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.