The Khmer Times of November 27 contained an article by Raoul Jennar entitled “EU promotes laundering of Cambodian wood”, whose contents significantly misrepresent the position of the European Union.
The article is correct in pointing out the damage done globally by illegal logging, and in describing the problem of exports of illegally felled timber from Cambodia to Vietnam. These are issues that are taken very seriously by the European Union, and on which we support and encourage strong action by the Cambodian authorities.
It is also true that the EU has recently signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with Vietnam under the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) scheme. This will eventually allow timber products to be exported from Vietnam to the EU under licenses issued by the Vietnamese government. However, before such licenses can be issued the Vietnamese authorities will have to put in place an effective regulatory system, reliably implemented, that will prevent the import of illegal timber from Cambodia or elsewhere.
Specifically, after ratification of the VPA, Vietnam will need to develop its Vietnam Timber Legality Assurance System (VNTLAS), of which control of legality of imported timber is a major part, and strengthen its effective mechanisms to detect violations as well as ensure better law enforcement.
The FLEGT licensing scheme will only commence after the EU and Vietnam have assessed the operational readiness of the timber legality assurance system, and are both satisfied that it meets the objectives of the VPA. The FLEGT VPA includes an annex on public disclosure of information that will provide for information on imported timber to be made public, together with information on actions taken to prevent illegally produced timber products being imported into Vietnam.
The FLEGT VPA also provides for the setting up of complaints mechanisms and periodic independent evaluation of the timber legality assurance system with a view to continuous improvement and strengthening of the system. The purpose of the VPA is thus not, as the article claims “to turn illegally cut and laundered wood into ‘legal’ timber”. On the contrary, it is to help close off the possibility of such laundering.
As the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, said at the VPA signature ceremony, “Controlling the legality of imports will be critical to full implementation of the VPA and ensuring that Vietnam’s exports of timber and timber products to the EU come from legal sources”.
I am disappointed that neither Raoul Jennar nor the Khmer Times contacted the EU Delegation to check their facts or to ask our views. That could have avoided the publication of an article whose contents do not reflect reality.
George Edgar Ambassador of the European Union to the Kingdom of Cambodia