Tuesday

22nd May 2018

MEPs subject to fierce lobbying on conflict materials

  • The EU is amongst the world’s largest importers of tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold ores (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The European Commission on Tuesday (19 May) said mandatory requirements on EU companies to trace conflict minerals would hurt trade.

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem told MEPs in Strasbourg that a mandatory scheme could increase the risks of “disrupting global supply chains” and could drive trade "away from Africa altogether”.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Mining in Congo (Photo: Julien Harneis)

"It is crucial to understand that there is no silver bullet to deal with this problem," she said.

The Brussels executive introduced a bill last year to prevent warlords and other armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and elsewhere from making money on the mineral trade.

Despite recent tweaks by the European Parliament’s international trade committee, the bill remains largely voluntary and only covers tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold ores.

The metals are used in smart phones and other electronic devises. Some 35 percent of the global mineral trade is in the EU.

The parliament’s version requires the around 20 smelters and refiners in the EU to source the precious metals.

But the estimated 880,000 EU-based companies selling products that contain the metals would remain exempt.

Set for a plenary vote on Wednesday, debate around the bill has become more heated with MEPs subject to heavy lobbying by big tech firms.

The bill is inspired, in part, by the 2010 US Dodd-Frank Act. But unlike the EU bill, the Act requires manufacturers to audit their supply chains and report and make public any instances of conflict minerals being used.

Voluntary approach

The parliament’s lead negotiator on the bill, centre-right Romanian Iuliu Winkler, backs a voluntary approach.

“It does not unilaterally impose obligations on EU companies, it respects and ensures a continuous uptake of the minerals market towards responsible conflicts free certification,” he said.

Malmstroem, for her part, said the mandatory scheme would create severe mineral shortages for EU companies without making any notable difference to people living in the conflict zones.

She noted a review clause, inserted into the bill, would allow legislators to change their minds later should the voluntary scheme not work out as planned.

Mandatory approach

But not everyone was convinced.

Italian Gianni Pittella, who heads the parliament’s centre-left group, said obligatory traceability for minerals along the entire supply and trade chain is needed.

“We, the socialists will not support a fictitious bit of regulation, a bluff, simply something that really doesn’t affect major financial interests,” he said.

German Green Ska Keller said the proposals by the commission and the parliament committee fail to address human rights.

“Voluntary self-certification doesn’t work. It is possible even now to do that but only 12 percent of companies avail themselves to that possibility and they only do it because they want to export to the US market,” she said.

On Monday, some 150 civil society organisations published an open letter to the European Parliament to back mandatory sourcing of the minerals.

“The weak proposals on the table would leave Europe lagging behind global efforts, including mandatory requirements endorsed by the US and by twelve African countries,” it says.

Amnesty International and Global Witness in a joint-statement said the minerals trade has fuelled deadly conflicts in the Central African Republic, Colombia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Those conflicts have displaced 9.4 million people.

Heavy lobbying to weaken bill

Meanwhile, big electronic companies like Intel and Ericsson as well as car producers Renault and Citroen have lobbied MEPs to get their views across.

One source close to the issue said The American Chamber of Commerce has attempted to use the debate to undermine the Dodd-Frank in the US.

Green MEP Reinhard Butikofer in February told members of the parliament’s foreign affairs committee that lobbyists wanted him to weaken the bill and the US act.

“I have been approached by lobbyists that have clearly argued they want to have a weak European regulation, much weaker than Dodd-Frank, in order to use that afterwards as a level to undercut or undermine Dodd-Frank in the transatlantic negotiations,” he said.

MEPs divided on conflict minerals scheme

EU lawmakers have clashed over which businesses should be covered by new rules on the trade of conflict minerals used to fund civil wars.

Investigation

Congo's conflict minerals divide EU opinion

The exploitation of certain minerals in eastern Congo is fueling the region's ongoing conflict, but the EU's response is still unclear.

Interview

Car industry 'only listens to targets', warns lead MEP

'You can't reduce your CO2 emissions if you don't have targets in place,' says MEP Miriam Dalli. She will tell the European Parliament on Wednesday cars should be 50 percent cleaner by 2030, whilst the Commission proposed 30 percent.

Opinion

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

News in Brief

  1. Unknown professor proposed as Italy's new prime minister
  2. 154 German economists warn against eurozone reform
  3. Growing €176bn EU trade deficit with China
  4. All 4.8m Swedish homes get 'war preparation' leaflet
  5. Trump warns Nato allies' low budgets will be 'dealt with'
  6. Only Estonia, Greece and UK hit Nato spending target
  7. EU to start process to counter US Iran sanctions
  8. Macedonia PM sees 'possible solutions' in Greek name row

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. Facebook threatened with removal from EU-US data pact
  2. Defence firms 'reap benefits' of their advice to EU
  3. Athens mayor wants direct access to EU migration fund
  4. Nordics could be first carbon-negative region in world
  5. Zuckerberg and Trump top the EU's agenda This WEEK
  6. Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny
  7. Bulgarian PM: No asylum reform without stronger border
  8. Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight