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China, remaining during last 10 years the first consumer of Russian round wood from Far East and Siberia, simultaneously is the key global supplier of hardwood flooring and furniture, produced from illegal and suspicious oak and ash from the last intact temperate forests at the south Far East Russia, habitat of famous endangered Siberian tiger. During decades local and international environmental NGOs investigate practices of illegal logging at the region and Russian-Chinese chains of custody, delivering high value timber products to EU markets. By Amur branch of WWF, export volume of oak and ash from region to China overcome permitted logging volume by 6-8 times constantly during last years, and no governmental measures to stop this broadly known crime got success.  

By Chatam House evaluation, the percentage of imported timber from illegal sources is 20% for China, and this figure is considered to be conservative estimates. To the other hand, Chinese manufacturers exported totally $ 20 billion worth of hardwood products and flooring in 2012, and EU got, by estimate of EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency) 17 %of this huge market volume. Including significant quantity of stolen wood from Russian Far East. 

Since March 2013 EU Regulation # 995/2010 on timber import to EU markets got valid and obliged European importers of timber products to conduct special measures to get a documented proof of legal origin for any consignment. This requirement may be not very hard to follow for short chains of custody, which brings timber products to Europe directly from logging company or from processing facility, located in the same region and country of logging operation. But, for China, being the main consumer and processor of Russian timber, it is far not the case by several reasons. 

First is high level of legal ignorance and low level of logging control in Russia itself. Second – high level of trans-boundary corruption in Russian-Chinese timbertrade, which was perfectly analyzed and highlighted in RFE investigative research of EIA, published in 2013. Third is incredible attention in China to their own forests, being broadly restored and protected, while the need of country in timber products is easy satisfied by Russian intact forests. Fourth reason is well known Chinese initiative OBOR (One Belt, One Road), currently inserted into mentality of governments and businesses of all giant Eurasia. OBOR means development and increasing of all Chinese business and trade activities, including consuming Russian forests and sales of final wood products to EU. And finally, China remains for Russia and EU deeply unknown culture, highly patriotic and devoted to their mainland and ignorant to the problems of others. So, they don’t care of legality in the countries of their suppliers and their buyers – they simply care of their economic success only.

That means that there is the only efficient way to make Europeans sure that they act as civilized market subjects while purchase flooring and furniture from China. We plan to conduct serious public scrutiny and research of logging operations and timber market from Russian side with a goal to identify suspicious lumber facility in China, and then to follow it’s product until exporter to EU. Simultaneously our partners in EU have to conduct scrutiny of final wholesalers and retailers in EU and bring them our data about illegal Russian timber, used in certain Chinese products, beong sold in Europe. As a result, EU lawyers may raise lawsuits against that wholesalers, if they continue to deal with their suspicious Chinese suppliers and thus violate EU Regulation # 995. 

This will be a hard work for NGOs, but it already brought result once in USA after EIA project, relied on USA Lacey Act on timber products legality, similar to EU Regulation # 995. And we in EU-Russia Civil Forum can now develop this practice in Eurasia.Itwill help Russian forest communities protect their intact forests as the only source of their livelihood from barbarian destruction and assure Europeans that their consumption practice does not hurt any communities and environment in remote Russian territories. This project is practically concerned to the interests of several working groups of EU-Russia CF – on Legal dialogue, Combat transborder corruption and Environment. 

Content of this project includes investigation, customs data collection and exchange between, from one side, activists of NGO BROC at the Far East, FSF in Siberia, monitoring illegal timber flows to Chinese companies, and analysis of further lumber trade chains inside China until export points like Dalyan or possibly new train based export flows in framework of OBOR initiative from China to EU. From the European side, it includes activity to analyse sources of flooring and furniture from Chinese suppliers, also mainly by customs data with a target to discover coinciding suspicious company names between data from RFE-China and EU-China. Since such coincidence got found, EU based activists get a proof and reason to start pressing buyer by media campaign or by lawsuit using EU Regulation # 995.

NGO BROC, having 20 years experience in management of international projects with EU, Japanese and USA based partners, is ready to submit proposal and be a core grant managerin this project, in collaboration and partnership with FSF, ClientEarth, Terra-1530 and any other member European NGO in EU-Russia Civil Forum, interested to be involved into such significant Eurasian activity. 

We plan to start working as soon as possible, applying for about 30000 – 40000 Euro for one year activity in framework of current grant program. We are sure we can bring unique and impressing results to the next meeting of EU-Russia CF in 2019 and thus get a chance to continue further.

Waiting for additional EU partners from WG on Corruption and Legal Dialogue before May 25.
Initiative message to EU-Russia grant partners from NGO BROC