In 2003, the European Commission undertook to fight against the illegal logging and illegal trade of timber by developing an action plan. This action plan FLEGT ("Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade") aims in the short term to monitor the legal source of timber. In the long term, it aims to promote sustainable forest management in countries that supply to the European market.
In real terms, this plan resulted in the European Regulations 2173/2005 pertaining to the establishment of a FLEGT authorisation system for importing timber into the European Community. Commonly referred to as "FLEGT Regulations." The purpose of this document is to restrict entry into the European market only to the timber and by-products harvested in accordance with the national legislation of the producing country.
Rules of implementation (1024/2008), adopted in 2008, lay down application modalities for the authorisation system and impose import checks on timber and timber by-products from countries that have signed a "Voluntary Partnership Agreement" (VPA) with the European Union. In practice, timber and the legally harvested by-products in the partner countries are accompanied by a license signed by the competent authority of the exporting country, which allows the competent authorities of the EU member states to recognise legal timber.
The FLEGT guidelines are meant for custom officers and competent authorities but also include useful information for companies.
What is legal timber?
Legal timber is timber logged, transported, processed, purchased or sold in accordance with national and/or local legislations.
This timber must meet the minimum established requirements in the negotiations of the VPA. These are mainly:
- compliance with environmental legislations,
- labour law and respect for local communities,
- participation of stakeholders,
- exploitation rights,
- territorial and ownership rights,
- tax requirements and import and export rights,
- and finally transport and export procedures.
All requirements to be fulfilled by the supply chain, from harvesting to export, are reviewed and verified before issuing a license. Finally, an independent control ensures that each one has done his job and that the license was granted legally.
At the Belgian level
The penalty system to be applied in case of violation of provisions of the FLEGT Regulation is determined at the national level (Article 5 §8). In Belgium, a reference to these Regulations has been added to the Act of 21 December 1998 pertaining to product standards. The penalties planned under Article 17 §1 are therefore applicable.
The competent Belgian authority for implementation of these Regulations is the DG for the Environment of the FPS Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment, and specifically, the "Product policy" service:
Product Policy Service
DG for the Environment
Federal Public Service Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment
Place Victor Horta, 40 box 10
Tel: +32 (0)2 524 95 51 or +32 (0)2 524 95 46
See contact details of the competent authorities in the European Union countries.
When is a FLEGT-authorisation required?
Whether or not you have to ask a FLEGT-authorisation in a FLEGT-partner country depends on the custom code that is applicable to your timber product. This is the so-called GS-code of the harmonised system of the World Customs Organisation.
For the time being, Indonesia is the only country that fully implemented the partnership agreement (VPA) and that delivers FLEGT-authorisations.
The products requiring a FLEGT-authorisation are listed in annex IA to the voluntary partnership agreement.
Are you an importer of timber?
There is an online application, the "FLEGIT", which allows you to send the FLEGT authorisations of your shipments for acceptance so that the release for free circulation by Customs is accepted.
As of January 1st, 2018 a retribution of € 50 is due to the Budget Fund for Raw Materials and Products, for each authorisation submitted in Belgium (this is not applicable to shipments under 500kg). The legal basis can be consulted in article 6 of this Royal Decree.
FLEGIT-application requestors receive a monthly invoice for the licenses they submitted.
Annual report 2019
Member States are obliged to submit and publish an annual report to the European Commission for the previous calendar year (in line with Reporting Regulation 2019/1010)
- FLEGT report BE 2019
- FLEGT additional verification checks 2019 BE (excel)
- FLEGT licences and actual imports data 2019 BE (excel)
The Commission then draws up a synthesis report based on the data from the Member States and makes it public.