The European Union has admitted Indonesia to a special licensing system it hopes will prevent the illegally felled tropical timber that makes up a substantial part of the country's wood production from being shipped to the 28-nation bloc.

The EU said Thursday that Indonesia is the first country to qualify for the licenses. It will mean that traders of goods such as wooden furniture, plywood and paper that earn the certification will find it easier to do business with Europe.

But some environmental groups fear the licensing system could become a conduit for illegal timber from a country where tropical forests are being cut down at an epic rate.

The EU has been trying to implement its timber system internationally for more than a decade.