Victory for poor foresters as EU votes out illegal timber trade

By staff writers
7 Jul 2010

Progressio has welcomed a boost for Forest communities in the developing world as the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly today (7 July 2010) to ban the import of illegal timber and timber products into the EU and, therefore, the UK.

In an unprecedented step forward in the battle to curb illegal logging, which ravages poor and marginalised woodland communities in countries like Honduras and Ecuador, 49 MEPs voted in favour of the new legislation which will help put an end to the EU trade in illegal timber worth some €3 billion (£2.5 billion) annually. Just six MEPs voted against, whilst two abstained.

The historic move is the latest attempt to adopt new legislation to stop the EU trade in illegal timber. In the past, a patchwork of voluntary regulations had allowed rogue traders to exploit the system with relative ease.

The results have been plain to see, says the development NGO, Progressio. Some 20 per cent of all illegal timber produced worldwide is imported directly into the EU, before making its way into EU citizens’ homes, gardens and offices.

Although some efforts have been made to regulate the market, until now there has been no binding legislation to prohibit or sanction the practice.

Progressio’s Advocacy Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, Lizzette Robleto, commented: “This is another significant step forward on the road to ending the import of illegal timber and timber products into the EU. The fact that just two MEPs voted against the legislation – with nobody calling for amendments to what is now a very strong text in favour of an outright ban – sends a very strong message to illegal loggers that the EU will no longer turn a blind eye to this devastating trade or its effects on poor communities.”

Daniel Hale, Progressio’s Campaigns Officer added: “MEPs’ support for this bill shows the significant and rising public indignation for illegal loggers and their activities. We applaud campaigners in the UK and across Europe who have clearly spoken with one voice on this issue.”

There are still a number of procedural and technical hurdles to be overcome before the new legislation can be ratified and adopted by EU nations, however. It is a process that could still take some months.

Progressio says that it will continue to track developments towards what is hoped will be a full implementation of the proposed laws.

The charity, formerly known as the Catholic Institute for International Relations, has been campaigning throughout the European legislative process.

It worked with Caroline Lucas, leader of the UK Green Party and former MEP, and the new Secretary of State for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman MP.

[Ekk/3]

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