Tuesday

23rd Jul 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 hesitates to back France over US tariff threat

France has passed a new tax on tech companies that will affect US global giants like Facebook. Donald Trump has threatened retaliatory tariffs over it. The EU commission says it will "coordinate closely with French" on the next steps.

EU banks more vulnerable to shocks than feared

Eurozone banks, such as Deutsche Bank, might be much more vulnerable to a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis than EU "stress-tests" have said, according to a new audit.

News in Brief

  1. UK foreign office minister quits ahead of Johnson as PM
  2. AKK to boost Bundeswehr budget to Nato target
  3. Police arrest 25 after Polish LGBT-march attack
  4. Ukrainian president's party tops parliament election
  5. EU interior ministers to meet in Paris on migration
  6. Schinas nominated as Greek commissioner
  7. Sea-Watch captain hopes for change in EU migrant rules
  8. Russia willing to join EU payment scheme on Iran deal

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. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. As Johnson set to become PM, ministers pledge to resign
  2. Poland's PiS prepares 'failsafe' for October election
  3. Abortion Wars
  4. EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK
  5. Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules
  6. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  7. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  8. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us