06 September 2005 17:13 [Source: ICIS news]
By Nigel Davis
LONDON (ICIS news)--Reach, the European Union’s (EU’s) proposed new chemicals policy, has not languished over the summer holiday period in Europe. The UK kept the ball rolling through otherwise lazy days and looked further at how the monster of a regulation might be streamlined and made more workable. The great debate, however, is set to hit new levels of intensity with lobbying increasing towards the first reading of the European Commission’s (EC’s) draft in late October or November.
The dates being talked about now for a first reading in the European Parliament (EP) – 28 October or possibly 16 November – probably mean that a new regulation binding on all EU member states would come into force in 2006 following political agreement by EU ministers on the Competitiveness Council. Timing, therefore, is now vitally important.
Once parliament agrees its amendments (there are a vast number) to the Reach proposals, then the countdown to the actual regulation begins. Industry and environmentalists as well as those with Europe’s machinery that want to see chemicals more closely regulated have lobbied long and hard. The spurt to the finish has begun.
Everyone knows this is not a race but the race is on still to make a meaningful impression in important spheres of interest. The chemical industry has made great strides, and continued to do so over the summer, on the workability aspects of Reach. (The UK presidency put forward suggestions that will help streamline Reach procedures.) However, many difficult issues relating to the burden on SMEs (small to medium sized enterprises) remain.
Within the next few weeks, the influential environment committee of the European Parliament debates Reach and votes on its position (4 October). It is the lead committee on the proposals. Soon Reach will move well away from the influence of the industry side (and for that matter of other protagonists) and well and truly into the hands of the politicians.
The way in which the European parliament splits along political lines will be immensely important, but there will still be a degree of uncertainty over how each of the 732 MEPs (members of the European Parliament) will vote.
The votes of 89 liberal democrat MEPs could be vitally important and some believe, therefore, that the opinion of industry committee rapporteur Lena Ek will be influential. She has come out in favour of a more streamlined or targeted approach to chemicals control where only chemicals of “reasonable concern” are tested.
The industry will be most concerned that its clear concerns regarding workability and effectiveness are adequately addressed. Europe needs a Reach (registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals) policy that works and that ultimately is effective in better chemicals control.
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