The European Business Council for Africa

On the 19th of February 2024, the European Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen, Ivorian Minister of Water and Forests Laurent Tchagba, and Ambassador, Belgian Permanent Representative to the European Union, Willem van de Voorde, signed a legally binding trade agreement to promote sustainable trade of legal timber to the EU. Through this agreement, Côte d’Ivoire will improve forest governance, modernise its forestry sector and address illegal logging and associated trade. At the same time, the agreement will give EU-based timber buyers assurance that timber products from Côte d’Ivoire are legal.

European Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, said: “This landmark agreement demonstrates the power of international cooperation in addressing deforestation and illegal logging. Together with Côte d’Ivoire, we are forging a future where local communities benefit from sustainable forest management and where forests are our allies in fighting climate change and safeguarding biodiversity. The agreement we sign today reflects our longstanding partnership. Its implementation will benefit Ivorian people and their forests, ensure timber legality in our markets and advance sustainable development goals”.

The Minister of Water and Forests of Côte d’Ivoire, Mr Laurent Tchagba said: “For our part, we reaffirm our commitment to speeding up the reforms planned as part of the implementation of the FLEGT-VPA, in particular the strengthening of the governance framework and the implementation of new technical and legal provisions for forest management. Particular emphasis will be placed on developing a reliable system for verifying legality and issuing FLEGT licences for the export of timber from Côte d'Ivoire to the EU.”

The signature of this agreement marks the end of a 10-year negotiation process. Now the focus will shift to its implementation. This includes setting up a verification system to guarantee legality and traceability of timber exported to the EU and other markets as well as timber traded locally. Once this system is fully operational, Côte d’Ivoire can issue Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licences, which certify that the timber or timber products exported under that licence are legal.

The negotiations leading to the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) have involved representatives of Ivorian civil society organisations, private sector, Government ministries and agencies, and traditional chiefs. Throughout the negotiation journey, important steps have been taken on law reforms and digitalisation within the forest sector, setting a dynamic foundation for ongoing progress. The agreement is also expected to contribute to an increase in revenue for the Ivorian State from a more competitive forest sector.

This cooperation takes place in the context of the EU Global Gateway strategy which stands for sustainable and trusted connections. Global Gateway is tackling the most pressing global challenges, including fighting climate change and supporting security and sustainability of global supply chains.


Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) are legally binding trade agreements between the EU and timber-exporting countries outside the EU.

Under the VPA, Côte d’Ivoire commits to developing a timber legality assurance system so it can issue verified legal timber products with FLEGT licences. A FLEGT licence is an export licence issued by a VPA partner country for timber or timber products destined for the EU market. Timber and timber products covered by valid FLEGT licences automatically meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibits the placing onto the EU market of illegally harvested timber and timber products derived from such timber. 

In addition to promoting trade in legal timber, the VPA addresses the causes of illegality by improving forest governance and law enforcement. A major strength of VPAs is that they look beyond trade to consider development and environmental issues. For the EU, the VPA contributes to achieving the goals of the EU’s FLEGT Action Plan.

Côte d’Ivoire is the 10th country to sign a Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the EU to improve forest governance and combat illegal timber trade. Two of its neighbouring countries, Ghana and Liberia, have also concluded a VPA with the EU.


Source: European Commission