Friday

18th Jan 2019

EU prepares clampdown on conflict minerals

  • Nyanzale, 150 km north of Goma in eastern DRC. Violence has left nearly two million people displaced, say NGOs (Photo: Julien Harneis)

The European Union is considering a range of different measures to limit the bloc's use of raw materials from global conflict zones.

The move comes as growing demand from emerging markets such as China and India has led to rising commodity prices in recent years, fueling tensions in mineral-rich parts of the world such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

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

Blessed with large reserves of cobalt and coltan, key components in batteries and mobile phones, the struggle over lucrative mining zones between government and rebels forces in the country has led to an ongoing litany of murder, rape, and forced labour, notes a recent report by Human Rights Watch.

To counter this, the European Commission is actively eyeing two provisions in a package of new US rules for Wall Street (the Dodd-Frank Act), signed into law by President Barack Obama last July.

One measure obliges extractive companies listed on US stock-exchanges to publish payments made to governments on a country-by-country basis (CBCR), a step Brussels is likely to mirror.

"Internal market commissioner Michel Barnier's view is to extend disclosure requirements to the extractive industry [mining, oil and gas], and leaves open the possibility to include other sectors at a later stage," said spokeswoman Chantal Hughes.

The added disclosure can be used to hold governments to account for the royalties they receive, helping to stamp out corruption, say supporters of the move. A commission communication is scheduled for this summer, along with a reform of the EU's transparency directive in the autumn.

But measures to target large corporations may be insufficient in certain conflict zones, warn experts.

"The problem is that mining in eastern DRC is artisanal and frequently controlled by military or rebel groups," Evie Francq, a researcher with the Antwerp-based International Peace Information Service (IPIS), told EUobserver.

As a result, a second provision in the Dodd-Frank Act calls for new rules to force listed US companies to declare whether their products contain minerals from eastern DRC or neighbouring regions.

A number of euro-deputies support this additional country of origin reporting, and have called on the commission to go even further. Socialist Belgian MEPs Marc Tarabella and Véronique de Keyser used a recent plenary session to call on the commission to ban all goods made with conflict minerals.

Green MEP Reinhard Butikofer is also sympathetic to the idea, but acknowledges various complications exist.

"How do you identify the source of raw materials? The Kimberley process for diamonds is much easier as you can analyse the chemical structure of individual diamonds. This is much harder for other materials," he says.

Germany's Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources has however made progress in developing 'fingerprinting' techniques for other minerals, but high costs remain an issue.

The complications mean the commission's next move in this area is uncertain. "It's very hard at the moment to predict what shape EU legislation might take. Possibly the EU is waiting to see if the Dodd-Frank provision will work in practice," say Francq.

Parts of the extractive industry have also shown resistance to greater non-financial reporting, preferring to follow the industry's voluntary EITI code.

EU drags its heels over conflict minerals

The European Commission appears reluctant to put in place rules that would force European companies to declare whether they source their raw materials from conflict areas such as eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

EU bleeding untold billions to fraud

Over €6bn of EU taxpayers' money was stolen by criminals in recent years and over €130m is still being lost each year, EU auditors said.

ECB takes over ailing Italian bank

Decades of mismanagement appear to have caught up with Italy's Carige bank as the European Central Bank takes control in a move to stave off another banking crisis.

Analysis

China's 2019 growth outlook

As China's growth seems to be slowing, some observers see the country amid what the New York Times called a "severe downturn". As they mistake China's secular deceleration with cyclical fluctuations, they miss the rapid increase in Chinese living standards.

News in Brief

  1. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Germany led way on EU human rights protection
  2. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  3. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  4. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  5. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  6. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  7. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  8. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us