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EU'S Parliament agree to watered down REACH

by madrone Thu Nov 17th, 2005 at 08:10:34 AM EST

Hi everyone.  This is my first diary.  I had actually thought to post this at the Daily Kos, but lost the nerve.  Since you all are a smaller group, I thought I'd take Jerome's advice and post it here instead.  No one has posted on it there yet and I'm just hearing the news.  

It was expected, but it does look like the European Parliament agreed to the watered down version of REACH.  I haven't been able to find a recent news article on the web confirming this, but have heard it on the radio. Here's an article from a little before the vote: http://www.eupolitix.com/EN/News/200511/b5b5023d-c276-4774-a222-0bde3da22733.htm

French Socialists `non' on EU REACH deal

French Socialist MEPs have decided not to support a controversial compromise deal on REACH chemicals proposals.

Ahead of today's landmark first reading vote on REACH in Strasbourg, the French Socialists said that they could not accept the compromise agreement brokered last week between the parliament's centre left and right groups.

That deal weakened the `Registration' aspects of REACH, diluting the quantity of safety data that chemicals manufacturers have to supply.

The parliament's Socialist rapporteur, Italian Guido Sacconi, admitted that the deal had meant concessions to industry, but had been the only way to obtain an agreement.

French socialist MEP Beatrice Patrie announced this morning that her group could not accept that deal.

"(The agreement) has not achieved the right balance, French socialists will not be voting for the compromise deal."

Patrie said she hoped their decision would send a political signal to the commission, council and the chemicals industry.

"We don't want a cut price REACH."

The French socialist 'non' should not affect the outcome of the vote on the compromise deal, which MEPs are expected to agree.


This is sad news for the world.  The original form of REACH would have kept many toxic chemicals from everyone just because of globalization.  Having this is better than nothing though.


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Well, as I tried to figure out how to get rid of my html errors, a news article was posted about the vote.  http://www.thebusinessonline.com/DJStory.aspx?DJStoryID=20051117DN006766
EU Parliament OKs Indus-Friendly Chemicals Registration

BRUSSELS -(Dow Jones)- The European Parliament Thursday agreed to ease registration requirements on companies in a vote on controversial chemicals regulation, in a bid to reduce the burden on industry.

But it wasn't a slam dunk for the chemicals industry. In the vote, parliamentarians passed amendments tightening controls on hazardous substances, in a move that would force companies to find substitutes.

Business leaders and environmentalists were on the edge of their seats as parliamentarians took more than two hours to vote on more than 1,000 amendments to the legislation, known by its acronym REACH for Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals.

The regulations are designed to tighten controls on thousands of commonly-used chemicals, such as those used in household products such as bleach and detergents, and could impose significant costs on Europe's EUR 360 billion-a-year chemicals industry.

Because of fears over potential job losses, the parliament substantially scaled back chemicals-testing requirements. New safety tests would only be required on a fraction of the 30,000 substances originally targeted by the bill.

In addition, costly tests on the long-term toxicity of chemicals on the environment and their impact on DNA would be axed.

Moreover, companies would submit only basic information - such as the name, manufacture and safety data - in the first eighteen months of registration. This would enable businesses to exchange data, lightening the load for small and medium-sized companies, which make up a large portion of Europe's chemical industry.

by madrone on Thu Nov 17th, 2005 at 08:17:58 AM EST
I've been really frustrated for a long time because this legislation just has basically been ignored by the news media.  It only occasionally gets some coverage and that is either very brief or very buried.  To me, the testing of a chemical before introduction to the market that REACH would have imposed is very important.  But maybe it is only important to a few environmentalists, like me.  At least the French socialist party decided to vote against the amendments.

I realise that most people here are much smarter than I am.  From my understanding, REACH is basically a worthless registry now and will have no hope of ever being more.  If I am wrong, please let me know so that I can have some hope of ridding our bodies and environment of things like phenylphenol and perfluorooctanoic acids.

by madrone on Thu Nov 17th, 2005 at 08:43:18 AM EST
Thanks madrone.

I was planning to write a story on this later today, but it's great that you beat me to the punch! Le Monde had 2 full pages on Reach yesterday with a nice graph which is sadly not on their internet site, and should have more today.

I am still glad that this legislation is getting through at all, as it puts in law the principle that the chemical companies have to prove that their products are not dangerous, and not that society has to prove that they are.

With 1,000 amendments, the devil is surely in the details, and some categories of products may be treated better than others...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 17th, 2005 at 08:59:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was happy to hear of more coverage in the last few days, but it just seems like that was too little too late.  This should have been something known and talked about since last winter, at least.  Jerome, I hope that you are right with thinking that it is good just because the legislation got through.
by madrone on Thu Nov 17th, 2005 at 09:24:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Damn the spineless non-French Socialists.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Nov 17th, 2005 at 08:54:42 AM EST
I don't have time to write about this now, but approving the regulation with amendments is the right thing to do. Otherwise the legislation may be killed altogether:
Although the Treaty does not explicitly allow the European Parliament to reject the Commission's proposal at first reading,  Rule 52 of the EP's Rules of Procedure foresees the situation in which the Commission's proposal, as amended, fails to secure a majority of the final votes cast. In this case, the President of the European Parliament will suspend the vote on the legislative resolution (normally taken following the final vote on the proposal as amended) and will request the Commission to withdraw its proposal. If the Commission does so, the legislative procedure is stopped. If the Commission refuses to withdraw its proposal, the matter is referred back to the parliamentary committee.
If the first reading vote had failed, the Commission might have played into the industry's wishes and withdrawn REACH altogether. As it is, the directive goes back to the Council for a second reading.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 17th, 2005 at 09:20:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A question on timelines: is REACH a directive that was put together by the left-leaning Prodi Commission but is now under the aegis of the right-leaning Barroso Commission?

This is keyt to understanding where this is coming from and the strategy ahead.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 17th, 2005 at 09:39:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know what the Prodi Commission nor the Barroso Commission are.  You obviously know and understand a lot more about the European Parliament than I do Migeru.  Is there a chance to strengthen REACH again?  I wrote a petition on this back in March that never really went anywhere.  I got some people to sign and distribute it, but not many.  No one I ever talked to had ever heard of REACH before.  Most people just looked at me with the expression that says "another bizarre (madrone) thing."  But maybe people would be more responsive now that it is heard of.
by madrone on Thu Nov 17th, 2005 at 10:12:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I know more about the institutional workings than about the actual legislation making it through the process, and I'm still learning about both because it's so complex. I had never heard about REACH myself until very recently when Whataboutbobb highlighted it.

If the Council of Ministers approves the Parliament's amended version, that will be that this time around. Otherwise, I expect them to water it down a notch before sending it back to the Parliament for a second reading. At this point you need to lobby your country's Minister who will have to decide on REACH at the level of the council (or get someone in your National Parliament to ask for a debate of your country's position on REACH). You need to be prepared to lobby the European Parliament committee in charge of  REACH as soon as the second reading process kicks off.
If the legislation is approved as is, you can lobby the European Commission to produce new legislation amending it.

I hate to plug my own diaries, but I am doing a weekly EU legislative review. I may make a separate diary about the EU legislative process as well as developing little bits of it in my weekly reviews.

Regarding the Commissions... All legislation is proposed by the European Commission, and then has to be approved by both the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament in a process of codecision.

From 1999 to 2004 the European Commission was presided by Romano Prodi. From 2004 to 2009, barring some scandalous implosion (as happened to the Santer Commission of 1995-1999) the Commission is presided by Jose Manuel Durão Barroso. Just last week the Commission was in the news because of a shakeup at the level immediately below the Commissioners themselves.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 17th, 2005 at 10:49:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It really has to do with the commission. A group of people in Brussels are dedicated to propose laws that would apply to all countries (each country would have to approve a national law to follow the directive from the EU).

REACH was a very important directive developed by the former environmental comissionare.. a strongly pro-green woman.

The problem is that you need the support of the individual countries to make it a law. And the comission is in fact in charge of trying to get the consensus and push their agenda. They contact governments that would help them to push it, talk with the ones agaisn it...so on and so n.

The moment they change the commission they changed the person in charge of looking for support at the individual states..and of course in the European parlament (which has not that much power after all).

And no.. I have no idea how the present trend could be reversed if there is no one defending it strongly in he commission.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Nov 17th, 2005 at 02:27:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was launched by Margot Wallstrom under the previous Commission. Since then, it's been a relentless effort to water it down. The environment commission of the EP had to share the management of this directive with two other commissions (industry and another). Then Berlusconi put this under the responsibility of the industry side when he was president of the EU.

I'll scan Le Monde tonight, there's alot of info. See this article about today's vote (older articles are linked to on that page): http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3214,36-711147@51-710056,0.html


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 17th, 2005 at 10:36:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks Jerome, just like I suspected. As we can see there is an interplay between the leanings of the Commision (which proposes legislation) and then the Business-friendly Council of Ministers (rabidly so when a neocon like Berlusconi or Blair is EU President) and the People-friendly Parliament (less so when the Christian Democrats have a majority).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 17th, 2005 at 10:52:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, it has even started under the Santer Commission, if I read it right.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 17th, 2005 at 11:19:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Commissioner for the Environment under Santer was a Danish Social Democrat, Ritt Bjerregârd. Under Prodi, it was a Swedish Social Democrat, Margot Wallström. Under Barroso, it is Stavros Dimas, a Greek Conservative.
In a speech to a committee of the European Parliament Dimas announced four main priorities for his term in office: climate change, biodiversity, public health and sustainability. He emphasised the importance of the Kyoto Protocol, the Natura 2000 project, the REACH directive, and the need to better enforce existing EU environmental legislation.


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 18th, 2005 at 12:06:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
here's a good article from The Nation, published last December, that gives a pretty good explanation about REACH, and the politics behind it...

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20041227/schapiro

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Fri Nov 18th, 2005 at 05:16:34 AM EST
Thanks for posting that article.  It has one page on the cosmetic industry, which is where my interest in REACH started.  I am an environmentalist, so everything else is important to me.  But I don't actually know of any "ingredients" in a car besides steel.  I've been making my own natural, non-toxic cosmetics for years though and do know  the ramifications of the products on the supermarket shelf.  Having REACH in its full, original form will force the manufacturers to stop putting toxins and carcinogens in their products.  I know that deodorant is not the only cause of the increase in breast cancer, but I'm also certain that it has attributed to it.
by madrone on Fri Nov 18th, 2005 at 11:25:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, if I'm understanding everything correctly, our parliament members really have no say in what is brought before them for a vote.  The commission brings it to them and they either approve or it's dead.  So, if someone wanted to get REACH back to it's original state, they'd have to put pressure on the commission.  Now that it has been approved, would it be better to go about trying to eliminate the weaknesses one by one?  Because then industry wouldn't be as united?  Or will the whole thing have to be voted on again in parliament?  My original petition was to the parliament members activities division.  Since this is being talked about and maybe people are starting to care, should a petition go instead  to the commission?
by madrone on Fri Nov 18th, 2005 at 11:39:59 AM EST
Not quite right...

Legislative initiative rests with the Commission. The Commission usually develops new legislation in response to treaty obligations or to suggestions from interested parties, the Council or the Parliament.

However, legislation that is proposed by the Commission must be approved by the Parliament and the Council (think of the Council as being like the US Senate or the BundesRat in this capacity).

The Parliament can amend legislation. Reportedly over 1,000 amendments to REACH were introduced. The legislation might be strengthened again in a second reading, but there won't be a second reading if the Commission agrees to the Parliament's amended version.

The Parliament can vote its own non-binding resolutions demanding legislative action on the part of the Commission.

For the immediate future you need to lobby the French Minister(s) that will have to vote on REACH.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 18th, 2005 at 11:47:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
there won't be a second reading if the Commission agrees to the Parliament's amended version
Sorry, meant if the Council agrees.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 18th, 2005 at 11:49:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Madronne, have you read this summary of the amendments introduced by the Parliament, and do you have an opinion? I would humbly suggest a diary consisting of an annotated reading of this article.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 20th, 2005 at 05:39:16 PM EST


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