24 March 2005 11:21 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (CI)--Although it seems quiet, a great deal is going on behind the scenes as European Union (EU) institutions grapple with the Reach (registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals) proposals.
Just last week (17/18 March) the European Council discussed a proposal from the French government for the evaluation phase of Reach which has been given the acronym ‘safe’ (‘shape the agency for evaluation’). France wants the EU to clarify and reinforce the role of the proposed chemicals agency, and to widen its tasks to evaluation. In the current Reach draft evaluation is put in the hands of “competent authorities” and member states.
French support for a stronger agency (albeit just in the evaluation phase) will be widely welcomed. Plans for the agency’s role have to date been sketchy. Greater clarity is needed. And although there are complex legal considerations, all sides would benefit if it had real power and did not have to turn continually to member states for decisions as well as support.
Details of the ‘safe’ proposals have not been made public yet but it is known that France has looked closely at the evaluation phase during which registered substances are assessed. This step is vitally important. If managed effectively it will help streamline a Reach process that aims for minimal use of animal experiments to test chemicals.
France wants to see the work of various EU institutions and agencies drawn together at the chemicals agency and for the agency to take the technical lead. It expects, however, that authorisations, or rather the banning of substances, would remain in the hands of the member states.
The proposal highlights the amount of work that remains to be done on Reach if a workable regulation that does not overwhelm current resources is ultimately to be produced.
Currently, rapporteur reports are being considered in the various European Parliament (EP) committees leading on Reach. Ad hoc European Council working groups are moving through the European Commission’s (EC’s) legislative draft paragraph by paragraph. (Reach is making progress through the EU’s co-decision process that involves its parliament and its council of member states).
EP committee meetings next month will be looking, among other things, at the possible impact of the proposed legislation on downstream users of chemicals. The environment council and the competitiveness council are likely to discuss progress at their meetings in June.
The EP’s environment committee is aiming for a critical vote in mid-September 2005 which is currently expected to lead the way towards a first reading in parliament in October or November. The deadlines are tight, and considerable progress has to be made before the summer (Q3) recess, if they are to be met.
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