The "Voluntary Partnership Agreements" (VPA), introduced by the FLEGT regulation, is a key feature in implementing this policy aimed at establishing a balanced license control and delivery system.
Managed by the European Commission Development and Cooperation department, the VPAs are bilateral agreements between the EU and a partner country.
VPA may cover many areas of development in the forestry sector, such as:
- legislation: assistance in implementing reforms;
- timber logging: assistance in the development of systems for checking legality of timber logging;
- capacity building of governments and intermediaries in partner countries;
- social security: seeking fair and equitable solutions to timber logging, in order to mitigate the adverse effects of this logging on population groups that depend on forests for their livelihood;
- control: improvement of management structures and development of reliable monitoring systems in countries where compliance with forest legislations is imposed very lightly.
The VPA systematically involve the various stakeholders (civil society and private sector) and ensure for better enforcement of forest laws.
They aim to:
- achieve better forest management and also implement a monitoring system in the partner countries;
- provide better access to the European Community for timber coming from partner countries;
- increase revenues for the government of the partner countries;
- improve assistance to governments of partner countries;
- develop more effective tools to ensure compliance with the law in the partner countries;
- establish the best foundations for sustainable forest management.
15 tropical partner countries are negotiating a VPA with the EU, or are implementing it. Their woods cover a total surface as large as the EU, and they are responsible for 80% of the EU-import of tropical wood. See the VPA list of partner countries http://www.euflegt.efi.int/where-we-work.
A country can only proceed to the deliverance of authorisations as soon the VPA is fully implemented and the control system is considered to be operational, sufficiently reliable and robust, which means a.o. that it is submitted to an effective check of the delivery chain, that conformity checking mechanisms are operational and independent audits take place. As soon as a country starts delivering FLEGT-authorisations, all shipments of wood products listed in annex I of the VPA product scope and that are exported to the EU, need a FLEGT authorisation in order to be allowed to the free traffic to the EU. For the time being this is only the case for Indonesia (as of November 15, 2016).