and Engineering News
3 July 2003
regulatory scheme panned
German chancellor says proposed chemicals policy will harm industry
chancellor Gerhard Schröder spoke out forcefully against the
European Commission's draft policy on chemical testing and regulation
at the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) general assembly
meeting, held on June 27 in Hamburg, Germany.
proposed policy, which would require explicit government authorization
before certain chemicals could be sold in European Union countries,
has dominated discussion at almost every European chemicals meeting
since it was introduced in the form of an EC white paper two years
ago. But Schröder's criticism of the draft added a high-level
endorsement of the industry's cautious response.
argued that "the competitiveness of the European chemical industry
must not be neglected. It is essential for Europe to have a registration
system--there is no way for each EU member country to do it differently.
But the current proposal poses too much of a burden on the industry."
he added, the legislation as proposed "would be attacked--probably
successfully--by our overseas allies," under World Trade Organization
like these were sweet music to the company and industry association
executives at the CEFIC meeting, who are concerned about how any
policy will be put into effect. Workability was one of the major
points the EC wanted addressed in May when it posted all 1,200 pages
of the draft chemicals policy on its Internet site for comment.
week winds up the consultation period. And, as Eggert Voscherau,
president of CEFIC and vice chairman of BASF, noted: "We need
workable regulation, not regulation overkill that stifles innovation
and fails to meet its political objectives. We had thought that
the proposed chemicals policy would be an excellent opportunity
to ensure better regulation."
chemicals as one of the top industries in 11 of the 15 member countries
of the EU, Voscherau added, it is especially important to keep it
growing and healthy.
industry experts see in the draft, however, is causing deep concerns,
he said. "It will overwhelm the authorities. Are they really
focused on what needs to be done?"
claimed that implementing the draft policy would cost several billion
euros. "This must be reduced if we want to meet our objective
of competitiveness of the industry," he said. "Most of
the companies in this industry in Europe are not large, but SMEs
[small to medium-sized enterprises]. The burden of red tape and
regulation would fall particularly hard on them."
comments reinforced points made in a letter he sent to the European
Council of Ministers this spring along with British Prime Minister
Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac. "The European
industry has to hold its own in global competition," the three
agreed. "It cannot be used as a laboratory for regulatory experiments
which increase costs or burdens on employers."
other speaker at the assembly, Erkki Liikanen, the European commissioner
responsible for enterprise and information society, acknowledged
Schröder's concerns. "Industry matters," he said.
"A strong and competitive industry is a sine qua non to build
a more competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy capable of
sustainable economic growth."
remains to be seen what will emerge from the EC, which is expected
to issue its final legislative proposal at the end of the summer,
when the proposal will be presented to the Council of Ministers
and the European Parliament. It is unlikely that Parliament will
be able to deal with the proposal before the end of its term next
May. A new Parliament will be elected in July, so it is probable
that it won't be until late 2004 that Europe finally has its chemicals
policy--however it is worked out.