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

    29.3.2012 - (14034/2011 – C7‑0046/2012 – 2011/0127(NLE)) - ***

    Committee on International Trade
    Rapporteur: Elisabeth Köstinger

    Procedure : 2011/0127(NLE)
    Document stages in plenary
    Document selected :  
    Texts tabled :
    Debates :
    Texts adopted :


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

    (14034/2011 – C7‑0046/2012 – 2011/0127(NLE))


    The European Parliament,

    –   having regard to the draft Council decision (14034/2011 ),

    –   having regard to the Voluntary Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the Central African Republic on forest law enforcement, governance and trade in timber and derived products to the European Union (FLEGT) (14036/2011),

    –   having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 207(3) and (4) and Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a)(v), and Article 218(7) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C7-0046/2012),

    –   having regard to Rules 81 and 90(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

    –   having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on International Trade and the opinion of the Committee on Development (A7-0082/2012),

    1.  Consents to conclusion of the Agreement;

    2.  Calls on the Commission to regularly report to the Parliament on progress in the implementation of existing Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) and in negotiating and implementing new VPAs;

    3.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and of the Central African Republic.



    The EU's 2003 Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT)[1] foresaw the establishment of partnerships with timber-producing and exporting countries to ensure that only legally harvested timber is traded and to promote sound forest governance. As the FLEGT initiative continues to shape up, the EU has concluded a number of voluntary partnership agreements (VPA).

    The trade agreement with the Central African Republic (CAR), signed on 28 November 2011, is the fourth such voluntary partnership agreement the EU has negotiated with an African country, following the agreements with Ghana, Congo and Cameroon. VPA negotiations with two other Congo Basin countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Gabon, as well as Malaysia and Vietnam are under way. Negotiations with Indonesia and Liberia were concluded in May 2011.

    Like the previous FLEGT voluntary partnership agreements, the agreement with the Central African Republic provides an instrument for addressing illegal logging, for helping to improve regulation, governance and law enforcement in the country's forestry sector as well as for strengthening market opportunities for Central African timber products in Europe.

    At the same time, the VPA commits the partner country to develop a legislative framework and systems for traceability, legal verification and licensing of timber and timber products to be exported to the EU market, and to establish monitoring and independent auditing.

    As was the case for the previous FLEGT partnership agreements, the consent of the European Parliament is required for the conclusion of this VPA.

    The EU-CAR voluntary partnership

    Forests cover around 54,000 km2 or 8.7% of the land area of the Central African Republic. The forest sector contributes 4 percent of the country's GDP and 40% of its export revenues. 60 % of Central African timber is exported to Europe. Other main export markets are China, North America and Africa (Cameroon and the Chad).[2]

    In the Central African Republic, forest degradation is occurring mainly due to inadequate law enforcement and monitoring resulting from lacking human, material and financial resources, which have lead to illegal logging, timber poaching and bushfires. At the same time, the CAR has been one of the first Congo Basin countries to undertake forest inventories and to promote sustainable forest management. Over 3 million hectares of Central African rainforest, in the south-west of the country, are under industrial concessions, mainly held by European companies. Logging companies require exploitation and land-use permits, defined in the CAR's 2008 Forestry Code, and these depend on forest management plans.

    The VPA builds on and takes further the regulatory work already done at national level. With the agreement, the CAR commits itself to trading only in verified legal timber products into the EU. Towards this end, it will establish systems for verification of legal compliance and traceability throughout the supply chain, from logging standards to checks on export shipments, and ultimately of the issuance of FLEGT export licences. In addition to the several layers of internal verification, independent audits will verify all aspects of the CAR's legality assurance system at regular intervals. At the same time, the EU will guarantee favourable access to its markets for all wood products from the Central African Republic.

    The agreement covers all timber products to be exported, including wood chips for fuel, logs, sawn wood, veneer and wooden furniture. The Central African Republic's system for verifying the legality of timber and derived products shall apply to all exports, and not only those destined for the EU. Further, it will cover timber imported from third countries for processing in the CAR for export. However, wood and wooden products aimed at the domestic market are excluded from the agreement. Equally excluded are timber and timber products from community forests and artisanal logging. The 2008 Forestry Code foresees, however, licensing for the latter, which could hence be exported to the European market in future.

    The legality definitions for Central African timber and timber products were developed in a participatory multi-stakeholder process, involving the private sector, civil society and government representatives. The various forest stakeholders involved in the negotiating of the agreement will continue to contribute in the implementing and monitoring phases through a national multi-stakeholder committee.

    A forest governance platform composed of non-governmental organisations and civil society will monitor VPA implementation activities and will report its observations to the EU-CAR Joint Implementation Committee to oversee the full scope of the agreement. In order to ensure the civil society's involvement, the VPA foresees capacity building and training on independent monitoring.

    The CAR's rainforests provide home to many indigenous communities who depend on the use of forest resources. While the VPA's legality grid for Central African timber cover the rights of indigenous populations, their rights to the land and land ownership still need to be addressed and clarified by way of legislative reforms at national level. Although the VPA process has allowed for dialogue and increased consideration for the usage rights both by indigenous populations and local communities, the legislative process in motion needs to be monitored.

    The new EU Timber Regulation[3] to take effect in March 2013 will ban the sale of illegally harvested timber and related products into the EU, and is expected, together with the VPAs, to discourage illegal and unsustainable exploitation of forests and thus address one of the drivers of forest degradation. Further, it is hoped to speed up the overall VPA implementation that has been rather slow to date. In fact, the VPA ratification process has been finalised only in Ghana and Cameroon.


    Along with establishing a partnership tool for improving management standards, sustainability and accountability in the forestry sector, the VPA can be expected to contribute positively to the overall development and growth in the Central African Republic, including by safeguarding income generated by timber exports to the EU and other international markets. In future, tax revenues from industrial forest exploitation should increasingly profit also the local economy and communities in the CAR.

    While the VPA offers steps towards better forest governance, and the agreement has met wide support, the challenges lie with effective implementation. The CAR is currently engaged with implementation activities, including the development of the legality verification, new legislation and the institutional framework, in parallel with the ratification process. The EU's technical and financial support for the VPA implementation will be crucial.

    Further, while forestry provides a significant share of the CAR's export earnings, addressing legal verification of timber exports should go hand in hand with domestic market regulation. While your rapporteur appreciates that the VPA process has a positive general impact on forest management in the partner country, she would have wished to see a set timeframe towards tacking legal compliance also in the local market.

    The VPA is expected to be fully operational by January 2014, including for issuing FLEGT licences. The parties have agreed to assess, in 2013, the readiness of the system, and to commission an independent evaluation on the functionality of the FLEGT licensing scheme. Due to the rather ambitious timing, and the necessary regulatory and capacity building measures to be undertaken by the CAR, a careful assessment will be needed.

    Moreover, it must be noted that the VPAs are not the only process under way to strengthen forest sustainability in the EU's partner countries. Attention should therefore be paid, in the review of the CAR's legal and regulatory framework, to ensuring coherence between commitments undertaken in the FLEGT and, in particular, the REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) processes.

    While recommending that the Parliament gives its consent to the agreement, your rapporteur stresses that both the CAR government and the European Commission will need to devote sufficient attention to effective and timely VPA enforcement, including capacity building, participation of local communities, safeguards for indigenous populations as well as to general awareness-raising on the VPA among the various stakeholders.

    Your rapporteur reiterates the Parliament's call[4] for regular reporting on progress both in the implementation of agreed VPAs and in negotiating and implementing new agreements. Further, your rapporteur calls on the Commission and Member States to continue to ensure that the effective implementation of an increasing number of VPAs is supported through adequate financial resources.

    Moreover, your rapporteur points out that the measures for implementation of the VPA should be adopted in accordance with the Regulation (EU) No 182/2011 laying down the rules and general principles concerning mechanisms for control by Member States of the Commission’s exercise of implementing powers[5]. Regarding amending the annexes of the VPA your rapporteur stresses the need for possible future delegation of powers to fully take into account the Parliament's prerogatives under the regime of Delegated Acts (Article 290 TFEU).

    • [1]  COM(2003) 251
    • [2]
    • [3]  Regulation (EU) No 995/2010
    • [4]  P7_TA-PROV(2011)0008
    • [5]  OJ L 55, 28.2.2011, p. 13

    OPINION of the Committee on Development (1.3.2012)

    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 Central African Republic on forest law enforcement, governance and trade in timber and derived products to the European Union (FLEGT)
    (14034/2011 – C7‑0046/2012 – 2011/0127(NLE))

    Rapporteur: Bart Staes



    The Central African Republic (CAR) has 31% of its surface covered by tropical forests. Forestry activities are the country’s main private sector employer, contributing 4% of GDP and 40% of the country’s total export revenues. Under the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), the CAR intends to set up a national system to ensure legal compliance in timber production, covering all wood products destined for the EU as well as those sold on the domestic market and to non-EU markets.

    However, some issues need still to be duly addressed. The VPA has excluded the domestic market, which involves countless axe and chainsaw loggers who often operate unsustainably, informally or illegally. In this context it is important to ensure that small forest enterprises serving the domestic market are professional, profitable and sustainable

    The country also holds a large population and forest-dependent communities, considered to be the poorest populations still lacking secure access to traditional lands, resources and public services. Communities' groups like the Aka pygmies and the Mbororos have complained about the lack of a legal basis to hold land tenure on an equal foot with the State, which hampers a proper forest management. Moreover, civil society has a small margin of manoeuvre to help these communities due to the limited political space for civil society actions.

    In addition to that, important pieces of legislation such as the Environmental Code, the Agro-pastoral Code, the draft project on the promotion and protection on local communities and the Code on Private and State-owned Land are only partially applied and they are not comprehensively monitored. These failures have led to uncontrolled timber poaching and brushfires. Both local communities and civil society have explicitly demanded the respect of the right to consultation enshrined in the ILO Convention No. 169, ratified by the country in 2010. The VPA will be a ground test for the effective application of indigenous rights.

    The VPA should also advocate for policy coherence for development. The first area is between the current FLEGT, lead by the Forest Ministry, and the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) schemes, lead by the Environment Ministry, both taking place at the same time and with important links on forest policy missing. The second should concentrate on the scrutiny of the role of industrial logging, which the VPA has failed to fully analyse as a current or potential future cause of logging, despite there being three million hectares of active logging concessions already in existence.

    Finally, the EU and the CRA should ensure transparency and reform in other extractive sectors (e.g. rubber, palm oil, mining and oil) which are to have potential impacts on the current FLEGT proposal.


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


    Date adopted





    Result of final vote







    Members present for the final vote

    Ricardo Cortés Lastra, Nirj Deva, Leonidas Donskis, Charles Goerens, Filip Kaczmarek, Franziska Keller, Miguel Angel Martínez Martínez, Maurice Ponga, Birgit Schnieber-Jastram, Eleni Theocharous, Patrice Tirolien, Gabriele Zimmer

    Substitute(s) present for the final vote

    Isabella Lövin, Gesine Meissner, Cristian Dan Preda, Bart Staes, Patrizia Toia

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

    Joseph Cuschieri, Zita Gurmai, Claudiu Ciprian Tănăsescu


    Date adopted





    Result of final vote







    Members present for the final vote

    William (The Earl of) Dartmouth, Damien Abad, Laima Liucija Andrikienė, Maria Badia i Cutchet, David Campbell Bannerman, Daniel Caspary, Marielle de Sarnez, Yannick Jadot, Metin Kazak, Bernd Lange, David Martin, Vital Moreira, Paul Murphy, Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl, Niccolò Rinaldi, Helmut Scholz, Peter Šťastný, Robert Sturdy, Gianluca Susta, Keith Taylor, Iuliu Winkler, Jan Zahradil, Paweł Zalewski

    Substitute(s) present for the final vote

    Josefa Andrés Barea, George Sabin Cutaş, Mário David, Elisabeth Köstinger, Jörg Leichtfried, Jarosław Leszek Wałęsa

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

    Gabriel Mato Adrover