EU Timber Regulation in Effect: what Russian timber exporters should pay attention to
Yet, there are issues of the Russian timber origin verification that remain unsettled.
The first-year performance of the EU Timber Regulation, and in particular the liability of operators placing timber and timber products on the market, were high on the agenda of the Round Table: “Forest Management in the Context of the EU Timber Regulation”. A joint initiative of WWF Russia, TRAFFIC and Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN), the round table was hosted by Arkhangelsk on 2 April 2014 as part of the Arkhangelsk Forest Forum and organized within the ENPI FLEG II program financed by the EU. The discussion was contributed by representatives of federal and regional forest management authorities, the Regulation enforcement agencies, Russian and foreign logging businesses and NGOs.
The Regulation stipulates that timber can be purchased only from exporters able to produce evidence of their timber being legal and fully meeting the legislation of the country of origin. All timber suppliers are also obliged to implement ‘due diligence’, a system designed to add transparency to every link of timber supply chain, from a felling site to an end consumer. Any violation of the new regulations entails serious penalties, including criminal and administrative.
Even though the Regulation has been functioning for a whole year already, there are things yet to be clarified. For instance, it remains unclear what sort of documents the European partners need to be shown as verification of the Russian timber origin legality.
WWF Russia is truly interested in the EU Timber Regulation becoming a real tool for bringing order to the Russian forests. Implementing FLEG II program, WWF puts a lot of emphasis on outreach and counselling. To make the EU Regulation clear to the logging companies, WWF Russia has developed the Guidance Documenton applicable Russian legislation offering a step-by-step recommendations on ensuring timber legality. The Guidance Document lists documents required for export and domestic timber trade within Russia. A substantial contribution to ensuring the legality of and adding the transparency to the timber operations was made by the recently adopted legislative amendments concerning the implementation of the Unified State Automated Information System for tracing round timber in Russia.
The fact that many Russian companies, and especially those operating in North-West Russia, have been issued FSC certificates is indicative of timber being harvested legally. The FSC standards applicable to supply chains and controlled timber have been harmonized with the EU Timber Regulation.
«TRAFFIC and GFTN developed effectivetools which can be successfully applied by forest industry companies to ensurelegality of timber supplyto Europe, including timber from Russia, - as Keong Chen Hin, TRAFFIC Programme Manager, has noted. – I would like to emphasize the importance of the Guidance Document on Russia’s applicable legislation developed by WWF, which will help suppliers of forest products from Russia to ensuretheir European partners meet all requirements of the EUTR».
'Russian companies working with the EU market have not felt a lot of difference in accessing to the market with implementation of the EUTR yet.. Nevertheless, since the European Union takes additional efforts to ensure effective implementation of the EUTR, soon it will be necessary to demonstratemeeting legal requirements more carefully. As for the European companies they have to manage risks carefully working in countries, including in Russia, where illegal logging is a problem , - Nikolay Shmatkov, the Forest Policy Projects Coordinator for WWF Russia, emphasized.