Sunday

22nd Oct 2017

Analysis

Endocrine legislation could be delayed years after veto

  • Swedish social democratic MEP Jytte Guteland urged her colleagues to object to the European Commission's definitions of endocrine disruptors. (Photo: European Parliament)

EU legislation on endocrine disruptors could take years to emerge, after the European Parliament last week blocked an EU effort to define toxic chemicals, amid allegations that the file had been watered down by the chemicals industry.

In a vote in Strasbourg on Wednesday (4 October) 389 MEPs voted to shoot down the European Commission's proposal to define endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) - that is, chemicals that can interfere with human hormone systems at certain dosages.

MEPs said the EU executive had overstepped its powers by including a loophole that would exempt some chemicals in pesticides from being identified as endocrine disruptors.

Such a step was unlawful, lawmakers argued, because it would change an essential element of the EU plant protection products legislation, something that could only be done by co-decision.

'Endocrine disruptors' disrupt decision-making process

In this case, the criteria were set by comitology - a technical committee featuring the Commission and expert representatives of EU member states - rather than co-decision, the ordinary legislative process that gives the European Parliament and the Council equal rights to amend and approve a proposal by the Commission.

Socialist, green and left-wing MEPs argued that the derogation had been included because of lobbying of the chemical industry.

"The European Parliament has today stood up for people's health and the environment," Swedish social democratic MEP Jytte Guteland said after the vote.

She said that MEPs and the Council "have already clearly decided to ban all endocrine disruptors. The Commission was only mandated to set scientific criteria to identify the endocrine-disrupting substances, nothing more. Instead, it decided to include a derogation for certain substances, thereby creating a huge loophole in the legislation."

Together with Dutch green MEP Bas Eickhout, she led the objection to the Commission's proposal.

Speaking to EUobserver, she called on the EU executive to table without delay another proposal, which would not feature the derogation.

"The file had already been long enough in the making," the MEP said.

Lobbying by chemicals industry?

Indeed, Guteland's home country Sweden successfully sued the European Commission some years ago for failing to present a proposal on how to define endocrine disruptors fast enough, something that French investigative journalist Stephane Horel has attributed to heavy lobbying from the chemicals industry.

The proposal was finally unveiled last summer. The criteria were adopted last July by 21 member state representatives, but only after a year of intense negotiations.

Shortly before the parliament's vote, EU health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis recalled how difficult it had been to find a backing for the criteria among EU member states.

"The proposed criteria are … a careful compromise," he told a plenary debate.

"This one would not have been reached without the inclusion of the specific provision which is at the centre of the draft objection tabled here in parliament. This particular provision was added at the request of some member states during the negotiations … to improve their policy on sustainable use of pesticides, and was instrumental in getting the necessary support. And here we are discussing necessary support," he said.

Notably, Germany insisted on the derogation as a condition for its support, and the fragile council majority would fall without the support of the largest EU member state.

The commission could therefore draw the conclusion that it would be impossible to strike a deal that would pass both the parliament and the council, at least under the current mandate. It could also put forward a proposal that would have to be adopted by co-decision - a step that would take years.

Kicked into the long grass

A commission spokeswoman told this website the EU executive was still "thinking about the next steps" to take.

In case the commission does nothing, endocrine disruptors will be regulated by interim criteria - a set of standards that both EU institutions, health and environment NGOs and the chemical industry deem as scientifically outdated and unworkable.

"The Commission's proposal was perfectible, but it was pragmatic," said Angelique Delahaye, a French EPP MEP. "We have a situation where the current regulation will continue to apply and we know that it is not adapted anymore."

"It took us eight years to to get there, it will now take us several years to have a new text," she added.

EU adopts hormone disruptor norms

A European Commission proposal on how to define endocrine disruptors was voted through on Tuesday, after a year of blockage. A French turn-around allowed the decision.

Health MEPs want to phase out glyphosate by 2020

A committee resolution said the proposal to renew the glyphosate permit for a decade "fails to ensure a high level of protection of both human and animal health and the environment".

Health MEPs want to phase out glyphosate by 2020

A committee resolution said the proposal to renew the glyphosate permit for a decade "fails to ensure a high level of protection of both human and animal health and the environment".

Supported by

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  4. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  6. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  10. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  11. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  12. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!

Latest News

  1. The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals
  2. Mogherini urged to do more on Russian propaganda
  3. Turkey funding cuts signal EU mood shift
  4. Posted workers top EU agenda This Week
  5. Leaders lobby to host EU agencies at summit's margins
  6. Legal tweak could extend EU control on Russia pipeline
  7. Ukraine language law does not harm minorities
  8. EU begins preparations for Brexit trade talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  2. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  4. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year
  5. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  6. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State
  7. ECR GroupBrexit: Delaying the Start of Negotiations Is Not a Solution
  8. EU2017EEPM Ratas in Poland: "We Enjoy the Fruits of European Cooperation Thanks to Solidarity"
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and UK Discuss Deepening of Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceEHLA Joins Commissioners Navracsics, Andriukaitis and Hogan at EU Week of Sport
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Representative Office Opens in Brussels to Foster Better Cooperation
  12. UNICEFSocial Protection in the Contexts of Fragility & Forced Displacement