EU committed to protect forests in Indonesia: Envoy
1 December 2005
published by The Jakarta Post
The 25-member European Union (EU), through its executive arm, the European Commission (EC), is committed to protecting Indonesian forests by actively supporting the Indonesian government’s efforts to fight against illegal logging and the associated illegal timber trade, the head of the EC delegation to Indonesia said in Jakarta.
Ambassador Jean Breteche, an experienced career diplomat, was responding to a news item in The Jakarta Post (Oct. 23, 2005) titled “EU destroying major forests of poor countries: WWF”. The news item, which was based on a report by conservation group WWF, alleged that EU countries Britain, Finland, Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands were helping destroy forests in poorer countries, including Indonesia, through massive imports of illegal timber.
Breteche criticized the WWF for making serious allegations against his organization. “The comment contained in the article is highly critical and one-sided. It is not true what the article (WWF report) says about the EU,” Breteche, the 63-year-old French national, told the Post during an interview on Tuesday at his office.
The EC, according to Breteche, has been taking the issue of illegal logging very seriously. “In fact, the EC has just adopted a regulation that will give it powers to prevent the importation of timber from unlicensed sources as part of its Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Action Plan (FLEGT),” he said.
FLEGT is the EU’s response to the problem of illegal logging and the associated trade and is aimed at combating illegal logging, excluding illegal timber from the EU market and promoting the use of legal timber.
Breteche said the new regulation would allow his office to negotiate a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with Indonesia that would provide a framework for a licensing mechanism to jointly curb illegal logging. “I believe that we now have the opportunity to take decisive action on this issue and show that the European Union takes seriously its responsibilities to prevent timber and timber products from illegal sources entering the Union,” he said.
Breteche has also questioned the work of the WWF in Indonesia. “The EC has provided funds to the WWF to fight against illegal logging. But the effectiveness of the work undertaken by the WWF would seem to be called into question by the continued problem of illegal logging and the associated trade,” Breteche said.
Meanwhile, the EC’s program manager for natural resources in Indonesia, Vernon Copeland, said the EC had been providing grants to Indonesia through the EC-Indonesia Forest Program (ECIFP) to help support the policies of the Indonesian government since 1990. “Among the notable successes of the ECIFP are the nine-year, US$40 million Leuser Development Program that has ensured the sustainability of the Leuser ecosystem in Aceh and North Sumatra,” Copeland said.
Breteche said his office had so far provided more than 130 million euros (over $150 million) to Indonesia to protect the forests from illegal logging. “Currently, the EC has a 15 million euros ($17 million) budget to support 16 projects, which are aimed at promoting the participation of civil society in the sustainable management of natural resources and the fight against illegal logging,” Breteche said. “How come the WWF says the EU is destroying forests in Indonesia?”
Not only the EC, but also its member countries are playing an invaluable role in the protection and sustainable management of Indonesia’s forests and the livelihoods of the people who depend upon them.
Some fifty million indigenous people live in and depend on Indonesia’s forests, which constitute about 10 percent of the world’s remaining tropical forests — second only to Brazil. “Britain, for example, has started a 25 million pound sterling (US$45 million) Multistakeholder Forestry Program. It is providing grants and a support framework for Indonesian civil society and government to improve the conditions for forest policy reform,” Breteche said.
Germany, Spain, France, Denmark and the Netherlands have also similar programs to protect Indonesia’s forests, he added.
Due to illegal logging and forest fires (many deliberately lit for the purpose of clearing land for plantations), Indonesia has been losing 2 million hectares of forest every year. The forest cover fell from 162 million hectares in 1950 to 86 million hectares in 2004.