Sunday

21st Apr 2019

EU court slams EU officials on toxic chemicals delay

  • EU regulation called for 'particular attention' to 'pregnant women and children' (Photo: rigtor)

Big corporate influence on an EU health law may have helped land the European Commission at the receiving end of Europe's top court in Luxembourg.

On Wednesday (16 December), the General Court in Luxembourg ruled against the Brussels-executive for not following the very rules it is meant to enforce.

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

Sweden took the commission to court for failing to come up with scientific criteria which determine endocrine-disrupting properties.

The General Court ruling can be appealed within two months. But the Luxembourg judges decided in favour of Sweden and noted that "the commission has failed to fulfil its obligations" under the law.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals found in everyday products, such as cosmetics and plastics.

These chemicals interact with hormonal systems and may inflict damage to people’s health and to the environment more broadly.

The EU adopted a regulation in 2012 to safeguard against the substances and to improve the free movement of biocidal products.

The regulation noted "particular attention should be paid to the protection of vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women and children.”

The law required the commission to adopt delegated acts on the specification of the scientific criteria for the determination of endocrine-disruption properties.

These acts were supposed to have been adopted by 13 December 2013 at the latest.

The delay points to allegations of insider influence from the chemical industry in its attempts to water down the legislation.

Such delays are among the favoured tactics used by industry, including the tobacco industry, to weaken EU laws and proposals.

Corporate Europe Observatory, a pro-transparency group in Brussels, says the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) and the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) manipulated EU officials.

The story began when DG Environment at the European Commission launched an independent study in 2009 into endocrine toxicology in humans. The conclusions of the study riled US-based chemical corporations, among others in the industry.

An impact assessment study was then ordered. That study is still ongoing.

The transparency group noted, in a report out over the summer, the delay tactics fed into broader free trade talks with the United States, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

For its part, Cefic said the delays are a procedural issue and that it backs the commission efforts to define the best criteria to identify endocrine disruptors.

“We would emphasise that, while the delay in adopting these criteria is unfortunate, it does not mean that citizens are being exposed to a risk of endocrine disruption,” it told EUobserver in an email.

The former commission secretary general, Catherine Day, is also said to have had her hand in the affair.

French Green MEP Michele Rivasi says she intervened to block the proposal following industry contacts.

“It is a scandal that the former commission chose to disregard its legal obligations at the bidding of the industry lobby,” the MEP said in a statement.

The commission, in response to the court ruling, on Wednesday maintained the need to carry out the impact study despite the three-year delay.

“The objective is to conclude the impact assessment in 2016 and the decision-making concerning the criteria for identifying endocrine disruptors thereafter,” Enrico Brivio, the commission's health spokesman, told reporters in Brussels.

The commission says the delay is due, in part, to the large task it faces in identifying and categorising some 80,000 substances at the global level.

A commission public consultation netted 27,000 replies, which now need to be analysed by scientists.

"It needs to be stressed that any decision on endocrine disruptors has to be taken on solid scientific ground and that this is a highly complex and challenging issue,” said Brivio.

This article was updated at 7.36 am on 17 December to note that the General Court's ruling can be appealed

Focus

How France escaped EU legal action over chemical ban

A previously-unseen internal paper by the European Commission warned that a French ban of the bisphenol A chemical was "fully disproportionate". However, there was no consensus on starting an infringement procedure against France.

Analysis

Avoiding a Brexit chemical reaction

The UK's €56 billion chemicals industry was at first hoping Brexit would lead to less regulations - now it is hoping it can still access the single market.

Single EU railway signalling system faces delays

'A reality check shows that we are already falling a little bit behind in the first few years,' said the new coordinator for the European rail traffic management system (ERTMS).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us