'Belgian Market is safe from illegal timber imports,' says Fedustria
In a press release dated 4 October 2017, the European Commission reported that "Belgium, where important quantities of timber are placed on the EU market, has not managed to carry out a significant number of verifications since the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) [...] Therefore, the Commission decided to raise the matter with the Belgian authorities by sending a letter of formal notice. Belgium has two months to reply."
Fedustria - the federation of the Belgian textile, woodworking and furniture industry - has now released a clarification note underlining that the Belgian Timber Importers are doing their utmost - in accordance with EUTR due diligence requirements - to mitigate the risks of illegal timber entering the Belgian market. In details:
- Since the entry into force of the EUTR in 2013, Belgian timber importers, who are members of the federation, have taken full responsibility for inspecting and guaranteeing the legality of the products they import. This is essential for them to be able to continue supplying these products in the future. As such, they work together with all parties concerned, and take the necessary initiatives;
- It is true that no intensive inspections have been carried out in Belgium in recent years. For years, the federation has been the requesting party in terms of expanding these inspections, and we are pleased to see that new inspectors were recruited at the start of September. However, the assertion by Greenpeace that the system does not work since no sanctions have been imposed to date goes way too far. On the contrary, it demonstrates that the audited companies are applying EUTR obligations effectively;
- Not all timber that is unloaded in Antwerp (or other ports) is destined for the Belgian market and cleared by Belgian customs. The Belgian government is solely responsible for the timber and timber products which are actually placed on the market in Belgium, and not for timber in transit. The authorities in the country of destination are responsible in this respect.
"Fedustria and the timber importing member companies advocate open dialogue and cooperation with governments and stakeholders in order to contribute to the correct application of the obligations arising from the EU timber regulation," said the Federation.
"As a federation for both timber importing and timber processing companies, we would like to emphasise once again that we have every interest in managing forests in a sustainable manner. After all, our future is inherently linked to the protection and expansion of forests. Moreover, sustainable forest management - including timber harvest - contributes to the further development of producer countries."