The European Commission released the results of the first review of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) on 19 February. The review covers the period from March 2013 to March 2015 and is based on Member States’ reports on the application of the EUTR, an open public consultation, targeted stakeholder surveys and an evaluation report produced by an external consultant. It analyses the EUTR for relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and EU added value.
On private sector compliance during the first two years of application, the EC found that SMEs were struggling more than larger companies to fulfil EUTR obligations.
According to the review, SMEs consider EUTR compliance “a challenge, due to difficulties in understanding the technical requirements of the due diligence system (DDS), lack of staff with adequate knowledge and experiences necessary for exercising the DDS and/or limited financial resources”.
In order to carry out more cost-effective due diligence, the Commission recommends that operators make more use of voluntary third-party verified schemes in the riskassessment and risk-mitigation process.
It also conceded that the “role of third-party verified schemes in the implementation of the legislation could be further clarified in the Guidance Document” and found that “the main timber certification schemes have adapted their standards to reflect the scope of the legality definition embedded in the Regulation and have emerged as a practical option that can be used by EU operators”.
Private sector compliance “uneven and insufficient”
The analysis of private sector compliance also revealed that “operators have not consistently implemented due diligence requirements” during the reporting period. However, the situation is gradually improving.
One of the main points of criticism identified by Competent Authorities during checks was that there was often a lack of understanding of all elements needed for the due diligence system, so “while many operators had some type of DDS, they did not always meet the EUTR requirements”.
Enlisting the help of a Monitoring Organisation (MO), which provide compliant DDS (Due Dilligence System) may be helpful in many of these cases. However, the review found that operators’ interest in MO services has so far been very low. This was partly attributed to the fact that MOs are obliged to alert the Competent Authorities in cases of major EUTR infringements.
Enlarging the product scope under consideration The product scope of the EUTR – or existing “loopholes” – has been a subject of frequent criticism by media and NGOs. As a result, it was part of the recent stakeholder consultation.
The outcome of the consultation was mixed, according to the Commission; while many stakeholders do not consider the current product scope optimal and wanted to include products like wooden seats, print media, musical instruments and wooden coffins, others believed the scope should not be expanded before the EUTR was fully implemented.
Especially in the case of print media, the Commission concluded that the “variety and complexity of printed good would need to be taken into account when considering enlarging the current product scope”.