Monday

9th Dec 2019

MEPs divided on conflict minerals scheme

  • MEPs are divided over whether all companies should make sure their products do not include conflict minerals (Photo: Julien Harneis)

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

In a vote on Tuesday (14 April), the parliament's trade committee beefed up a proposal by the European Commission tabled last March last year, allowing the over 400 European firms that import minerals to register for EU certification to demonstrate that their goods did not use conflict minerals. It also covers the import of metals including tin, tungsten, talanium and gold coming from war-torn countries

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Tungsten, tin and tantalum are all key components in mobile phones, laptops and other consumer electronics.

The plan backed by MEPs would require all EU-based smelters and refiners to be EU-certified as “responsible importers”, alongside voluntary schemes for other importers.

“The goal of this legislation is to break the link between mining and trade in minerals and metals and the financing of illegal armed groups,” said Iuliu Winkler, the Romanian centre-right MEP piloting the bill through the EU assembly.

But the trade committee’s position, which was adopted by a 22 to 16 margin, did not go far enough for the parliament’s left-wing and Green groups who want a mandatory certification scheme to apply to all companies and to extend the scope of the bill to include other metals and minerals.

Development and humanitarian NGOs have also been urging deputies to toughen up the bill which, as it stands, would still be weaker than equivalent laws in the United States. The US Dodd-Frank bill reforming the financial sector, adopted in 2010, requires manufacturers to audit their supply chains and report and make public any instances of conflict minerals being used.

The US legislation classifies the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), one of the world’s most resource rich nations, and its nine neighbouring countries as the main sources of conflict minerals and metals. Fighting between militia in the DRC’s eastern provinces has continued unabated for more than fifteen years, in large part funded by conflict minerals.

However, the Commission has emphasised that the new law will not just apply to sub-Saharan Africa, pointing out that minerals and metals have been used to fund violence in countries such as Colombia, Afghanistan and Myanmar.

"A fully mandatory scheme is absolutely vital to stop the European Union being complicit in the devastation caused by the trade in conflict minerals,” said David Martin, the Socialist group’s spokesperson on the committee.

"We have had voluntary guidelines in place for five years and over 80 percent of companies have chosen not to publish any information on their supply chain due diligence,” he added, describing the committee proposal as “weak and unenforceable”.

Meanwhile, the UN and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have also drawn up international due diligence standards for firms.

The revised proposal will now be put to a vote at the parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg in May.

Feature

Russia makes big promises to Arctic peoples on expansion

The Arctic future conference kicked off with optimistic presentations by ministers and officials of the Russian government — but also a burst of scepticism from representatives of those actually living in Russia's Arctic and Far East regions.

Agenda

UK election plus EU summit in focus This WEEK

EU leaders will try to agree on the 2050 emission-free target - but they will deeply disagree on EU spending over the next seven years. Meanwhile the UK will elect its new political leadership.

News in Brief

  1. Greece denies access to fair asylum process, report says
  2. Report: Self-regulation of social media 'not working'
  3. Turkey: Greek expulsion of Libyan envoy 'outrageous'
  4. Merkel coalition may survive, says new SPD co-leader
  5. Von der Leyen Ethiopia visit a 'political statement'
  6. Over 5,500 scientists ask EU to protect freshwater life
  7. Iran defies EU and UN on ballistic missiles
  8. Committee of the Regions: bigger budget for Green Deal

Agenda

UK election plus EU summit in focus This WEEK

EU leaders will try to agree on the 2050 emission-free target - but they will deeply disagree on EU spending over the next seven years. Meanwhile the UK will elect its new political leadership.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Russia makes big promises to Arctic peoples on expansion
  2. UK election plus EU summit in focus This WEEK
  3. Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres
  4. Searching for solidarity in EU asylum policy
  5. Will Michel lead on lobbying transparency at Council?
  6. Blood from stone: What did British PR firm do for Malta?
  7. EU Commission defends Eurobarometer methodology
  8. Timmermans warns on cost of inaction on climate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us