EU withholding action to outlaw imports of illegal timber
Helsinki, Finland - WWF calls on the EU to take immediate action to fight illegal logging by implementing legislation to outlaw imports of illegally harvested timber. Currently holding the EU Presidency and having a huge forest industry, Finland must speed up this action.
Different surveys prove that illegal sourcing of timber from countries such as Russia is still a huge problem. Furthermore, both national and EU measures to combat illegal logging are still insufficient.
In 2005, the EU Council of Ministers approved a regulation on a programme to fight illegal logging. Known as FLEGT - or the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade programme - it includes a wide range of national and EU measures to fight illegal logging and related timber trade. However, implementation of the programme has been slowed down both in the EU and its Member States.
"According to surveys by WWF Russia, as much as one-fourth of logging in northwest Russia is illegal. Finland is in a key position to combat illegal logging as it is the most important gateway for Russian raw timber to enter the EU market," said Harri Karjalainen, Head of WWF Finland's Forest Programme.
WWF demands that the legality of the source of timber must be a condition for the timber to enter the EU market.
"As a country with a huge forest industry and currently holding the EU Presidency, Finland has a moral responsibility to speed up implementation of FLEGT. This is also a business opportunity for Finland since illegalities in the timber trade cast a big shadow on the reputation of its forest industry," added Mr Karjalainen.
The import of raw timber from Russia by the Finnish forest industry has increased considerably. Finland is the most important target country for Russian exports of timber and Russian timber imports make up one-fifth of the total amount of timber used by the Finnish industry. This amount is expected to grow in the near future.
According to WWF, the most important measures to fight illegal logging are legislative and related to good governance. However, the organisation also expects the forest sector to take full responsibility. WWF is pleased that many Finnish forest companies have developed and implemented wood tracking systems, but the effectiveness of these systems must be further developed together with stakeholders. Transparency of the wood tracking systems also needs to be improved.
The Finnish Forest Industries Federation (FFIF) has committed to take measures in this field and expressed its intentions in a joint statement with WWF in June 2006. A working group of representatives from WWF Finland, WWF Russia and FFIF to develop wood tracking systems will be established at the beginning of October.
Harri Karjalainen, WWF Finland
Tel: +358 40 563 7179