Germany Keen To Join Hands With Malaysia To Curb Illegal Logging

Manik Mehta Bernama 5 Sep 11;

FRANKFURT, Sept 5 (Bernama) -- The German government is aggressively trying to curb illegal felling of trees in tropical countries, and is apparently willing to join hands with a number of countries, including Malaysia, to stop this practice which, it says, is an environmental hazard.

The German government has already put in place a so-called Timber Trade Safeguard Law after Federal President Christian Wulff signed a bill submitted by Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner against the illegal felling of timber.

"This is the first step towards fighting the worldwide illegal timber felling and the destruction of the tropical forest.

"The second step will follow with the implementation of the timber trade ordinance in 2013. The worldwide destruction of forests can be stopped only if a legal and sustained use of the forests in all the countries is economically viable and, in effect, incentives are given for the sustenance of the forests.

"Then one would be able to say with a good conscience that timber products of all kinds can again be used," Aigner said recently in Berlin.

Environmental protection, along with climate change, is very close to Germans who are critical of environmental destruction.

According to German sources, some 13 million hectares of forests are destroyed worldwide each year, which is more than the entire size of forests in Germany.

Indeed, German environmental protection organisations claim that illegal felling of timber - the felling of trees in violation of laws in the country of production, has become a worldwide "problem of the highest magnitude".

The latest law introduced by Germany regulates national controls on imports of timber from countries that have concluded partnership agreements with the European Union against illegal felling of trees.

So far, such agreements have been negotiated with six tropical countries (Ghana, Republic of Congo, Republic of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Indonesia and Liberia).

With further countries such as Malaysia, the EU Commission is presently holding negotiations to finalise an agreement.

Under such agreements, the partner countries will set up a permit and licence system to ensure that only legally felled timber is exported to the European Union.

In return, these countries will also receive, if needed, direct assistance in improving their capabilities in areas such as forest management and law enforcement.

The law will arm the Federal German Agency for Agriculture and Food, as the responsible regulating authority, with all the necessary powers to intervene.

Furthermore, intervention by the Customs authorities in enforcing control measures at the external borders as well as prosecution and imposition of fines will be regulated.

The first controlled timber is expected to start in 2011, the international year of the forest.


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