The EU Timber Regulation (Regulation No 995/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2010) lays out the obligations of operators and traders who place timber and timber products on the European market. The Timber Regulation has three key components:
It prohibits the placing of illegally harvested timber and products derived from illegally harvested timber on the EU market;
It requires the “first placer” of timber products on the EU market to exercise due diligence; and
It requires traders who deal in timber products after the first placing to keep records enabling basic traceability of supply chains.
The Regulation covers a wide, but not exhaustive, range of timber and wood products, including fuelwood, plywood, raw timber, sawnwood, pulp and paper, furniture, joinery, and barrels. It does not cover musical instruments, printed materials (i.e. books and newspapers), or wood products imported by individuals for personal use, among other categories. A partial list of products that are included in and excluded from the Regulation is available from the European Commission here.
"Due diligence" in the EUTR context requires operators to undergo a process to minimize their risk of placing illegally harvested products on the EU market. In practice, this is similar to the concept of "due care" in the U.S. Lacey Act, but in Europe it is a prescriptive system with specific steps that must be followed. The three elements of the EU due diligence system are:
- Information: The operator must have access to information describing the timber and timber products, country of harvest, species, quantity, details of the supplier and information on compliance with national legislation.
- Risk assessment: The operator should assess the risk of illegal timber in the supply chain, based on the information identified during the first step, and taking into account criteria set out in the EUTR.
- Risk mitigation: When the assessment shows that there is a risk of illegal timber in the supply chain, the operator must mitigate that risk by requiring additional information and verification from the supplier.
"Monitoring organizations," which are officially recognized by the European Commission, are private entities (which can be for-profit or non-profit) responsible for providing operational due diligence systems to EU operators. The Competent Authorities of EU member states, which are government departments responsible for implementing the Regulation in their respective countries, must check monitoring organizations operating on their territory at "regular intervals," understood to be every 2 years.
Products carrying CITES or FLEGT licenses are considered to be legal by default under the EU Timber Regulation. (NB that this is a significant difference from the U.S. system, where no third-party licenses are recognized as proof of legality.)
Excellent websites with additional resources on the EU Timber Regulation include the dedicated page on the Regulation at the European Commission and the Central Point for Expertise on Timber Procurement (UK). The International Technical Association for Tropical Timber (ATIBT), based in France, also maintains a website with information about the implementation of the Regulation. A wealth of documents related to various aspects of the European Union's approach to timber legality can be found in the Document Library.