BRUSSELS, Belgium – The EU Council has adopted an agreement to improve forest governance and help combat illegal logging in Guyana. The Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), which the EU and Guyana signed in Montreal on 15 December 2022, aims to strengthen law enforcement in the forestry sector and ensure that timber products exported to the EU have been legally produced.
The agreement with Guyana came about as a result of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan, which the EU adopted in 2003 to tackle deforestation and trade in illegal timber. One of Guyana’s commitments under the VPA is to develop a timber legality assurance system to assess timber products and issue FLEGT licences attesting that they have been produced in line with national laws.
Guyana is the first country in the Amazon region to sign a VPA with the EU. Forests cover 84 percent of the country’s territory and play a key role in its economy, not only in the timber trade but also in areas such as tourism and ecosystem services. Maintaining Guyana’s forests also contributes to the EU’s wider goals of combatting climate change and preserving biodiversity.
The Council’s adoption of the VPA completes the ratification process for the EU. The agreement will enter into force once both parties have notified each other that they have completed their respective ratification processes.
In 2003, the EU adopted the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan. The aim of the plan was to address illegal logging and trade in associated products by:
- Strengthening sustainable and legal forest management;
- Improving governance in the forestry sector;
- Promoting trade in legally produced timber.
In December 2005, the Council gave the Commission a mandate to negotiate Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with countries that export timber to the EU. It also adopted Regulation 2173/2005 establishing a FLEGT licencing scheme to ensure that timber imports from these countries were legally produced.
So far, the EU has concluded eight VPAs with timber-producing countries (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Liberia, the Republic of Congo and Vietnam). The VPA with Côte d’Ivoire has recently been initialled and negotiations are ongoing with five other countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Laos, Malaysia and Thailand).
The negotiations between the EU and Guyana lasted for nearly four years and were successfully concluded with the initialling of the agreement on 23 November 2018. The Council adopted the Decision on the signing of the VPA with Guyana on 13 October 2022. The final signing of the agreement took place at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) in Montreal on 15 December 2022. The EU was represented by the European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, and the Czech deputy minister of the environment, Jan Dusík. Vickram Bharrat, minister for natural resources, signed the agreement on behalf of Guyana.