Seven pillars of FLEGT

This section explains the EU FLEGT Action Plan’s seven broad elements, which are listed below. It describes progress and provides case studies and reporting tips. Among the topics covered are the EU Timber Regulation and Voluntary Partnership Agreements between the EU and timber exporting countries outside the EU.



Use of legislation


The EU FLEGT Action Plan envisaged the use of new or existing legislation to counter the trade in illegal timber products. The EU has adopted two key regulations: 

  • The FLEGT Regulation, which empowers the European Commission to negotiate bilateral trade deals called Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with timber-exporting countries. 
  • The EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), which prohibits trade in illegal timber products in the EU. 

Learn more about VPAs here. The remainder of this section of the module focuses on the EUTR.

EU Timber Regulation (EUTR)

The EU Timber Regulation to counter the trade in illegal timber came into effect in all EU Member States on 3 March 2013. The legislation prohibits the placing of illegally harvested timber on the European market, and covers both imported and domestically produced timber and timber products. The Timber Regulation covers a wide range of timber products listed in its Annex.

The EUTR sets out procedures to minimise the risk of illegal wood being used. Companies that first place timber on the EU market must, through a ‘due diligence’ system, try to ensure that the wood they trade is legal. Traders who sell or buy timber already on the market must keep information that allows the timber they trade to be easily traced.

Timber or timber products that carry a valid FLEGT licence will automatically be considered as complying with the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation. Timber is also exempt from due diligence requirements if it has a CITES permit, issued in compliance with the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species. However, the due diligence requirements still apply to timber certified under schemes such as FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification).

To implement the EU Timber Regulation, each EU Member State must nominate a competent authority, carry out checks on companies and have “effective, proportionate and dissuasive” penalties in place for cases of non-compliance. In some cases this has required changes to legislation in EU Member States.

Some stakeholders in Europe are calling for inclusion of a broader range of products in the EU Timber Regulation. The EU Timber Regulation does not cover items such as chairs, toys, books, musical instruments, printed materials and charcoal.

Reporting tips

The European Commission publishes news and updates about the EU Timber Regulation on a dedicated website. This includes a regularly updated table with information on the state of implementation of the Timber Regulation by EU Member States.

A valuable source of independent information on the EU Timber Regulation and its implementation is the European NGO ClientEarth. It publishes a periodic news update called EUTR Latest News. ClientEarth has also compiled briefings on how selected EU Member States have implemented the EU Timber Regulation.

In 2015, NepCon published a useful overview of EUTR enforcement, including progress to date and prospects for the future.

An independent review of the EU Timber Regulation was published in 2016. As part of the review process, the European Commission held a public consultation and published the comments it received online. The comments, organised by stakeholder type, provide insights into what different groups think and could inspire media stories.

Questions to consider:

  • Which competent authority is relevant to your story? Check the list here
  • What are the penalties for non-compliance? Are they effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties?
  • What approach does the competent authority take to enforcing the regulation?
  • How many checks on companies has it made? What were the outcomes?
  • What do companies in timber-exporting countries think about the EU Timber Regulation?
  • How do EU companies support their suppliers to ensure they can provide the information that due diligence requires?
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