Prime Minister of Ukraine announces crackdown on illegal timber and appeals to EU for help, in wake of Earthsight exposé

18th July 2018: In a statement published today, the Prime Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Groysman initiated a crackdown on illegal logging and timber smuggling, and appealed to the EU to provide information on imports of timber from the country, following the release of an expose by Earthsight that revealed an epidemic of illegal logging that has resulted in an uninterrupted flow of illicit goods into Europe.

 

"We must stop the illegal flow of goods," Prime Minister Groysman said, according to the statement posted on the Government's website today. "I ask all law-enforcers - let's unite and end all of these schemes. Let's show people the result of this struggle."

 

Earthsight's report released on Saturday, Complicit in Corruption, revealed that European consumers are contributing to an epidemic of corruption in Ukraine's forests, in a trade worth over a billion Euros each year. 

 

Illegality permeates the timber supply chain in Ukraine from harvest to export. Field investigations indicated that 40 per cent of the timber being produced by the country's state-owned enterprises is illegally cut through the abuse of a loophole allowing trees to be harvested to prevent the spread of disease.

 

The EU is by far the largest destination for Ukrainian wood exports, representing 70 per cent of the total. EU purchases have been rising rapidly, breaking €1 billion in 2017. Earthsight estimate that at least 40 per cent of this wood was harvested or traded illegally. 

 

Prime Minister Groysman ordered multi-agency inspections of all of the country's state-owned forestry enterprises, with a focus on illegal wood exports, and also instructed the Prosecutor General's Office to review the situation. In his statement, he placed responsibility at the door of importers, as well as those operating within Ukraine.

 

Complicit in Corruption revealed that the EU Timber Regulation, which is intended to prevent such imports, is not being meaningfully enforced. It points the finger of blame at the governments of the EU countries bordering Ukraine, including Romania and Poland. It also names some of Europe's largest wood processing firms as among those receiving suspect wood from the country. Their products are on sale in major retail chains including Ikea.

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