New rules expected from July to outlaw importing timber chopped down illegally outside the EU

The European Parliament is expected to pass legislation in early July banning illegal timber from entering the EU market.

Currently it is not against the law to sell timber in the EU that was chopped down illegally in its country of origin. The European Parliament has now agreed on regulation that will require importers of timber products to conduct a due diligence process to ascertain the origins of the timber - although recycled products are exempt.

Other members of the supply chain will only need to know who they have bought or sold to so that if there is a case of allegedly illegal timber, the person who first placed it into the market can be identified.

The final vote in the European Parliament will be on 6 July, but this is unlikely to change the outcome. After this, member states will be given 27 months to implement the agreement in their national laws.

Rachel Butler, the head of sustainability at the Timber Trade Federation, said: “The Parliament put on the negotiating table some unworkable suggested amendments but ultimately it has always been clear from the start that one issue was the real point of debate – the inclusion of a prohibition.

“This has now been agreed and will only apply to the first placer and will mean that it is a criminal offence to place illegal timber on the EU market. However, the burden of proof will rest with the prosecution and illegality is defined by the country of harvest”.

Butler added that with lead times and forward planning, two years is not a long time. “As TTF has made due diligence mandatory, all members should be ready to meet this regulation.

“The TTF has always intended to become a monitoring organisation and will need to apply to the European Commission to be able to officially run a due diligence process. We believe our system is robust enough to meet the criteria set by the regulation.”