EU shares Ukrainians' desire to protect forests, but timber export ban won't prevent illegal logging

The Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine says it shares Ukrainians’ desire to protect forests and is ready to support them in that direction, but notes that a ban on timber exports will not prevent illegal logging.

“The EU Delegation wishes to reassure Ukrainians that we share your desire to protect Ukraine’s natural environment. In general, EU policies and EU integration do not lead to deforestation but help to prevent it. If Ukraine decided it wanted to protect more of its forests – including more of the unique biosphere in the Carpathians – the EU would be supportive,” the EU Delegation said in a statement on Monday evening.

According to the EU Delegation, a ban on all logging (or limited logging) or even access restrictions in a particular protected area, for justified and demonstrable environmental reasons, is perfectly legitimate and acceptable, as long as such a ban or other restrictions apply equally to all.

“Have you noticed that despite the wood ban the illegal logging and smuggling of the wood are still taking place?” the EU Delegation wondered.

“The reason is that the current ban on the export of wood does not achieve these goals. It simply serves the needs of some vested interests in the wood processing industry, allowing them to get exclusive and unrestricted access to forestry resources in order to exploit them for themselves. The ban is not preventing deforestation. And it does not prevent illegal logging or smuggling of wood because these illegal activities have become more profitable,” the statement said.

The EU Delegation said that the EU would strongly support higher penalties for such crimes and more effective enforcement actions in this field.

According to the EU Delegation, the reason the EU opposes the current wood ban is because it is a restriction on free trade. It is against Ukraine’s international commitments under the World Trade Organization and the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.

“We have been working with the Ukrainian authorities to find a solution which strikes a fair balance between permitting fair and equal access to natural resources, promoting trade, investment and economic development, and protecting the valuable and unique natural resources of Ukraine,” the statement said.

According to the EU Delegation, claims that the EU is following an “egoistic” agenda, by insisting on lifting the ban on the export of wood, are wrong.

As was reported, Ukraine’s parliament on April 9, 2015, passed a bill to introduce a 10-year moratorium on the export of wood and timber. A partial ban on all types of wood but pinetree became effective on November 1, 2015. The full ban is to be introduced as of January 1, 2017.

The ban is said to be an obstacle to a third EUR 600 million tranche of EU macro-financial assistance to Ukraine.

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