The EU Timber Regulation and VPAs are part of the EU's FLEGT Action Plan. They work together to combat illegal logging and improve forest governance.
VPAs are treaties that the EU makes with timber-producing countries that export timber and timber products to the EU. A country that has a VPA and an operational licensing system can issue FLEGT licences for legally produced timber and timber products.
All timber and timber products with a FLEGT licence automatically comply with the EU Timber Regulation. This means that when purchasing FLEGT-licensed timber, EU operators do not need to carry out additional due diligence checks.
Several countries have negotiated a VPA with the EU, but none of them has begun issuing FLEGT licences. Until FLEGT licences are available, operators will require evidence of compliance with national legislation. The definition of ‘legal timber' set out in each VPA is a useful reference for checking timber legality.
Each European country must designate a competent authority which is responsible for implementing the EU Timber Regulation and sets penalties for non-compliance. Once a VPA partner country has an operational licensing system, the competent authorities will verify at any customs point that each shipment from that country is covered by a valid FLEGT licence, before releasing the shipment for free circulation in the EU.
Six countries have signed a VPA with the EU and are currently developing the systems needed to control, verify and license legal timber. These countries are known as ‘VPA partner countries'. Nine more countries are in negotiations with the EU. Another eleven countries in Africa, Asia and Central and South America have expressed an interest in VPAs.