OREANDA-NEWS. The EU is concerned about the current levels of ivory trafficking and elephant poaching and is at the forefront of international efforts to tackle this problem. As the number one donor for wildlife conservation with a total support of 24 million EUR covering 71 protected sites in Africa and Asia, the EU supports the creation and management of protected areas which host the most emblematic species of the African continent.

The EU's priority at the CITES CoP will be to push the international community to take tangible action to strengthen its efforts to stop ivory trafficking, which is having dramatic impacts on elephant populations. This means stepping up enforcement, addressing corruption, supporting local communities and reducing the demand for illegal wildlife products. The EU would like to see a reinforcement of the approach taken in the CITES context, through the "National Ivory Action Plans", which are essential tools to drive progress in countries impacted by elephant poaching and ivory trafficking.

The EU also fully supports the existing ban on international trade in elephant ivory and will therefore oppose the proposals made by some Parties at the CITES CoP for a resumption of international ivory trade.

What is the EU proposing in relation to trade in hunting trophies?

The EU has tabled a proposal at COP17 for a CITES Resolution to ensure that hunting trophies of CITES-listed species come from legal and sustainable sources and that such practices benefit conservation and local communities. This Resolution should set out sustainability and legality standards for trade in hunting trophies of CITES-listed species. It should require that, as is case for most trade in CITES products, export of such trophies should only take place if an export permit is issued by the exporting country, based on these legality and sustainability criteria.  

The EU has very strict rules when it comes to authorising the import of trophies into the EU, which were tightened in 2015. When the sustainability of these trophies cannot be established, no imports into the EU can take place.

Why is the EU supporting the inclusion of new rosewood species in CITES?

Illegal trade in rosewood has boomed in recent years in Central America, West and Central Africa and South East Asia in response to a growing demand from Asia. It is considered by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime as one of the most profitable areas of wildlife trafficking today.  Only a few rosewood species are currently protected under CITES. This means that once illegal logs have left their countries of origin, it is impossible for most transit and destination countries to do anything to stop the subsequent trade.

To address this problem the EU, with Senegal and Gabon, will propose the inclusion of African rosewood species into CITES Appendix II, for species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled. The EU is also supporting the proposals by Guatemala to include additional rosewood species into CITES Appendix II. This will give these endangered species international protection as international trade would only be authorised upon the production of permits attesting the legality and sustainability of their harvest.

How is the EU position at CITES CoP17 contributing to the implementation of the EU Action Plan against wildlife trafficking?

Many of the proposals the EU has tabled for CITES CoP17 directly stem from commitments taken as part of the EU Action Plan against wildlife trafficking, which the Council endorsed in June 2016.

For example, the EU has proposed a Resolution on corruption linked to wildlife trafficking. Corruption is at the heart of wildlife trafficking in the range, transit and destination countries. The objective of the EU proposal is to expose the scale of the problem, call CITES Parties to take targeted measures against practices known to facilitate wildlife trafficking and to instruct CITES to monitor how these commitments are implemented by governments.

Together with partner countries the EU has also tabled a large number of proposals to include new reptiles and fish species into CITES appendices, or to upgrade the protection under CITES of endangered birds (African grey parrot) and mammals (Barbary macaque). These proposals reflect the commitment in the EU Action Plan to ensure that the EU would not be used as a market for illegally-traded exotic pets.

The EU proposal on hunting trophies and the EU approach against ivory trafficking (see above) are other examples of initiatives based on the EU's Action Plan.

The EU will for the first time participate in CITES as full member. What will the EU accession to CITES mean in practice for the CITES CoP meeting?

At the CITES CoP, it will mean that the EU will be voting on issues of EU competence, such as listing proposals or voting on domestic ivory trade. The EU and the 28 EU Member States will speak with one voice, on the basis of common positions, on all items on the agenda. The accession means a stronger role and responsibilities for the EU in international environmental policy and its competence in external trade-related matters. It will also help increase the accountability and visibility of EU action on wildlife trade.