Monday

19th Nov 2018

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

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

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.

Investigation

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.

Italy defiant on budget on eve of EU deadline

Italy would be committing economic "suicide" if it fell in line with EU rules, its deputy leader has said, in a sign that Rome has little intention of bowing to pressure ahead of Tuesday's budget deadline.

Greek austerity violated right to health, says watchdog

Cuts in the Greek health care system, following the austerity cuts demanded in return for international bailouts, have violated the European Social Charter on the right to health, says Council of Europe's human rights commissioner, Dunja Mijatovic.

News in Brief

  1. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  2. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  3. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  4. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  5. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  6. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  7. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  8. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May

Stakeholder

An open China brings opportunities to Europe

Some 60 years ago, the first major World Fair after World War II was held in Brussels. Sixty years on, China International Import Expo (CIIE), the first world expo dedicated to expanding imports, will open in Shanghai, China.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  2. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  3. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  4. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  5. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  6. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  7. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  8. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us