Friday

26th Apr 2019

Champagne corks fly as EU gives birth to chemicals law

The EU's huge chemicals safety bill - REACH - charged through a European Parliament vote on Wednesday (13 December), leaving the greens disappointed and everybody else relieved the eight year legal marathon is over.

Five hundred and twenty nine predominantly conservative, socialist and liberal MEPs backed the final package with 98 mostly Green group and leftist GUE group deputies voting against a deal they say will leave killer chemicals on the EU market.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

REACH - which stands for Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals - will now be rubber-stamped by EU agriculture ministers on 18 December and come into force bit by bit from 1 June 2007 until 2018.

Run by a new Helsinki-based European Chemicals Agency, the law will see fresh checks on 30,000 substances used in everyday items in a scheme set to cost European industry up to €5.2 billion in profits and replace around 40 existing EU directives.

At its heart, REACH will see a tiny handful of super-toxic chemicals - like carcinogens - face mandatory substitution where safer alternatives exist, but leave free other scary substances - like hormone disruptors - so long as firms show "adequate control."

"The general interest has won, we were able to strike a balance between industry and environmental concerns," Italian socialist MEP and REACH rapporteur Guido Sacconi said after the vote, with a beaming smile on his face.

Smiles and jokes

"I got out of it alive, I survived," he joked, adding that he has written a novel about his eight-year battle over the 1,000 page document, said to be the most complex and intensely-lobbied piece of law the EU has produced in its 50 year history.

"This is a historic day," Finnish EU presidency trade minister Mauri Pekkarinen stated. "I can guarantee the council [EU member states] will accept the result next week - it is possible it will be unanimous."

"We're setting standards worldwide and everyone else will have to follow us," industry commission Gunther Verheugen said, with even the anti-animal testing lobby - BUAV - for once siding with the establishment in a celebratory Strasbourg atmosphere.

"We've made vital advances [on amendments designed to cut back the 45 million or so animal tests required by the bill]," BUAV chief Michelle Thew said, as hundreds of EU diplomats and officials began adding champagne to their orange juice at lunch.

Devil is in detail

REACH malcontents - the Green group and major NGOs including Greenpeace, WWF and Friends of the Earth - struck a mournful note however, vowing to keep tabs on implementation and to strike back during scheduled 2012 and 2013 REACH reviews.

"Major loopholes in REACH will allow many chemicals that can cause...cancer, birth defects and reproductive illness, to continue being used in manufacturing and consumer goods," a green NGO-coalition statement said.

"This deal is an early Christmas present for the chemicals industry, rewarding it for its intense and underhand lobbying campaign," UK green MEP Caroline Lucas said. "The devil will be in the detail of the implementation."

EU and Japan in delicate trade talks

The Japanese PM comes to Brussels to discuss the first results of the new EU-Japan free trade deal, plus WTO reform - a sensitive topic before he moves onto Washington to face Donald Trump.

News in Brief

  1. EU: Russian citizenship plan 'attacks' Ukraine sovereignty
  2. Deutsche Bank hands over Trump loan documents
  3. UN: Europe is badly prepared for new refugee crisis
  4. Macron to set out 'Yellow vest' counter measures
  5. Italy requests EU action plan for new Libya migrant wave
  6. Far-right party leaders meet in Prague
  7. Priest shames politicians at reporter's funeral in Belfast
  8. Putin offers Russian citizenship to Ukraine regions

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all

The visit of Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz to the White House on Wednesday showed that the current rift in transatlantic relations is deepening by the day.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Greens commit to air quality 'super commissioner'
  2. Far-right Facebook networks removed before Spain election
  3. EU and Japan in delicate trade talks
  4. Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all
  5. Details of EU Brexit talks with Blair and Soros kept secret
  6. Weber vows to block Nord Stream 2 amid 'sue' threat
  7. 'Next Juncker' must fix EU's corporate power problem
  8. EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us