4 March 2013
As of 1 January 2013, Indonesia requires all exported timber products to be accompanied by a V-Legal Document. V-Legal Documents demonstrate that the timber is certified under Indonesia’s SVLK timber legality certification scheme.
However, V-Legal Documents including the name of FLEGT – EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade programme – have appeared in the marketplace, causing confusion.
“The reference to FLEGT is highly misleading. It has led stakeholders to believe that the V-Legal Document is an EU FLEGT license, which exempts EU buyers from exercising due diligence as required by the EU Timber Regulation”, says Christian Sloth, Forest Legality Programme Manager at NEPCon.
“However, the V-Legal Document is not comparable to a FLEGT license”.
V-Legal Document referring to the European Union in the top left-hand side and to FLEGT in the top right-hand side. See enlarged top part below:
Timber carrying an authentic FLEGT licence has yet to become available on the market. In future, FLEGT licensed timber will be exempt from the EU due diligence requirements. The current situation is that the requirements still apply to timber accompanied by a V-Legal Document.
“The onus of the regulation is on the EU companies and they need to be cautious about the authenticity of FLEGT claims. They will be in breach of the EU Timber Regulation, if they omit due diligence in the false belief that V-Legal Documents imply EU FLEGT endorsement”, says Mr Sloth.
The misunderstanding was apparent in an article published on 22 January in the Jakarta Post following a conference in Jakarta. On the same date, the Indonesian Ministry of Forest and the European Commission released a joint statement with a more accurate presentation of the current state of the FLEGT process and the V-Legal certification system.
The article and the statement both affirm that the EU Timber Regulation implies “no additional control at the EU border” of Indonesian V-Legal timber.
Mr Sloth: “It is important to understand that this only refers to customs related handling of the V-Legal certificate form – not to the due diligence obligations of EU operators”.
Role of certification schemes under the EUTR
The EU has not adopted a ‘green lane’ approach to any specific schemes, but has defined general requirements for verification schemes to qualify for consideration in risk assessment and mitigation under the EU Timber Regulation.
“Some of these schemes – and in particular the FSC certification scheme – promise to be quite important instruments for reducing the risk of sourcing illegal timber”, explains Mr Sloth. “However, the usefulness of each scheme depends on its degree of alignment with the actual requirements of the regulation including its ability to enforce its requirements on the ground. Until a qualified independent body has evaluated the SVLK system, V-Legal Documents cannot be seen as assurance of legality. In summary, a full risk assessment needs to be conducted for V-Legal timber that is placed on the EU market”.
Indonesia’s FLEGT process is still on-going
Indonesia is a partner of the EU FLEGT programme and is one of six countries that have entered a FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU. The SVLK (Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu) certification system has been developed by Indonesia as part of their process to develop a Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) under the FLEGT process
Because FLEGT licensed timber is exempt from the EU due diligence requirement, FLEGT-licensed timber would be the simple and safe choice for EU operators buying Indonesian timber. Once the process has been completed, and the system has been endorsed by the EU, timber products exported from Indonesia will carry a FLEGT licence. However, this process is still on-going and experience has shown that the process can take years.
Learn more about Indonesia’s FLEGT process and the development of the V-Legal System (FLEGT Facility managed by the European Forest Institute)
Illegal timber is now illegal in the EU (3/3 2013)