Sunday

17th Dec 2017

Opinion

How the EU can protect the world’s forest by tackling corruption

  • The EU is a main consumer of tropical timber and has a key responsibility to tackle corruption in source countries. (Photo: Wagner T. Cassimiro "Aranha")

Amid the political turbulence that kicked off in Europe in 2016, an important event from last year risks being forgotten, the unprecedented global commitment to tackle corruption.

World leaders at the anti-corruption summit in London committed "to expose corruption wherever it is found, to pursue and punish those who perpetrate, facilitate or are complicit in it, to support the communities who have suffered from it, and to ensure it does not fester in our government institutions, businesses and communities”.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • (Photo: European Forest Institute)

But as with any pledge, the proof is in the pudding.

Less than a year on the EU faces a key opportunity to tackle corruption in the logging industry, where it is most rampant, yet little-known and poorly understood, in some of the world’s most fragile and climate-critical ecosystems, rainforests.

The EU is uniquely placed as one of the main consumer markets for tropical timber and has a key responsibility to promote and pursue fundamental reforms to tackle corruption in source countries.

As the European Commission prepares its follow-up to the review of the EU’s international forest policies corruption should be top of their agenda, as it risks undermining progress on all other fronts.

The natural resource sector is notoriously corrupt – the world’s most corrupt industry according to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

Across continents developing countries’ natural wealth is siphoned off by corrupt politicians and the companies they do business with, robbing national treasuries of public funds that could lift countless out of poverty.

With forests it isn’t only the host countries who lose out – it’s all of us.

Weed out corruption to save rainforests

High levels of corruption in forest-rich countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo mean rainforests are being cut down far beyond legal limits, destroying one of our best defences in the fight against climate change at a time when carbon emissions are higher than ever.

This devastates biodiversity and on the lives of communities living in and around the forests.

Corruption taints the logging industry at such scale that a fresh approach that goes beyond technical elements is needed.

Across continents, logging companies bribe officials for access to forest that should by law be protected.

Police at forest checkpoints are paid to look the other way when timber trucks come and go far more frequently than they should.

Documents are tampered with at ports, suggesting timber is legal when it isn’t.

Much of this timber ends up in the EU despite the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) banning import of illegal wood.

But as one of the only consumer blocs with such laws the EU has the potential to play a key role in tackling the problem.

Member States, with support from the commission, must improve compliance and step up their enforcement.

Crucially, this should include measures that are specifically designed to guard timber supply chains against corruption.

Plant the seeds for future forests

While the EUTR is aimed at choking demand for illegal timber, the FLEGT (Forest, Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) Action Plan represents the EU’s efforts to tackle the problem at source, including through bilateral agreements with timber-producing countries.

This plan does include elements that can help tackle corruption, but should be reoriented and strengthened to tackle the scale of the corruption challenge.

Independent forest monitors should be an essential part of all EU interventions on the forest sector.

This might include logging permits being reviewed and cancelled when they are allocated corruptly.

Law enforcement efforts should be strengthened and measures to tackle conflicts of interest and common minimum standards for accessing information on logging concessions put in place.

To ensure that they’re robust the EU’s efforts to improve the governance of tropical forests should be firmly embedded in broader anti-corruption strategies promoted through the EU’s development and foreign policy.

This should guarantee basic freedoms, such as freedom of expression and freedom of information and strengthen the rule of law in producer countries.

This should take place in close cooperation with other donors, in partnership with national governments, and be driven from the highest political level.

Without strengthening anti-corruption checks and balances along timber supply chains Europe will miss a major opportunity to contribute to global efforts to halt climate change at this crucial time.

That’s why Transparency International EU and Global Witness have teamed up to call on the commission to integrate anti-corruption principles in FLEGT in their latest report: Tackling corruption to protect the world’s forests. How the EU can rise to the challenge.

Jo Blackman is senior EU and international campaigner at Global Witness; Elena Gaita is policy officer-corporate transparency at Transparency International EU.

EU environment chief concerned by deforestation in Brazil

EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas hinted on Thursday that biofuel development is contributing to deforestation in Brazil, even as the commission's own recently proposed climate package aims to see a massive increase in the use of the controversial fuels.

EU countries drag feet on illegal logging

European governments are failing to live up to an EU initiative aimed at tackling illegal logging across the world, according to a new survey by the international green NGO – the World Wildlife Foundation.

Illegal logging targeted by parliament

The European Parliament has approved stricter rules on timber sold in the European Union in order to take on illegal logging - one of the major causes of deforestation. Those that are found to be supplying illegal timber illegal timber will be slapped with fines

Iceland: further from EU membership than ever

With fewer pro-EU MPs in the Iceland parliament than ever before, any plans to resume 'candidate' membership of the bloc are likely to remain on ice, as the country prioritises national sovereignty and a more left-wing path.

News in Brief

  1. EU adopts 'track-and-trace' tobacco system
  2. Luxembourg appeals Amazon tax decision
  3. EU leaders agree to open phase 2 of Brexit talks
  4. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  5. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  6. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  7. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  8. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Catalonia, Brexit, and Uber on EU agenda This WEEK
  2. Macron and Merkel take tough line on Poland
  3. Eurozone future needs structural reforms, EU leaders told
  4. Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June
  5. EU stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks
  6. Polish PM ready for EU sanctions scrap
  7. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  8. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives