Commission scorecard shows Europe is still a market for illegal timber

Press release - July 31, 2014
Brussels - Four years after its adoption, the European law banning illegal timber (EUTR) is not yet fully implemented in nearly half of EU countries, according to a Commission assessment published yesterday [1].

Greenpeace activists protest against illegal timber at the Pampa sawmill nearby the Para state capital, Belem (Brazil) in May 2014. A two year Greenpeace investigation into the Brazilian Amazon timber sector has exposed widespread illegalities and manipulation of the system to launder illegal timber with legal paperwork. This timber is then sold all over the world, with one third going to Europe.

The findings are gloomy: twelve out of twenty eight EU countries are in breach of their obligations under EU law. In other words, Europe remains a gateway for illegal timber, despite having agreed to put an end to this trade.

Sebastien Risso, Greenpeace EU forest policy director said: “The writing is on the wall. Governments’ inaction and delays can no longer be justified. It is time for the Commission to take legal action against non-compliant EU countries and do everything possible to prevent illegal timber from entering European markets”.

The Commission’s scorecard grades European countries against three main obligations under the legislation: designation of competent authorities, adoption of penalties, and checks on companies’ compliance.

The situation is particularly alarming in Spain, Poland, Hungary and Malta where none of the three obligations have been fulfilled to date. The situation is serious in Italy, France, Romania and Greece, where no penalties and adequate checks on companies’ compliance are in place yet. Latvia, Slovenia, Croatia and Luxembourg are also at fault with either no penalties or no compliance system in place.

The picture painted by the Commission’s scorecard is bad, but reality could actually be worse. This preliminary assessment only looks at whether countries have implemented the law or not. It does not assess whether the penalties in place are effective, proportionate and dissuasive [2]. It also does not look into how national authorities are enforcing the law.

Since the entry into force of the legislation in March 2013, Greenpeace has alerted authorities about suspect timber entering Europe from the Amazon and Democratic Republic of Congo [3]. So far European countries’ response has been slow, uneven and ineffective. Greenpeace calls on all European countries to act promptly and ensure an effective and uniform enforcement of the law.

According to Interpol and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the trade in illegally harvested timber is highly lucrative and is estimated to be worth at least USD 30 billion (over €22 billion) annually. Illegal logging can account for 50-90 per cent of the volume of forestry activities in key producer tropical forests, such as those in the Amazon Basin, Central Africa and Southeast Asia, and 15-30 per cent of all wood traded globally [4].

Notes to editors:

[1] On 30 July, the Commission published a scorecard focused on the implementation of the EUTR legislation. The European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) prohibits illegally harvested timber (and timber products) from being placed on the European market. Timber traders are required to act to minimise the risk of illegal timber from entering their supply chains. 


[3] Greenpeace's investigation demonstrated that the checks and balances that are supposed to guarantee the legality of timber from the Brazilian Amazon sold in Europe are in fact being flagrantly exploited and illegal timber is being laundered for the global market. The investigation focused in Pará, the state with the greatest volume of timber exports in the Brazilian Amazon, one third of which is destined to Europe. 78 per cent of the area logged in Pará is estimated to have been harvested illegally.

Regarding the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), more information are available on specific cases: the Bakri Bois case, the Tala Tina, and the Afrormosia DRC work.

[4] Interpol - Project Leaf (Law Enforcement Assistance for Forests)

Contacts :
Sébastien Risso
Greenpeace EU forests policy director: +32 (0)496 127009 (mobile),

Luisa ColasimoneGreenpeace EU communication manager: +32 (0)476 988584 (mobile),


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