20 December 2004 17:25 [Source: ICIS news]
Distributors are acutely aware that the proposed registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (Reach) rules are going to hit them hard. They warn particularly of excessive and oppressive bureaucracy.
Europe’s chemical distributors maintain their fierce opposition to the European Commission's proposals but have moved more into line with other groups calling for change to the legislative draft.
A new position paper from the European chemical distributors trade body, the FECC, has more clearly defined its stand on Reach based on earlier work and focused on key points of the proposed legislation.
Distributors are acutely aware that Reach rules are going to hit them hard. They warn particularly of excessive and oppressive bureaucracy. As progress has been made on Reach during the Dutch EU presidency, however, they have adopted a more pragmatic approach.
FECC members support the European Union’s (EU’s) Reach objectives which indeed few could question. But these mainly small to medium sized operators in Europe’s chemicals business contend that Reach objectives could be achieved much more easily given a fundamentally changed draft.
The FECC has understandably been opposed to the EC’s Reach proposals from the start. This is largely on workability grounds but also very much on the basis that the cost of compliance could drive many chemicals distributors out of business. These concerns remain and are shared among trade bodies given that SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) represent more than 50% of the sector. The Reach proposals as they stand would hit such enterprises in Europe hard. Living downstream from the major players, many would struggle to survive.
In the build-up to meetings of MEPs (members of the European Parliament) in Strasbourg early next year the FECC has set out its support for the one substance, one registration proposal put forward by the British and Hungarian governments. The distributors’ federation also suggests that classification and categorisation of substances and the hazards associated with exposure will help speed Reach processes. It calls for a strengthened European chemicals Agency that could oversee the pre-registration phase for chemicals under Reach. The Agency, it says, could set priorities for substances to be registered and approve single registration of material data per substance.
The distributors’ position highlights some current Reach anomalies affecting imported preparations. These clearly still need to be addressed. The Reach rules will ultimately replace about 40 separate pieces of chemicals control legislation but their application to importers of preparations and substances looks set to cause headaches.
The three lead committees of the European Parliament – the committees for the environment, industry and the internal market – will look closely at Reach in a series of meetings scheduled to start on 19 January 2005. Industry groups and others are refining their positions in the run-up to these events and further discussion of the legislative proposals in committee before an eventual first reading in parliament expected in the second half.
The EU’s Competitiveness Council looked at Reach at its meeting at the end of November and continues to grapple with the implications of the one substance, one registration proposal and mandatory data and cost sharing. A Competitiveness Council majority has to agree on the final proposed regulation which has to be approved by the European Parliament before becoming law.
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