MEPs push for further amendments to the EU system of registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals.

With deadlines looming for final agreement on the planned European Union system of registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (REACH), the European Parliament’s Environment Committee is pushing for further amendments.
Committee members voted on 10 October, reiterating their support for amendments demanded by the Parliament at first reading in November, 2005, but resisted to date by a majority of the 25 EU member states.
Key outstanding issues include whether industry should be forced to abandon what the committee terms ’highly problematic’ substances when safer alternative are available; the degree of due diligence required from industry, and promotion of alternative test methods that avoid use of animals.
The European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), representing more than 30 000 producers and suppliers, claims that the committee stance - if endorsed by the full Parliament - will ’hamper the ability of REACH to achieve its goals to drive both greater safety of products and competitiveness of the European industry’.
Cefic director general Alain Perroy said the committee recommendations on issues such as ’substitution’ would ’create very serious problems for the whole European industry’.
’Stricter criteria for granting authorisation and  mandatory substitution, even when there is no alternative, will lead to the banning  of certain substances even though there are clear socio-economic benefits and no alternative is available,’ said Perroy. ’This situation could encourage a lot of producers to move out of Europe.’
Under EU rules, the Parliament must clear second reading of the European Commission’s 2003 proposals for Reach and a European Chemicals Agency by 30 November. The vote will take place on the basis of the Environment Committee’s recommendations.
If ongoing negotiations between the Parliament and EU member states are successful, the second reading - currently scheduled for 24 October - will be a formality: MEPs will simply rubber stamp the compromise drafts. Ministers can then sign Reach into law without further ado.

If informal contacts fail to produce mutually acceptable texts, the plans could be delayed for up to six months while MEPs and ministers try to settle their differences through formal ’conciliation’ negotiations.
For the moment, MEPs remain broadly supportive of Commission plans for a uniform, EU-wide regime on chemicals. There are no indications of an eventual parliamentary veto. 

Arthur Rogers

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