07 May 2003 18:41 [Source: ICIS news]
Europe’s chemical producers have rightly stressed the anti-competitive aspects of the European Commission’s (EC’s) chemicals policy “white paper” proposals. They could not have been expected to do otherwise.
Now, important concessions have been won. Set against the backdrop of rising unemployment and slowing growth in Europe’s heartland that is not surprising.
Business leaders have been able to catch the ear of key European heads of state but how long that tactical advantage persists remains to be seen.
A great deal more balance has been achieved in Europe’s new chemicals policy proposals which, in the final analysis, are being designed to better protect public health and the environment and lift industry’s competitiveness.
Europe’s new chemicals policy is ultimately about sustainability. It seeks to provide a framework of regulations which lets us, the public, have a better understanding of what it is we are being exposed to. It aims to register and control chemicals in a much more structured way than hitherto and at the same time stimulate innovation.
Ultimately, however, the proposed Reach testing and registration system will represent a cost to industry and make producing and using chemicals in Europe more expensive. Chemical producers, distributors and importers will pay most of the bill but the system will add another layer of cost onto Europe’s manufacturing sector. The competition aspects of the new regulations have to be much better understood. At present they are not.
Europe needs to focus more on its ability to develop and grow and not just in environmental, health and safety terms. The expanding union presents acute industrial policy challenges that can only be exacerbated by a wrongly structured, overly complex and costly new set of chemicals rules.
Europe needs to modernise, consolidate and simplify its numerous chemicals regulations. The chemical industry accepts that, as well as the desire to increase environmental and health protection. But, as European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) president Eggert Voscherau said only recently, meeting the economic, ecological and social needs of today’s society without impairing the development of future generations is the critical issue.
The chemical industry is vitally important to Europe’s future prosperity: that point is not in question. What is, is the constraint of a workable and efficient chemicals legislative system that applies Europe wide.
Europe needs a system that gives the public greater confidence in chemicals and works to stimulate innovation, not one that overburdens industry. In the interests of sustainability a balance has to be struck between adequate regulation and control and enhanced competitiveness.
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