EUTR implementation Seminar – Barcelona

A team of researchers from University of Freiburg (Forest and Environmental Policy Group), Germany, and the Forest Sciences Center of Catalonia (CTFC, Forest economics department), Spain, hold a seminar on the EUTR implementation at the EFI Barcelona premises on Friday 23rd January. The seminar constituted a final activity of the DAAD-funded project “Understanding the governance of natural commodity markets: A comparative analysis of EU Timber Regulation implementation in Germany and Spain“, led by Georg Winkel and Metodi Sotirov, both University of Freiburg, and Elena Górriz, CTFC. This project aimed at strengthening scientific collaboration through the Spanish-German joint actions. The main findings of the project were presented in the seminar attended by staff from EFIMED, CTFC, EFI-FLEGT facility, Generalitat de Catalunya and the University of Freiburg.

In 2010, the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) was passed in view of tackling illegal logging by demand side measures. As an action within the EU FLEGT program, the EUTR complements the VPAs processes making EU wood traders accountant of proving the legality of their commodities. In this frame, Mareike Blum (U.Freiburg) introduced commonalities and disparities in EUTR transposition, firms’ adoption of Due Diligence Systems (DDS) and EUTR enforcement. While Germany has timely introduced the required regulations and resources to fulfil these new tasks, Spain is lagging behind due to delays in the regulatory framework grounded on competences’ and budgetary reasons. Nevertheless, private sector is moving, both in Germany and Spain: importing firms (especially big ones) are progressively introducing DDS. Online tools and sector associations help in building individual DDS, however the methodologies for risk assessment vary significantly, and it is often unclear in how far they can be seen as sufficient given the EUTR requirements.

Elena Górriz (CTFC) explained how the EUTR affects domestic wood producers in both countries. Under the EUTR, forest owners and wood dealers are obliged to fulfil equivalent requirements as importers, being either operators or traders. In Spain, the traceability and legality proofs could rely on existing forest management and harvest procedural documents. Similar documents could also be used in Germany, yet, they do not exist for parts of the privately owned forests. Adapting existing documental framework in Spain, jointly with the obligation of reporting actual harvested wood (foreseen in the ongoing amendment of the Forest Law) would improve the traceability. In Germany the normative framework equating existing harvest procedures (chiefly, tax-related documents) with the EUTR smoothes the implementation as it keeps the status quo, but makes the domestic operators unaware of the EUTR. Furthermore, it is questionable if this status quo is sufficient to implement the EUTR requirements.

Metodi Sotirov (U.Freiburg) presented preliminary research findings about the domestic implementation of EUTR in 9 EU member states (Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the UK).  The comparative analysis highlighted the role and interplay of policy and market factors shaping different levels of domestic support, formal transposition and practical implementation of the EUTR. These factors include the significance of domestic forest industries, foreign competition, export and import dependence, civil society pressure, governance capacity and political culture. The findings also showed commonly perceived implementation challenges across the countries including uncertainty in terms of verification documents and the role of forest certification therein, lack of unified formal implementation in EU member states, and challenging (state) capacities to practical enforcement. Another general finding is that while state authorities and economic operators seem to voice support for the EUTR and support formal transposition (for certainty, risk mitigation, image improvement, fair competition), they push back to soften its implementation.

Finally, Thomas Pichet (EFI-FLEGT) provided insights from the tropical timber exporting countries point of view. A weak EUTR performance crowds out incentives for legality implementation, while there are some initial signs of positive effects on internal institutional processes.

In the coming months the team will work in joint publications.

Photo credits: Sarah Adams, EFIMED

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