EUTR implementation: more effort from Member States and private sector needed
On 18 February 2016, two years into its implementation, the European Commission released a report on the functioning and effectiveness of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR). The findings of the Commission report indicate that national implementation remains insufficient, with slow progress in most Member States, while Greece, Hungary, Romania and Spain are still non-compliant. An expansion of the product coverage, e.g. printed paper, through a delegated act is being considered.

Required by Article 20(3) of the EUTR, the European Commission evaluated the functioning and effectiveness of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) in accordance with the EU ‘Better Regulation’ guidelines. Entering into application in March 2013, the EUTR is aimed at prohibiting the placing of illegally harvested timber and products derived from such timber on the EU market. It lays down obligations on operators who sell or buy timber/timber products on the internal market for the first time (e.g. forest owners) and on traders who sell or buy timber/timber products already placed on the internal market.

Only two years into its implementation, the Commission report on the EUTR (COM 2016/074) shows that there are significant discrepancies in terms of implementation and enforcement across the EU, and still remains incomplete. The Member States are obliged to adhere to three main requirements, namely to designate Competent Authorities (CAs), to adopt effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties for infringements, and to elaborate plans for checks, and to conduct consistent checks on operators and monitoring organisations (MOs). For a scoreboard illustrating the EUTR implementation, please refer here.

With exception of Spain, all Member States reported that they have designated a Competent Authority (CA) to monitor the compliance of operators with the requirements of the EUTR. The institutional structures, legal powers, and status of these institutions vary between Member States, reflecting their different legal and institutional frameworks. Some EU Member States have started implementing the EUTR only late in the reporting period. A wide variation in human and financial resources available for the application and enforcement of the EUTR was reported. Available human resources range from approximately 1 to 200 person(s)/month.

While Greece, Hungary, Romania and Spain are still in the progress of elaborating adequate sanction provisions for infringements to the obligation of the Regulation, penalties are set in the remaining 24 Member States. The range of sanctions vary considerably across the EU from notice of remedial actions, fines, seizure of timber, suspension of authorisation to trade to imprisonment. Consequently, operators in the EU are not operating on a level playing field. The report further elaborates that, given the limited number of penalties applied so far, it cannot yet be determined whether they are “effective, proportionate and dissuasive”.

26 Member States reported that their CAs have plans in place for checking operators. However, due to delays in the adoption of relevant national legislation, some Member States have not yet conducted checks or started late.

Due to the relative short period of time elapsed since the EUTR entered into application, the Commission review could not quantify the impact of the EUTR on trade in illegal timber/timber products on the internal market. Whether the Regulation has met its objective remains therefore inconclusive.

In essence, the Commission report recommends that Member States should significantly step up their implementation and enforcement efforts. It is considered not necessary to propose amendments of the substantive provisions of the EUTR as the evaluation did not identify a clear need for changes in the core elements of the legislation. Expanding the product scope, set out in the Annex of the EUTR, through a delegated act to an impact assessment of options may be considered by the Commission. This comes as some stakeholders suggested in their contributions to the public consultation, held during the second quarter of 2015, to expand the product coverage, including musical instruments, coffins, furniture, and/or printed paper.


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