Wednesday

22nd Sep 2021

EU drags its heels over conflict minerals

  • Wolframite. Children are frequently forced to work in the illegal mines of eastern DRC (Photo: Julien Harneis)

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.

Washington on the the other hand is pressing ahead with the idea, although an April deadline now appears to have been pushed back to the autumn.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

EU development commissioner Andris Piebalgs told members of the European parliament's development committee on Wednesday (13 April) that the commission was concentrating instead on country-by-country financial reporting (CBCR).

Also contained in the US Dodd-Frank Act, the anti-corruption measure will oblige extractive sector companies to publish a list of how much they pay governments for access to their oil, gas and minerals, making it easier to spot cases of political theft.

A commission communication on this is expected before the summer break, followed by a review of the EU transparency directive this autumn.

While they welcome this initiative, some MEPs argue the EU must do more to prevent the flow of conflict minerals ending up on European factory production lines.

"Large companies such Nokia and Shell are preparing for the US Dodd-frank Act, so now is the time for Europe to act," Green MEP Judith Sargentini told EUobserver in an interview.

"It's kind of shameful that we just let the US run ahead of us like this. It shows up Europe's position in the world."

Under the system supported by Sargentini and others, minerals imported into Europe would have a paper record detailing their country and mine of origin, helping to reduce the amount of illegally-mined coltan and wolframite which ends up in European electrical goods, for example.

Human rights groups say revenues from illegal mining are helping to fund rebel groups in eastern DRC and neighbouring states, fueling a conflict which has resulted in a litany of murder, rape, and forced labour and an estimated two million displaced people.

Industry experts say it may be difficult however to identify exactly where particular minerals originate from, although the imminent US requirements are expected to produce a surge in small consultancies offering to carry out this due diligence for major corporations, keen to project a clean image.

"It could be very difficult to implement for our clients," Thierry Salmona of Imergys, a French multinational which operates 116 mining sites, told this website. "You would need to write a book to describe where some raw materials come from."

The commission appears to have taken this message on board, concerned that such measures would create an additional burden for European companies, already struggling to compete against their Chinese counterparts.

"It's certainly one factor that needs to be taken into account," said an official from the commission's industry department on condition of anonymity.

Congo fatigue: EU funding in the heart of Africa

The Democratic Republic of Congo was last year the largest recipient of EU support among ACP states. But critics say this approach has failed, drawing a question mark over the EU's next step.

Vietnam jails journalist critical of EU trade deal

A journalist who had demanded the EU postpone its trade deal with Vietnam until human rights improved has been sentenced to 15 years in jail. The EU Commission says it first needs to conduct a detailed analysis before responding.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed

Latest News

  1. French MEPs lead bogus EU monitoring of Russia vote
  2. Europeans think new 'Cold War' is here - but not for them
  3. Spain wants energy price discussion at next EU summit
  4. Trust in Dutch government drops, but not for Rutte
  5. Long ago, there was another Angela Merkel
  6. The first anniversary of the Abraham Accords
  7. First refugee deaths confirmed on Belarus-EU border
  8. EU kept in dark on ex-commissioner's new lobby job

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us