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EU ban on illegally-harvested timber

The EU has enacted new legislation aimed at those who place timber or timber products on the Single Market. This new legislation bans the sale of illegally-harvested timber and imposes a new system to track its source.

Regulation (EU) 995/2010 lays down the obligations of all operators who place timber or/and timber products on the market. The main aim of the regulation is to reduce illegal deforestation and give consumers better assurances about the products they buy. now places a ban on the sale of illegally-harvested timber, but also includes a range of traceability measures and obligations on those who handle timber produce. There are also sanctions for those that breach these rules.

Why is there need for this legislation?

Currently, at least 20% of timber and timber products reaching the EU market is estimated to come from illegal sources. The aim is to prevent such wood from entering the Single Market, as MEP Satu Hassi (Greens/EFA, FI) states:

"EU legislation to ban the sale of illegally-sourced timber represents a major international breakthrough, from the forests around the world that are ravaged by illegal logging to the EU market where timber and wood products are sold. The tough rules agreed would not have been possible without the strong backing of the European Parliament."

On a global level, deforestation as a whole is estimated to contribute 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. Where it occurs, soil degradation, loss of biodiversity and landslides are all potential problems. The plunder of this natural resource also hits forest-dependent peoples and the economies of developing countries. Who does it affect? It will affect any person dealing with timber or timber products, in particular those importing wood from outside the EU must be careful. 

What products are covered?

The Annex of the Regulation lists all the products covered, these include:

  • Wood chips/pellets used as fuel
  • Particle board and orientated strand board
  • Plywood, veneered panels
  • Wooden frames for paintings, photographs, mirrors etc
  • Packing cases, boxes, crates, drums and similar wood packings
  • Casks and barrels
  • Builders’ joinery and carpentry wood
  • Pulp and paper

What are the obligations?

Under Article 4 operators will be required to fulfil a ‘due diligence system’ to ensure their products are from safe sources. Article 6 states how this system will be structured:

1.Providing the following information:

  • description, including the trade name and type of product as well as the common name of tree species and, where applicable its full scientific name
  • country of harvest, and where applicable: 
      • sub-national region where the timber was harvested; 
      • concession of harvest
  • quantity (expressed in volume, weight or number of units)
  • name and address of the supplier to the operator
  • name and address of the trader to whom the timber and timber products have been supplied
  • documents or other information indicating compliance of those timber and timber products with the applicable legislation


2.Conducting a Risk Assessment:

  • assurance of compliance with applicable legislation, which may include certification or other third-party- verified schemes which cover compliance with applicable legislation
  • prevalence of illegal harvesting of specific tree species
  • prevalence of illegal harvesting or practices in the country of harvest and/or sub-national region where the timber was harvested, including consideration of the prevalence of armed conflict
  • sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council or the Council of the European Union on timber imports or exports
  • complexity of the supply chain of timber and timber products


Article 5 states that each person along the supply chain will be required to declare from whom they bought the timber and to whom they sold it.

Failure to comply

Under Article 19 each EU country will set out their own penalties but they can include:

  1. Fines
  2. Seizure of the timber and timber products concerned;
  3. Immediate suspension of trading


The Regulations came into force on the 9th November 2010, but generally the rules won’t apply until 3rd of March 2013 (except Articles 6(2), 7(1), 8(7) and 8(8) which shall apply as from 2 December 2010).

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