NGO criticizes Belgian exports of dangerous chemicals, in light of European legislative overhaul
According to the NGO Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), Belgium continues to export “dangerous and banned products” and must “take responsibility itself and stop allowing these toxic products to be exported”. As the European Commission presented its work programme for 2023 on Tuesday, it became clear that the Commission will not propose a revision of REACH, the regulation on all chemicals, until the last quarter of next year. Critics say this delay might endanger, or further delay, the adoption of stricter legislation altogether.
The previously announced update of the REACH regulation will likely not be proposed before the end of 2023, while earlier there was talk of spring 2023 or even the end of 2022. The REACH legislation applies in principle to all chemical substances and should protect humans and the environment from their hazards while maintaining the competitiveness of the European chemical industry.
Updated legislation might also apply to insecticides whose use is banned in the European Union (because they are too dangerous for public health) but which are produced for export to third countries. Belgium, however, still exports large amounts of these products, Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) laments. For instance, our country is said to export more than 44 per cent of all neonicotinoids (a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine, ed.) produced in Europe. Those insecticides are particularly harmful to bees and, according to the NGO, are exported to countries where environmental protection and workers’ rights are much weaker than in Europe. CEO draws attention to agribusiness company Syngenta’s production site in Seneffe, Wallonia, from which large quantities of the insecticide thiamethoxam (a neonicotinoid) are exported to Brazil.
"Europe must ban these exports, but Belgium must also take responsibility itself and, as France did before"
But other “dangerous and banned products” are also exported from our country too, for example, Ukraine, Honduras, Bangladesh and Ecuador. “Europe must ban these exports, but Belgium must also take responsibility itself and, as France did before, stop allowing these toxic products to be exported”, CEO concludes.
Earlier this year, the EU Commission launched a public consultation on the planned revision of the REACH regulation, which aims to achieve a toxin-free environment as part of the European Green Deal. Europe is committed to a “sustainability strategy” in which people and the environment are even better protected and innovation should lead to safe and sustainable alternatives.
According to the co-chair of the Green Group in the European Parliament, Belgian Philippe Lamberts, the delay has everything to do with the pressure the EPP Group (European People's Party Group) has put on the Commission and its president Ursula von der Leyen – herself of EPP signature. In doing so, the EPP allegedly wants to safeguard the industry from new rules. However, says Lamberts, “a review of European legislation on chemicals is an indispensable element of the president’s own stated goal of a zero pollution vision for the European Union”.
Asked for a reason for the postponement, a Commission spokesperson said that the revision of REACH legislation requires “thorough preparation and questioning”.
EPP leader Manfred Weber, on the other hand, is happy with the postponement. “We also asked for this”, he said in parliament on Wednesday morning, “but for the EPP this is still not enough. The Commission must understand that we risk losing our industry.”
Asked for a reason for the postponement, a Commission spokesperson said Wednesday afternoon that the revision of REACH legislation requires “thorough preparation and questioning”. The timing set by the Commission for future legislation is always indicative, spokesman Adalbert Jahnz said, “but as soon as it is ready, commissioner Maros Sefcovic will not hesitate to submit it”.
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