Tuesday

22nd Jan 2019

MEPs take Liberal-Green line in REACH chemicals vote

Conservative MEPs got a slap in the face on the EU's REACH chemicals bill on Thursday (17 November), as the European Parliament narrowly voted in a liberal-green proposal on authorisation rules.

The so-called Nassauer-Sacconi compromise on registration agreed by the conservatives, liberals and socialists last week also got through with an easy majority.

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REACH stands for registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals - a law designed to impose EU control over substances used in everyday products.

Thursday's result means companies would be granted authorisation for five years only and would have to substitute less dangerous chemicals for more risky ones where possible, while some dangerous substances would be banned outright.

The conservative EPP-ED group vowed to fight against the authorisation package, with Dutch EPP-ED member Ria Oomen-Ruijten saying "I know I can count on the UK presidency ... I know that in the second reading it will be removed."

Registration compromise intact

On registration, around 20,000 substances or 90 percent of chemicals traded in the one to ten tonne a year category will be exempt from full tests.

Proposals for costly toxicity tests were dropped and substances still under research were given a 15 year exemption from REACH to help innovation.

The costs of registration for small and medium sized-enterprises (SMEs) will be offset by the 'one substances one registration clause' (OSOR), which means that big and small firms can share the cost of paperwork.

Companies can gain OSOR exemptions in the name of protecting commercially sensitive secrets however.

On top of this, MEPs voted to give consumers and retailers access to REACH data and opted to forbid duplicate animal tests, while establishing a 90-day review period before allowing new types of animal tests.

What next?

The registration package is likely to enter the EU statute books unchanged down the line.

It was drafted in close contact with the new German government and falls in line with both UK presidency and European Commission thinking.

Member states aim to establish political agreement on the whole REACH bill in December, before channeling their formal common position back to parliament for a second reading in mid-2006.

But German polticians, conservative MEPs and the industry lobby are likely to try and unpick the parliament's authorisation package in the next six months.

"Let's hope member states can come up with a version of authorisation that is acceptable to everybody," one Liberal group expert indicated.

Seven years in the making and with 1,500 amendments and 1,000 pages of text, REACH has been dubbed the most complex piece of legislation in EU history.

If all goes smoothly, the new law could be in force by March 2007.

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