The European Union’s forests have expanded during the last 60 years at a rate of 0.3% per year and currently account for more than 36 percent of EU land area. The EU focuses attention on the function that forests serve to the environment, such as protecting biodiversity, mitigating the effect of climate change, and serving as a source of renewable energy, and is developing policies accordingly. Forestry management policies are not harmonized at the EU level, so the Member States (MS) have the authority for setting policies on how forests are managed in the EU. However, forests are affected by a broad array of EU policies and initiatives rooted in policies on other sectors such as EU Biodiversity strategy, Rural Development, and the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). On November 30, 2016, the European Commission published a proposal for a recast of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II). This introduces a sustainability criteria for biomass used to produce energy. This proposal is currently under scrutiny of the European Parliament and the Council.
An additional policy that promotes forest sustainability is the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), Regulation (EU) No 995/2010. The Regulation was adopted in 2010 and entered into application in March 2013, banning illegal use of timber in certain areas and requiring operators who place timber and timber products on the market to trace these products to the country and location in which the wood was originally harvested. The intent of the regulation is to deter illegal harvesting of timber in the country of harvest, according to national legislation.
Following its entry into application in March 2013, the Commission completed, in 2015, a review of the effectiveness of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) during its first two years of implementation on the basis of Member States’ reports and inputs received through a public consultation. The results of the consultation are publicly available.
While the EUTR includes timber products from all over the world, there is another EU initiative, the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) which calls for the Commission to negotiate Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VAP) with countries experiencing illegal logging. The FLEGT regulation was adopted in 2005. As soon as a country has negotiated a partnership with the EU, the legislation enters into force for that specific country. Once these VAPs have been signed, all EU imports from these countries must have a certificate stating that the timber has been legally logged. The VAPs are based on legislation in the producer countries so criteria can differ. The EU has signed VAPs with Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ghana, Indonesia, Liberia, and the Republic of Congo, and negotiations are ongoing with Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guyana, Honduras, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
In July 2014 the European Commission started an evaluation of the first 11 years of implementation (2003-2014) of the EU Action Plan on FLEGT. The evaluation process was concluded with the release of a Commission’s Staff Working Document.