04 October 2006 16:02 [Source: ICIS news]
By Nigel Davis
LONDON (ICIS news)--The debate on Europe’s landmark Reach chemicals legislation moves into the final stages this week as parliamentarians prepare for a second reading of the mammoth legislative text.
The European Parliament’s Environment Committee today (4 October) sets the agenda for its meeting and expected vote on the legislative draft on 10 October. A second reading in parliament is planned for November or, as looks increasing likely, December this year.
Chemicals producers and users are rightly concerned that key issues, particularly those related to product authorisation and possible enforced substitution, hang in the balance.
Parliament in its first reading adopted the so called ‘substitution principle’ for chemicals of most concern but its ambitions were countered by Europe’s Council of Ministers, which looked more towards adequate control of substances authorised under Reach for sale on the European market.
The legislation is being prepared under the EU's co-decsion process whereby parliament and the 25 EU member states, through the union’s Council of Ministers, have their say.
The substitution/adequate control debate will be central to the horse-trading expected prior to parliament’s plenary session on Reach. There is talk of compromise but it is by no means clear which way the debate will turn.
Companies have been urged to start lobbying hard ahead of the parliamentary plenary session. Amendments to the current legal text, which was adopted following the European Parliament’s first reading, last year, will require a two-thirds majority.
Industry wants a Reach it can work with but more importantly it wants clarity.
This is a time when the focus should be on Reach but there is a danger of the debate being hijacked by growing concerns about the so-called ‘cocktails’ of man-made chemicals increasing being found in the blood. More highly sensitive measurement techniques revealing the presence of unwanted compounds in human and animal blood and tissue have grabbed the headlines.
A real challenge for the industry and its trade groups is to describe just what is meant by ‘adequate control’ of substances currently marketed in ?xml:namespace>
The sector struggles constantly to communicate effectively but it needs to do so now more than ever before with MEPs on the one hand and with the general public on the other.
This week leader of the UK Conservative Party David Cameron said that his party would vote to ensure chemicals that may cause harm will be replaced with safer ones – where they exist. Hailed as a change of policy for the party by the WWF, his comments highlighted the increasingly sensitive nature of the debate.
Some in the industry believe that authorisation and substitution resonate with the general public. They are probably right. NGOs will be working hard to influence events in
The tenor of the industry’s approach, as well as its substance, will be vitally important as Reach decisions near. The sector needs to engage more effectively with its stakeholders including politicians, customers, consumers and shareholders
If the industry does not get the approach to ‘adequate control’ right it invites more onerous substitution rules and runs the risk of five year reviews for some products.
If it does not get its approach to the final stages of Reach right, in the market it is difficult to see why customers will not increase demands on their suppliers for more acceptable substitutes.
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