Thursday

20th Jun 2019

MEPs adopt binding rules on conflict minerals

  • Out of some 900 mines in DRC, 18 are certified (Photo: Fairphone)

The European Parliament on Wednesday (20 May) unexpectedly backed new rules obliging EU companies to ensure the minerals they use in their products are from certified mines.

Belgian liberal Louis Michel has been credited with swaying the vote, which is hoped to help end the practice of 'conflict minerals'.

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

  • Former development commissioner Louis Michel has been credited for gathering support for a mandatory approach. (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

With their vote for a mandatory system, the MEPs go directly against the European Commission and the MEP who had been rapporteur on the file. Trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem and centre-right rapporteur Romanian Iuliu Winkler wanted a voluntary scheme.

MEPs voted in Strasbourg in support of an amendment to the text proposed by the commission in 2014.

The change would oblige companies that process tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold to “take all reasonable steps to identify and address any risks arising in their supply chains”.

Companies would have to show the minerals come from a certified mine. Uncertified mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo are often controlled by warlords and armed groups.

The minerals under the proposed legislation are used in many popular products, such as smartphones and tablet computers.

If parliament changes survive the compromise with the EU's national governments, “consumers will know that minerals [used in European products] are conflict-free”, said centre-left Belgian deputy Marie Arena in a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

The parliament's version of the rules would “put responsibility on importers”, who would have to prove the goods they import did not contribute to conflicts or human rights abuses.

Companies will only be responsible for due diligence of their direct suppliers, i.e. the previous step in the supply chain.

“It is a minimal burden, without any bureaucratic overload, painless for SMEs”, said MEP Louis Michel during the plenary debate in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

Italian centre-left MEP Gianni Pittella said during a press conference the text was supported by his group, the greens, the far-left group, Italy's eurocritical Five Star movement, “many liberals, some [centre-right] EPP”.

Pittella's fellow centre-left deputy, Belgian Marie Arena, credited Michel with aggregating the necessary votes for a mandatory approach.

The Belgian liberal has a personal connection with the Democratic Republic of Congo, having been involved in peace talks as foreign minister of Belgium, and later as EU commissioner for development and humanitarian aid.

More than any other European country, Belgium has a particular relationship with the DRC due to its decades as colonizer until independence in 1960.

Michel's office could not be reached on Wednesday afternoon, but in a press statement he said the vote “allows for the creation of a European market of clean minerals”.

Before the vote, industry lobbying against mandatory rules was fierce, but there was also pressure from NGOs and the most recent winner of a European Parliament human rights prize, the Sakharov award, Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege.

Following the vote, human rights group Amnesty International spoke of a "a historic moment" and a "groundbreaking proposal"

But the MEP who will be in charge of the negotiations with the EU's national governments on a final compromise deal, Winkler, expressed disappointment with the outcome.

He said “mandatory certification could mean the killing of jobs on both sides: Europeans and people in the local communities affected in conflict areas."

Business lobby organisation BusinessEurope also came out with a statement saying the system proposed by the EP “is neither workable for business operators, nor going to provide concrete solutions for the conflicts on the ground”.

Arena, for her part, said that while the EU's rules would not solve the problem overnight, similar legislation in the US seemed to have a positive effect.

“I was in the DRC 10 years ago. There were no certified mines. But following the US law, there are now certified mines”, she noted. Arena said that of the 900 mines, 18 are now certified.

Additional summit over top EU jobs looms

It's quicker to elect the pope than to agree on the new EU leadership, quipped the Irish prime minister at the start of the EU summit - which may end only with another summit soon to pick the top jobs.

Opinion

EU must counter Kushner's so-called 'peace' plan

This so-called "Deal of the Century" on Israel/Palestine is likely to be no more than a big sham, and the US-led economic peace workshop in Bahrain will hardly change this perception.

News in Brief

  1. Johnson vs. Hunt to replace May as UK leader
  2. EU leaders take aim at Russia's role in Ukraine
  3. EUobserver appoints new interim editor-in-chief
  4. Ombudsman: Tusk's staff should record lobby meetings
  5. Tusk now 'more cautious' on top jobs decision at summit
  6. Mogherini: my replacement 'needs security experience'
  7. Irish PM: 'enormous hostility' to new Brexit extension
  8. Merkel hopes to name commission chief by early July

Opinion

What's going on in Moldova - and what next?

Over the weekend, as private jets evacuated prominent members of the Democratic Party and their allies, Moldovans celebrated the peaceful power transition. Looking beyond the euphoria that surrounded the celebrations, the new government is facing many challenges.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. Additional summit over top EU jobs looms
  2. EU advisor roasted over Russian media interview
  3. EU must counter Kushner's so-called 'peace' plan
  4. Tusk wants quick deal on EU top jobs at Thursday summit
  5. EU keeps North Macedonia and Albania at arm's length
  6. What's going on in Moldova - and what next?
  7. EU officials prepare for US extravaganza on Palestine
  8. EU urges Swiss to move on talks or face sanction

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  2. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  5. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  10. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  11. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  12. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us