Friday

20th Jul 2018

EU states stay mute on implementation of mercury bill

Twenty-five of the EU's 28 member states have neglected to inform the European Commission how they would punish breaches of a new EU regulation, which aims to limit the use of mercury, despite legal deadlines having passed.

Only Denmark, Germany, and the United Kingdom have sent the commission documents outlining the penalties related to the mercury regulation, the commission told EUobserver in response to an access to documents request.

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.

... our join as a group

  • MEP Stefan Eck: 'They have no excuse at all for not complying' (Photo: European Parliament)

"Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin, so it's essential that this regulation is properly enforced to help protect people and the environment from its harmful effects," said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, project manager of the European Environmental Bureau's 'Zero Mercury Campaign'.

The chemical element mercury, also known as quicksilver, is highly toxic.

Minimising the release of mercury into the environment and, where possible, eliminating its use, has been an EU goal since 2005.

Last year, the EU adopted a new regulation on mercury, which includes rules on its use for a variety of sectors - from dentistry to industrial processes.

In the EU, mercury is most often used in dental amalgam, and the bloc had agreed to limit its use.

The legislation requires that, as of next year, dentists only use encapsulated dental amalgam.

Other requirements for the use of mercury, such as an industrial use, have already gone into force on 1 January 2018.

The national governments have committed, by adopting the regulation, to notifying the EU commission of which penalties they have for infringement of the provisions. They promised to inform the commission of those penalties by the time the respective provisions came into force.

"European governments must have appropriate penalties in place for when rules are broken," campaigner Lymberidi-Settimo told EUobserver.

"It's disappointing that so many governments appear to be failing to implement measures they have signed up for and that they know will be effective in reducing mercury supply, use, emissions and exposure," she added.

The regulation has at least ten different application dates, several of which have passed, but others are still in future.

However, when EUobserver asked if the number of deadlines could serve as an explanation for why so few member states have informed the commission of their penalties, German left-wing MEP Stefan Eck said it was no valid excuse.

"It is ironic to insinuate that the number of deadlines would justify the member states' paralysis. They should blame themselves in the first place," Eck told EUobserver in an e-mail.

The German deputy was in charge of steering the regulation through parliament, and conducted negotiations with representatives of the national governments and the commission on the bill's final shape.

He noted that the European Parliament (EP) had wanted fewer and shorter deadlines.

"Nevertheless, one knows that the final versions of new EU legislation is always the result of hard negotiations between the EP and the member states," he said.

"Too many governments, mine included, were too reluctant to impose shorter deadlines on their industries," Eck said. He added that, unsurprisingly, governments had also "lobbied them and DG Growth, as well, heavily," referring to the commission's directorate-general of industry.

"Anyway, since the final outcome was quite in line with what the governments and industry wished them to be, with very realistic deadlines, and since the member states accepted them, they have no excuse at all for not complying," added Eck.

He called on the commission to make sure member states will comply, something the commission can only do by exerting political pressure, or by using a legal tool known as the infringement procedure.

Investigation

Fines on open internet vary greatly in EU

The fine for violating the EU principle of net neutrality is €9,600 in Estonia, while it can be up to €1 million in Bulgaria, Luxembourg, and Belgium.

Investigation

Fiat may face €80 fine over emissions cheating

The Italian carmaker is accused of using an emissions-cheating software, but a recent Italian letter to Brussels shows that the potential fine is minuscule.

Investigation

Emissions cheats face tiny fines in some EU states

Fines for car firms that cheat tests in the EU range from €7 million to €1,000. EU commission itself unsure to what extent states complied with rules on "dissuasive" penalties.

Visual Data

Europe's water quality falls short

Due to pollution, the majority of European rivers, lakes and estuaries fall below the minimum environmental standards, a report by the European Environment Agency reveals.

News in Brief

  1. Libyan PM rejects EU migrant camps idea
  2. Italy's Salvini to sue critical anti-mafia writer
  3. EU countries send aircraft to Sweden to help with wildfires
  4. British ex-commissioner's jobs called into question
  5. May to tell EU to drop Irish border 'backstop' idea
  6. Trump threatens EU over Google fine
  7. Spain withdraws arrest warrant for Catalan separatists
  8. EU readies counter-measures on possible US car tariffs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us