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7th Dec 2019

REACH chemicals law makes progress as MEPs clinch deal

The chances of MEPs passing the EU's landmark chemicals bill, REACH, got a boost on Wednesday (9 November) as the two biggest groups in the European Parliament clinched a deal a few days ahead of a crucial vote.

Leading members of the centre-right EPP-ED and the socialist PES factions, parliament's largest groupings, have shook hands on one of the most contentious parts of the chemicals law, dealing with the registration of chemicals.

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The move means the bill is likely to get the green light in the parliament plenary’s first reading next week.

REACH is designed to remove potentially toxic substances from circulation by getting industry to provide information on chemicals used in everyday products.

The new compromise waters down a earlier proposals drawn up by Italian socialist Guido Sacconi, which were widely seen as being pro-green.

Under the influence of the centre-right, the bill is set to take a more industry-friendly course, watering down costly regulation standards, Swiss paper NZZ notes.

In the category of chemicals traded in the one to ten tonne a year bracket, the amount of information demanded has been restricted, while in the ten to 100 tonnes category, costly tests for firms have been scrapped.

German problem

But while propsects of agreement on the bill have improved at MEP level, new complications have emerged at the member states tier, with Germany recently demanding a delay on voting.

Berlin has requested to put off a key member states' vote on REACH tabled for November, arguing the new government coalition in Berlin needs more time to study the proposal.

Die Welt reports a coalition text between CDU and SPD parties includes the call for a fundamental overhaul of the proposal.

Berlin's hesitation could scupper the UK presidency's hopes of pushing the legislation through by the end of the year, with London now considering holding an extraordinary member states' meeting on REACH in the week before Christmas, according to Die Welt.

Sell-out?

Germany has the largest chemicals industry in Europe, with German conservative MEPs leading the attack against earlier pro-green versions of the legislation.

The MEPs deal is already being depicted as an EU sell-out to industry, with Greenpeace on Wednesday raising a banner outside the European Commission's building in Brussels, showing commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and German industry commissioner Gunther Verheugen feeding a baby from a testube, Liberation writes.

"Dear Mr Barroso and Mr Verheugen, how far will you go to please the chemicals industry?" the banner asked.

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