International scandal, or How to steal Ukrainian forest

Author : Boryslav Bereza

Source : 112 Ukraine

During the moratorium on deforestation (bypassing not only national legislation, but also regulations and certification of the EU) Ukrainian wood is cut and exported at such a rate that in four years its exports to the EU increased by 75%
21:10, 31 July 2018

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112 Agency

This is already an international scandal. Britain published a report on the catastrophic illegal deforestation in Ukraine and the illegal production of amber. There is more illegal wood imported from Ukraine to the EU countries than from any other country in the world, and more than from the countries of Latin America, Africa, and South-East Asia put together. This is reported in the report of the British non-governmental organization Earthsight, which studies the problems of illegal deforestation around the world, informs Interfax-Ukraine. The organization over the past two years has investigated the problem of illegal logging in Ukraine.

According to the conclusions of Earthsight, during the moratorium on deforestation (bypassing not only national legislation, but also regulations and certification of the EU) Ukrainian wood is cut and exported at such a rate that in four years its exports to the EU increased by 75%, exceeding the mark in 1 billion euros in 2017.

Do you understand? At 1 billion! For 4 years! Without authorities and their protection at all levels it is impossible to achieve such a volume of exports from Ukraine. So, it can be argued that the leadership of the country, as a minimum, knows what is happening, but as a maximum - it manages the processes. "Our data show that hundreds of state companies are involved in a systematic, deliberate violation of a wide range of rules when harvesting forests," the study said.

Thus, almost 60% of cuttings violate the restrictions established by Ukrainian legislation, most often under the fictitious pretext of sanitary felling.

The study of 18 logging sites in the four largest logging regions of Ukraine, commissioned by Earthsight, showed that 67 to 78% of cuttings are unjustified and therefore illegal. And the local authorities and law enforcement bodies could know about this. This is called systemic corruption.

If this result is extrapolated to the national level, it turns out that illegal sanitary cutting is currently 38-44% of the total production and export of timber.

According to Earthsight, even if forestry enterprises sell wood not directly, but in accordance with the law at auctions, they often pass opaque, and most of the products, as a result, go on "shadow" sawmills, which number, according to researchers, is already more than 12 thousand in Ukraine.

So timber from the "sanitary" forest is produced for export, and in such quantity that, according to the research, the export of sawn wood exceeds its legal production in the country by 75%. The EU countries account for 70% of Ukrainian timber exports.

The EU Regulation in force from 2013, which sets the criteria for exporting timber to the EU market – EUTR - explicitly prohibits the importation of trees illegally obtained in the country of origin, and still requires importers to conduct legal checks "with due diligence" to minimize the risk of illegal timber entering the EU internal market.

However, the Earthlight study shows that this law does not work, and timber of illicit origin systematically enters the EU markets.

It is noted that Egger company, the world's second largest wood panel manufacturer is in the first place among the importers of the Ukrainian tree, according to Earthsight, its two rivals are Kronospan and Swiss-Krono, and the Polish pulp mill, which is part of the world's largest paper corporation International Paper.

We recall that from January 1, 2017, there is an absolute ban on timber exports (a moratorium on hardwoods has been in effect since 2015, and last year it was supplemented by a ban on the export of pine).

The abolition of the moratorium has disappeared from the list of requirements for a new macro-financial program of the European Union. In this issue, the EU decided to use a bilateral dispute settlement mechanism, as outlined in the Association Agreement.

In April this year, it became known that the statistics of Ukraine and the European Union on the export of round wood from our country after the moratorium by the Verkhovna Rada diverges 238 times.

Such deforestation is not only a sign of systemic corruption but also a disregard for the ecosystem of Ukraine and for the future of the state. Those who do this at all levels do not plan to live in Ukraine. Their children, too, will not live in a country with destroyed ecology. The question is different. How long will the people simply watch the destruction of the ecosystem of Ukraine? Although the lack of mass appeals to law enforcement agencies, public protests in defense of the environment, the absence of jails for organizers, cutters and smugglers of the forest, as well as tolerance to the ongoing vandalism, suggest that this is not an actual problem for Ukrainians. So, the authorities can calmly and methodically engage in the same. And the next power will simply seize control and sit on the streams. After all, indifference to corruption and lawlessness breeds a vicious system, and impunity generates a relapse.

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