To clear the way for legally assured FLEGT-licensed timber and wood products from Indonesia to come to market, the European Commission has amended the EU FLEGT Regulation.

This means that all goods listed in Indonesia’s FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU will have to be licensed to sell here and that Indonesian licensed products will be exempt further due diligence by EU operator importers under the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR).

The EU amendments come into force 90 days after publication, making November 15 the earliest Indonesia can issue FLEGT licences.

The official announcement of the date will be made by the EU-Indonesia VPA Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) at its mid-September meeting.

Indonesia started its FLEGT VPA talks with the EU in 2007, signing its Agreement in 2012 and ratifying it in 2014. To achieve full implementation, it had to implement a range of forest governance and legality assurance measures to the satisfaction of the JIC.

It has now done that, with its timber legality assurance system, called the SVLK, having certified 23 million ha of Indonesian forest, and audited the vast majority of industrial scale mills and processors and mainstream export businesses.

It has also issued over a million ‘supplier’s declaration of conformity’ documents to smaller timber companies. European Timber Trade Federation Secretary General André de Boer acknowledged the FLEGT initiative had come in for understandable criticism due to the time taken to deliver licensed timber.

But he said the EU trade should now back it, due to its trading and image benefits for the sector and also the forest and timber sector governance improvements it has achieved in Indonesia, where the government acknowledged in the early 2000s that 80% of logging was then illegal.

A further 14 supplier countries are at some stage of the FLEGT VPA initiative, with Ghana expected to be next to issue licences.