Saturday

24th Jul 2021

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

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

  • 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.

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.

Kerry resets climate relations before Glasgow summit

John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy, was in Brussels to discuss how to tackle climate change with the European Commission. His appearance also marked a major shift in relations after the previous US administration under Donald Trump.

Commission: Pioneering Nordics' energy mix 'example' to EU

The Nordic electricity market is an example of successful market integration plus climate action, as the share of sustainable energy keeps growing, the European Commission said. However, the decarbonisation of the transport sector remains a challenge.

News in Brief

  1. Macron changes phone after Pegasus spyware revelations
  2. Italy to impose 'vaccinated-only' entry on indoor entertainment
  3. EU 'will not renegotiate' Irish protocol
  4. Brussels migrants end hunger strike
  5. Elderly EU nationals in UK-status limbo after missed deadline
  6. WHO: 11bn doses needed to reach global vaccination target
  7. EU to share 200m Covid vaccine doses by end of 2021
  8. Spain ends outdoor mask-wearing despite surge

EU faces long wait for full vaccine supplies

The EU is still several months away from having enough vaccines to inoculate its 450 million people, with Pfizer and BioNTech, its principle suppliers, aiming for September for delivery targets.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Far left and right MEPs less critical of China and Russia
  2. Why is offshore wind the 'Cinderella' of EU climate policy?
  3. Open letter from 30 embassies ahead of Budapest Pride
  4. Orbán counters EU by calling referendum on anti-LGBTI law
  5. Why aren't EU's CSDP missions working?
  6. Romania most keen to join eurozone
  7. Slovenia risks court over EU anti-graft office
  8. Sweden's gang and gun violence sets politicians bickering

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us