Massive majority want EU illegal timber law



Posted on 31 March 2009  
Timber awaiting export to Europe, Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
Timber awaiting export to Europe, Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
© WWF-Canon / Adam MARKHAMEnlarge
Brussels, Belgium – European citizens overwhelmingly want stricter controls on illegally sourced timber, according to a poll commissioned by WWF and Friends of the Earth (FoE) Europe.

With an overwhelming 92% of respondents believing it is important that a new EU wide law is introduced to halt the trade in illegal timber and timber products on the European market, WWF and FoE Europe are urging the European Parliament and EU governments to act accordingly and adopt a strong legislation without further delay.

According to the survey, carried out with citizens from 14 countries, an average 56% of polled people do not believe that nearly all wood products they buy in the EU are legal with a further 19% not being sure - undermining the efforts of companies that have been trying to crack down on illegally sourced timber and have proved determined to work towards credible and effective solutions.

“Illegal timber is still a major problem in the EU, with an estimated 16-19% of EU imports being illegal or from suspicious sources,” said Anke Schulmeister, Forest Policy Officer at WWF. “We need a specific and effective timber law in the EU, for which it is clear, there is wide public support.”

In Bulgaria, where illegal logging still occurs, 83% of those asked do not believe that the timber they buy is legally harvested and an amazing majority of 97% think it is important to guarantee legality, demonstrating a clear sign that action is needed. Dutch, Czech and Swedish citizens are among the most doubtful about the legality of timber on the EU markets, with more than 80% saying they do not think the timber they buy is legal or are unclear about it.

In the Mediterranean countries, support for the need for legality and new timber laws that can assure it is almost unanimous. Some 98% of Italians and Spanish and 99% of Portuguese want to be sure that the wood they buy is legal and an average of 97% support the introduction of a new European law.

Support for penalties for infringements against any law was strong overall, and particularly from Bulgaria (96%), Mediterranean countries (average 97%), Poland and France (95%) and major timber supplier Finland (91%).

“EU citizens are showing themselves commendably supportive of the needs of local communities in developing countries where illegal logging is the daily practice,” said Anne van Schaik from Friends of the Earth Netherlands.

“Illegal logging leaves these communities with degraded or destroyed forests, disrupted social structures and loss of livelihoods. It is high time the EU takes responsibility and installs legislation to guarantee the legality of all timber products”.

An EU timber regulation is currently being discussed by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers and will be voted on in the next few months.

“Negotiators should acknowledge public opinion and support legislation that gives all players in the timber supply chain clear indications about what they need to do to prove the legality of their timber,” said Anke Schulmeister. “To be fair to those companies that have been trying to operate ethically, the legislation needs to provide more certain consequences to those who continue to flout the rules.”

WWF and Friends of the Earth urge the European Parliament and EU governments to agree on the legislation before the European elections in June.

Notes to the editors:
• All figures reported in the poll, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc, member of the British Polling Council based in London. Total sample size was 2098 adults for UK, 658 in Germany, 500 Hungary, Bulgaria, and Austria, 501 Czech Republic, 502 Finland, France, Italy, 503 Spain, 505 Portugal, Netherlands and Poland, and 508 in Sweden. The survey was carried out online between 4th and 10th March 2009. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all countries adults (aged 18+).

• WWF report “Illegal wood for the European market” estimates that 16-19 per cent of wood imports in the European Union in 2006 came from illegal sources - between 26.5 and 31 million cubic meters.

• As reported in a Market Analysis Report published on 31 March by WWF Portugal on “Portuguese Woodworking and cork industries”, the Iberian Peninsula is the second largest region in the world in imports of Tropical Sawn Timber, with more than 550,000 m3. Portugal is 9th worldwide importer of Tropical Round Timber and 13th worldwide importer of Tropical Sawn Timber and is the main customer of Democratic Republic of Congo and 3rd in the round timber exports from Gabon.

Further information:
Stefania Campogianni, Press Officer, WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 2 743 88 15
Mob: +32 499 539 736
E-mail: scampogianni@wwfepo.org