19 May 2003 00:00 [Source: ICB Americas]The European chemical industry says it is gaining support among Euro-pean Union (EU) governments for its demands for major changes to a proposed new regulatory system for chemicals. Some industry representatives believe that without major changes to the planned Registration, Evaluation, Authorization of Chemicals (Reach) program, it will not be approved by the majority of EU states.
"It appears our views are supported by most of the existing EU governments, and we expect to gain the backing of the majority of the 10 states, mainly in Eastern Europe, which are scheduled to join the EU next year," says a senior official at the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic).
Under Reach, substances with an annual output of over 1 metric ton will have to be registered with basic safety data. Cefic wants concessions on the scope of Reach, testing costs, and procedures for the registration and evaluation of chemicals. But above all, it is concerned about threats that the proposed legislation may pose to the global competitiveness of the industry.
The European Commission (EC) has posted its proposals on the Internet for an eight week consultation with stakeholders, including the chemical industry, user sectors and environmental and consumer groups. Draft legislation will then be drawn up by the EC for approval by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, representing the EU member states.
The parliament should give the legislation a first reading early next year, and it will also be subject to a preliminary examination by the council.
Next summer, the composition of the parliament will change after a parliamentary election which will em-brace the 10 new entrants, including Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and the Baltic states. Mini-sters from the new member states will also join the council next year.
Cefic wants key decisions on the legislation by EU governments to be taken by a newly formed competitiveness council, comprising mainly of economy, industry and employment ministers.
"We are hoping that by the end of the year, EU governments will agree that an important role in the legislation will be given to the competitiveness council, which will attach more importance to the international competitiveness of the industry and also to the danger of the Reach scheme to jobs," says the Cefic official.
The German and the UK governments have been the most outspoken in criticizing the Reach proposals. The Scandinavian states have been the leading supporters of the legislation.
French government ministers were surprised by the conclusions of a consultant's report last month examining the impact the program could have on the French economy. The report predicted that Reach would cut French GDP by 1.7 to 3.2 percent and lead to job losses of 360,000 to 670,000.
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