Procedure : 2010/0062(NLE)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0370/2010

Texts tabled :

A7-0370/2010

Debates :

PV 17/01/2011 - 14
PV 17/01/2011 - 16
CRE 17/01/2011 - 14
CRE 17/01/2011 - 16

Votes :

PV 19/01/2011 - 6.4
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2011)0010

RECOMMENDATION     ***
PDF 178kWORD 91k
9.12.2010
PE 450.728v02-00 A7-0370/2010

on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of the Congo on forest law enforcement, governance and trade in timber and derived products to the European Union (FLEGT)

(10028/2010 – C7-0170/2010 – 2010/0062(NLE))

Committee on International Trade

Rapporteur: Yannick Jadot

DRAFT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT LEGISLATIVE RESOLUTION
 EXPLANATORY STATEMENT
 OPINION OF THE COMMITTEE ON DEVELOPMENT
 RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

DRAFT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT LEGISLATIVE RESOLUTION

on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of the Congo on forest law enforcement, governance and trade in timber and derived products to the European Union (FLEGT)

(10028/2010 – C7-0170/2010 – 2010/0062(NLE))

(Consent)

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the draft Council decision (10028/2010),

–   having regard to the draft Voluntary Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of the Congo on forest law enforcement, governance and trade in timber and derived products to the European Union (FLEGT) (07636/2010),

–   having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with the first subparagraph of Article 207(3) and the first subparagraph of Article 207(4), Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a), point (v) and Article 218(7) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C7-0170/2010),

–   having regard to Rules 81 and 90(8) of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on International Trade and the opinion of the Committee on Development (A7‑0370/2010),

1.  Consents to conclusion of the agreement;

2.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and of the Republic of the Congo.


EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

The objective of the Congo-European Union Voluntary Partnership Agreement (Congo-EU VPA) is to provide a legislative framework within which to (i) detect and ensure the traceability of timber, (ii) put in place government and independent verification procedures to certify that all timber exports from the Congo to European markets have been procured, felled, transported and exported legally, in order to provide a basis for the legal management and exploitation of the Congolese forests, and (iii) reinforce the application of forestry regulations and governance.

The Congo-EU VPA was concluded on 9 May 2009 between the European Union and the Republic of the Congo following relatively brief negotiations. It is part of the EU Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT).

Most of the criteria derived from VPA definitions would appear to have been met, including those applying to the negotiation process, which culminated in an innovative agreement, the aim of which is to combat effectively the bad governance practices from which illegal trade in timber, and corruption, stem, and to establish an effective, transparent system for monitoring the legality of timber and derived products.

The Congo exports over 250 million euros’ worth of timber and derived products, half of which go to the European Union(1). Up to now, surveys by NGOs have shown that 20% of the Congolese timber imported onto the European market is of illegal origin, whether it is for production, sale, processing or export. The successive wars between 1993 and 1999 did nothing to improve the situation, and opened the floodgates to the scourge of corruption. There was therefore an urgent need to establish procedures to combat illegal trade in timber by more effectively analysing and overseeing the often complex trading patterns.

The Congo-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement, which was concluded in accordance with WTO rules, provides for a series of political and regulatory reforms which will enable the Congo’s timber industry to establish good governance practices and greater transparency. The VPA introduces an innovative procedure for combating fraud and illegal practices in the timber trade, including a definition of what constitutes legal trade in timber, a system to check legality, and independent audits of the whole system designed to achieve more sustainable trade in timber(2).

It is important to ensure that all timber and derived products exported from the Congo to European markets are legal, and that the political and regulatory reforms undertaken contribute to poverty reduction and a tangible improvement in people’s living conditions, help with environmental protection, particularly in terms of fighting climate change and loss of biodiversity, and guarantee respect for the rights of local and indigenous communities. The political and regulatory reforms must also add to the transparency, accountability and integrity of the timber industry, enable corruption to be effectively countered, strengthen civil society and respect for human rights, and put trade relations with the Congo on a sounder footing.

The agreement will come into effect as soon as the promised legislative changes have been implemented and the system to verify legality put in place. The first FLEGT licences issued only for timber exported to the EU are expected by 2011.

By their compliance with the procedure during the negotiating phase and the involvement of representatives of local civil society, the Republic of the Congo, the stakeholders, and the European Union gave exemplary proof of their willingness to create a VPA.

The success of this VPA is also apparent from the fact that the Congo has decided to extend the coverage of the agreement beyond exports to the EU, to include all timber used in, or leaving, the country.

Your rapporteur suggests adopting the same position as the Council on all aspects of the agreement, but nevertheless expresses some concern regarding the implementation of the VPA, and asks for the following recommendations to be borne in mind in the agreement’s implementation phase:

1. Your rapporteur wishes to stress the importance of clarity in the legal framework that forms the basis of the VPA. It is essential that the Commission focus its full attention on its structure and content.

2. Your rapporteur wishes to stress that very large-scale industrial exploitation of natural forests may lead to forest degradation and deforestation and contribute to the destruction of the global environment.

3. The rapporteur therefore stresses the need to guarantee the environmental integrity of the VPAs and, in particular, to ensure that the political and regulatory reforms undertaken in the context of the partnership agreement make an effective contribution to the EU’s and the Congo’s international commitments on the environment and sustainable development, particularly in terms of the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity resources, the effort to combat climate change, and the reduction of deforestation and forest degradation. He calls on the Commission, against this background, to pay the greatest possible attention to ensuring that the VPA does not encourage expansion of the industrial exploitation of forests in the intact forest zones that are carbon-rich and in other forests that play a valuable role in conserving biodiversity.

4.  The rapporteur also stresses the need for the EU to take additional measures, complementary to this VPA, to combat large-scale deforestation and degradation of intact forests, and to promote their protection. He also emphasises that by encouraging the importing of timber from these regions, the EU’s action could run counter to its objectives in terms of combating climate change and protecting biodiversity.

5. The rapporteur calls on the Commission and the Council to carry out an independent, reliable assessment of respect for human rights in the Republic of the Congo in anticipation of the implementation of this agreement(3). Only open publication of, and free access to, the information held by all the stakeholders in forest management can guarantee an acceptable process of implementation of the VPA. The Commission is invited to set up independent assessment and surveillance systems in this area.

6. Once the institutions are set up and the major steps in establishing the VPA completed, the Commission will have to ensure that the same conditions continue to be enforced in its implementation phase and that it remains true to the objectives of the FLEGT action plan and the objectives and content of the international agreements. The role of independent national civil society and of external observers will be essential in monitoring proper implementation of the agreement, respect for freedom of expression and access to information on forest management and the revenue generated by forest holdings, so that governance in the industry is genuinely improved and corruption significantly declines. Independent surveillance to reinforce the law will have to be exercised by local civil society in the medium term.

7. Your rapporteur welcomes the commitments entered into on improving existing legislation. A willingness to update and draft legal texts designed to improve social justice and respect for the rights of local and indigenous communities is essential, and this must be carried out with an eye to ensuring that the principles of participation and transparency continue to be observed. As indicated in the text of the agreement, these legislative improvements must be completed before the FLEGT licences are issued. The two parties must ensure that these undertakings continue to be adhered to throughout the implementation of the agreement.

8. The NGOs feared that the country’s embryonic civil society would not have the political space it needed to counterbalance the power of the timber industry. According to some observers, this VPA was drawn up in a relatively inclusive process which brought in non-State actors and representatives of NGOs and indigenous peoples, which is encouraging.

9. Your rapporteur asks the Commission to present within six months of the entry into force of VPAs, including the one between the EU and the Republic of the Congo, a report on the measures undertaken to ensure that the dialogue between the stakeholders and civil society, including the local and indigenous population, begun during the negotiations continues and is maintained during the implementation phase. This report should include an assessment of the implications and real contributions of the content of the VPA in terms of the EU’s international commitments and those of the signatory country regarding the environment and sustainable development, including the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity resources, the fight against climate change, and the reduction of deforestation and forest degradation.

10. The Commission must ensure that the rights of local and indigenous communities, who are often the first victims of climatic and environmental degradation, are respected, and that these groups can take a direct part in drafting the new regulatory texts and in the implementation phase. The rapporteur welcomes the fact that the VPA’s legality matrices are designed to take account of the rights of local and indigenous communities. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the preamble to the present agreement mention this, and the Congolese Government has undertaken (in the VPA) to draft a law ensuring that the rights of its indigenous peoples are promoted and respected, as well as regulatory texts setting out the rights and terms of involvement of the local and indigenous populations in forest management.(4)

11. In order to ensure that corruption declines, it is important to encourage and support measures designed to guarantee the independence of the local judicial system, the creation of new judicial procedures, the right of referral to the courts for individual citizens or, at the least, for civil-society organisations in well-documented cases of corruption or illegality, as well as respect for, and protection of, the rights of the plaintiffs. In addition, possible methods of enforcement and the application of judicial sanctions must be envisaged and monitored, in combination with independent audits. The emerging civil society must address these issues with this in mind.

12. Article 15 of the VPA stresses the need for additional technical and financial resources to support the establishment of a system to verify legality of timber. However, in formal terms the agreement has no direct financial impact on the EU budget: any provision of additional resources by the Commission or the Member States will be subject to the normal aid programming procedures. In consequence, the Republic of the Congo, on the one hand, and the European Union, on the other, must identify and mobilise specific funding and the technical and human resources needed to implement the agreement. It is important that, in more general terms, the European Union should think about a strategy and substantial financial support for the implementation of this agreement, and other future FLEGT voluntary partnership agreements, that are commensurate with their ambitions and potential benefits. This being the case, the Committee on International Trade asks the Commission to estimate, in the context of the next budgetary exercise, the level of financial aid it considers necessary to guarantee implementation of the VPAs, individually and collectively, including that signed with the Republic of the Congo.

13.  Finally, the rapporteur asks that an ombudsman post, as well as an appeal and conciliation procedure, be set up for each VPA. This procedure must establish a right of appeal for civil society, which can be used if the timetable and detailed provisions of the agreement are not adhered to by one or both parties.

14.  On the basis of an analysis of the new competences conferred on the European Parliament by the Lisbon Treaty with regard to trade agreements, your rapporteur emphasises the greater role that Parliament should play in this area, and calls on the Commission to report to Parliament on progress in negotiating and implementing the VPAs.

15.  This being the case, the European Parliament, via its Committee on International Trade, asks to be kept informed and to be an addressee of documents sent to the Council, such as the minutes of the Joint Agreement Implementation Committee, the record of the decisions and the Annual Report of that committee, the mission and audit reports of the agreement’s independent auditor, and the reports assessing the implementation of the agreement, including the studies of its social, economic and environmental impact.

16.  In a spirit of transparency and cooperation, a full list of the names of the companies (and shareholders) to whom concessions are granted should be made public and available to all the stakeholders, and the European Union, with a view to reciprocal transparency, should publish the names of the European operators and importers.

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The favourable opinion issued by the rapporteur on the conclusion of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the Congo (Brazzaville) is underpinned by the hope that all the issues referred to above will be addressed in a timely and satisfactory manner.

(1)

    European Commission.

(2)

    Counter Brief Loggingoff: a civil society counter-brief on the Congo-EU VPA (March 2010).

(3)

    US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, March 11, 2010. Human Rights reports: Republic of the Congo.

(4)

    Article 17 of the VPA, which deals with social protection, stresses the importance of minimising the harmful effects that the VPA could have on these communities and aims to have a ‘better understanding of the ways of life of local and indigenous communities that could potentially be affected (...) and to monitor the effects of this agreement on those communities (…), while taking reasonable measures to minimise the ill-effects’.


OPINION OF THE COMMITTEE ON DEVELOPMENT (26.10.2010)

for the Committee on International Trade

on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of a voluntary partnership agreement between the European Union and the Republic of the Congo on forest law enforcement, governance and trade in timber and derived products to the European Union (FLEGT)

(10028/2010 – C7‑0170/2010 – 2010/0062(NLE))

Rapporteur: Eva Joly

SHORT JUSTIFICATION

The aim of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between the EU and the Republic of the Congo is to strengthen forest governance, promote Congolese timber products, and improve the country’s competitiveness in the international marketplace.

Notwithstanding the justifiable aspirations of the agreement, the Committee on Development would like to remind that it will be considered successful if the FLEGT's objectives and agreement commitments (strengthening community land tenure and access rights, ensuring the effective participation of civil society -with specific attention to indigenous peoples - in policy making on forest-governance related issues; increasing transparency and reducing corruption) are duly met.

In this regard, there are at least two issues that the DEVE Committee would like to highlight: on the one hand, it is important to ensure a meaningful forest governance reform process that takes into account the needs of forest-dependent communities and indigenous peoples and is based on the involvement of civil society in law-making and in participatory forest management with the aim of improving forest governance, enforcement mechanisms, and tackling corruption.

On the other, and linked to the aforementioned objectives, the agreements should define clear rules indicating the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders during the law reform process, the process to make the wood tracking system operational, the setting up of the institutional framework and the process to sensitise and strengthen the capacity of actors.

Lastly, the Committee on Development would like to highlight the fact that although the FLEGT and Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) schemes deal with forest uses, they are perceived as separate initiatives and handled by different ministers in the partner countries. Consequently, stresses that without insisting on good governance and recognition of rights of local communities and indigenous peoples, REDD schemes can bypass the consultation processes (and when relevant, the governance and law reforms) that are part of the FLEGT process. For that reason, REDD schemes must be built on the FLEGT consultation process and address the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation.

******

The Committee on Development calls on the Committee on International Trade, as the committee responsible, to propose that Parliament gives its consent.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

26.10.2010

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

20

0

0

Members present for the final vote

Thijs Berman, Michael Cashman, Véronique De Keyser, Nirj Deva, Charles Goerens, Catherine Grèze, Enrique Guerrero Salom, András Gyürk, Eva Joly, Filip Kaczmarek, Franziska Keller, Gay Mitchell, Norbert Neuser, Bill Newton Dunn, Birgit Schnieber-Jastram

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Horst Schnellhardt, Bart Staes

Substitute(s) under Rule 187(2) present for the final vote

Eider Gardiazábal Rubial, Anna Ibrisagic, Miroslav Mikolášik


RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

1.12.2010

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

24

2

1

Members present for the final vote

William (The Earl of) Dartmouth, Laima Liucija Andrikienė, David Campbell Bannerman, Harlem Désir, Christofer Fjellner, Joe Higgins, Yannick Jadot, Metin Kazak, Bernd Lange, David Martin, Vital Moreira, Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl, Niccolò Rinaldi, Tokia Saïfi, Helmut Scholz, Peter Šťastný, Robert Sturdy, Keith Taylor, Paweł Zalewski

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

George Sabin Cutaş, Małgorzata Handzlik, Salvatore Iacolino, Syed Kamall, Maria Eleni Koppa, Jörg Leichtfried, Michael Theurer, Jarosław Leszek Wałęsa

Substitute(s) under Rule 187(2) present for the final vote

Markus Pieper

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