Out of (the) woods – making the EU a global leader in fighting deforestation


This project will provide empirically informed normative and legal solutions to improve the legitimacy of EU transnational environmental regulation from the perspective of affected actors abroad, so as to enhance its effectiveness in protecting the world from the environmental threats of deforestation and climate change. Protecting forests is an urgent climate change issue. International trade in palm oil and other forest risk commodities (FRCs) produced through agricultural conversion in the Global South causes 80 % of all deforestation. As a major importer of FRCs, the EU has extraordinary potential to fight deforestation by regulating conduct abroad, using market access to unilaterally extend stringent environmental standards to third countries.Yet, successful EU transnational environmental regulation (EU-TER) must overcome a key challenge. EU-TER is often perceived as hegemonic, protectionist, neo-colonial and therefore illegitimate by affected actors abroad, which thwarts its effectiveness. This raises an unresolved question: How to improve the legitimacy of EU-TER as seen from the perspective of affected third country actors? Research on this question is scarce. Normatively, EU power must be justified not only internally, but also externally, yet normative criteria are uncertain. Moreover, a legal framework to hold EU power to account externally is missing. Empirically, when actors abroad perceive EU-TER as legitimate remains under-explored. An innovative critical-realist approach will overcome these challenges combining normative and empirical perspectives to study legitimacy as a justificatory discourse between EU and actors abroad; and analysing how (EU, international, transnational) law can help enabling such discourse.
This will result in:
- In-depth empirical understanding of external legitimacy of EU-TER based on experiences with timber and biofuels regulation
- New empirically informed normative framework and a set of legal principles for legitimate EU-TER from an external perspective
- Concrete policy and legal proposals for legitimate and effective EU deforestation action (timber, biofuels, FRCs)


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. M.W. Weimer

Affiliated with

Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculteit der Rechtsgeleerdheid, Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance (ACELG)

Team members

Dr. M.W. Weimer


01/01/2020 to 31/08/2022