Voluntary Partnership Agreements

Voluntary Partnership Agreements

European Forest Institute (EFI)

Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) are one of the key elements of the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. A VPA is a legally binding agreement between the EU and a timber exporting country which aims to ensure that only legally harvested timber and timber products are imported into the EU from the partner country.

The VPA process has three stages:

Stage 1 – Negotiations: The content of the VPA is determined through a series of negotiations between representatives of the partner country and the EU based on a multi-stakeholder consultation process in the partner country. The negotiations encompass the scope and details of a national definition of legality and a legality assurance system as well as forest governance commitments, which are included in annexes to the legal text of the agreement.

Stage 2 – Implementation: Once the VPA has been ratified into law by both parties, the partner country starts developing the systems to control, verify and license legal timber. A joint implementation committee, made up of representatives from the partner country and the EU, is responsible for oversight and dispute resolution during this stage.

Stage 3 – Licensing: During the licensing stage, each shipment of timber or timber products from the partner country to the EU must be accompanied by a FLEGT licence. The licence states that the shipment is legal in accordance with the requirements set out in the VPA. Shipments from a partner country not accompanied by a licence are to be rejected at the EU border.

Six countries have signed VPAs with the EU and are currently implementing these: Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Ghana, Indonesia, Liberia and the Republic of the Congo. A further nine countries are negotiating agreements: Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Guyana, Honduras, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The EU FLEGT Facility has developed ‘VPA unpacked’, an on-line resource providing detailed information about these agreements.