG Program in as much as they influence the EU Neighbourhood Policy. For more information on the EU Neighbourhood Policy and its environmental priorities in ENPI FLEG countries, please click here.