The European Union and the Republic of Congo have signed the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement. The agreement foresees that, starting in July 2011, all wood products entering the European Union from the Republic of Congo will be required to carry a licence showing that they contain wood and wood products from a legal origin. European consumers will be ensured that wood and wood products imported from the Republic of Congo are of legal origin.
European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs said: "The Agreement is a crucial instrument designed to combat illegal exploitation of forests. It will help forestry sector of Republic of Congo to develop in a sustainable way and to create jobs. It will in the same time give Europeans consumers guarantee that tropical timber is of legal origin. This agreement also shows how EU development policy can work in coherence with EU environmental goals".
Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik, who signed the Voluntary Partnership Agreement on behalf of the European Commission added: "Reducing deforestation and illegal exploitation of forest areas is essential for creating a better climate for long term investment in sustainable forest management. I hope that more countries will follow the example of the Republic of Congo and will join this initiative."
Minister Henri Djombo, in charge of Forest signed the Agreement for the Republic of Congo, which is the first in the Congo Basin and the second in a series of bilateral accords being negotiated between the EU and timber producing countries (the first one was signed with Ghana last year). Successful implementation of the Agreement requires work and investment in a number of crucial areas. A national wood traceability system foreseen in the partnership is already under development, supported by the European Union with _€ù2 million and nationally co-financed with _€ù1.08 million.
The Agreement will enter into force once ratified by both sides and - since the Lisbon Treaty - after approval of the European Parliament. This agreement is voluntary for the exporting countries. However, once entered into the force they become legally binding on both parties, committing them to trading only in legal timber.
The Republic of Congo exports more than _€ù250 million annually in timber and timber products, about half of which are purchased by the European Union countries. Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium are the principal European importers.
The Republic of Congo is the second country to sign the Agreement after Ghana in 2009. Negotiations are ongoing with countries like Cameroon, Malaysia, Indonesia, Liberia and the Central African Republic.
For more information about the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade initiative you can visit the website.