MEPs voted to approve a political inter-institutional agreement on a new regulation that sets obligations on operators that place timber or related products on the EU market.
The new legislation issues a ban on illegally-harvested timber. Covering the whole timber supply chain from logging sites to European consumers, the law aims to guarantee legally-sourced products access to EU markets while halting deforestation in third countries.
"EU legislation to ban the sale of illegally-sourced timber represents a major international breakthrough, from the forests around the world that are ravaged by illegal logging to the EU market where timber and wood products are sold," said MEP Satu Hassi (Finland, Greens/EFA), who represented the Parliament in the final negotiations.
Currently around a fifth of all timber and related products, like furniture, is suspected to come from illegal sources.
When the legislation enters into force in late 2012, the operator who first places timber or a timber product on the EU market will have to trace its origins or face sanctions. All subsequent sellers will then have to declare who they bought the timber from and who they sold it to in order to ensure that the legality of the wood can be traced at any point in the supply chain.
However, member states have the right to decide whether to impose criminal-law penalties and fines on offenders. The regulation only recommends that consideration should be given to the environmental damage caused, the value of the timber and lost tax revenue.
Member states will still have to give their formal assent to the legislation, which they are expected to do after the summer holidays.