The Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2005URL (Internet address) : http://www.eu2005.lu/en/actualites/communiques/2005/05/12reach-cdp/
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REACH Workshop: the Presidency concludes that REACH constitutes less of a brake than an asset for competitiveness in Europe.
The Luxembourg Presidency, through a workshop that it organised in Luxembourg on May 10 and 11, has on one side attempted to dispel initial fears concerning the feasibility and implementation of REACH*, while presenting the proposal for regulation as a tool that fits in perfectly with the dynamics of the Lisbon Strategy on the other.
REACH "will give a push to competitiveness in Europe", declared the Minister for the Environment, Lucien Lux, during the press conference at the close of the workshop, held jointly with the Minister for the Economy and External Trade, Jeannot Krecké, in Luxembourg on 12 May 2005.
According to Lucien Lux, "the KPMG study, presented during the workshop, dispelled the fears and catastrophic scenarios depicted by some. We can, henceforth, exclude these scenarios that might follow the introduction of REACH. They will not take place." This study analysed several figurative cases by simulating the impacts of the REACH legislation on five sectors of industry. It came to the conclusion that the additional costs were negligeable.
Jeannot Krecké emphasised the exemplary nature of the proposal for regulation, which is one of the priorities of the Presidency. Its nature is exemplary since it involves two different Councils, the "Competitiveness" Council, and the "Environment" Council, as well as nine European Parliament commissions, but particularly because it "well illustrates sustainable growth in all its dimensions, such as is sought by the Lisbon Strategy: concern for health, the environment and for competitiveness." And Lucien Lux added: "It is not a matter of creating obstacles for industry, but the opposite. If we are to achieve sustainable growth and take the Lisbon Strategy seriously, we have here an instrument to balance these two."
Jeannot Krecké furthermore noted the innovative nature of the workshop organized by the Luxembourg Presidency. For the first time, such a workshop has brought together all the REACH stakeholders around the same table, namely; the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council, but also employers, NGO’s, as well as the unions. According to the president of the workshop, Dr André Weidenhaupt, it was a success: "Debates were frank, open and very constructive."
Jeannot Krecké then presented the principal objective of the Luxembourg Presidency for the REACH proposal, which is to negotiate a draft that is feasible for industry and which presents a real advance in environmental protection. This concern for feasibility applies first of all to small and medium-size businesses, whose difficulties adapting to new legislation are proportionately greater. Consequently, they will be assisted, trained and guided in their adaptation to REACH through national help desks. These help desks will supply specific information on the modalities, the methods and functioning, as well as the possibilities offered by REACH. Moreover, a lowering of the direct and indirect costs of registration will allow producers and importers to more easily meet the obligations of REACH.
Second priority for the Luxembourg Presidency, according to the two Ministers: avoid creating a large bureaucratic structure. "Thanks to the preparations of our Dutch friends, thanks to the work done by our Presidency and thanks to the unexpected results of our workshop we can submit conclusions to the two Councils involved. The proposal for regulation, on which we will most likely reach a political agreement at Council under British presidency, will be balanced and flexible. It will fit in perfectly with the objective which we talk about so often, but only rarely reach, namely, that of ‘better regulation’. It will be much more feasible than the initial proposal," observed Jeannot Krecké.
Lucien Lux, mentioned an added value of REACH in the area of the environment: substitution. "Where one substance can be replaced with another less dangerous one, it will have to be replaced."
Another innovation of REACH consists in putting the data concerning all chemical products currently on the market, at the disposal of the actors involved, rather than only for the chemical industry, as is the case now. According to Lucien Lux, REACH is a mark of real progress in the area of consumer protection.
Jeannot Krecké responded to the criticism that countries that are not members of the EU were not invited by the Luxembourg Presidency to the workshop: "Australia and the United States also would have liked to participate in the workshop. This is a good sign. Incidentally we were open to anyone that wanted to discuss with us, and we will remain so. But, given that this is an issue of European legislation, it is important and legitimate that we first of all try to reach a consensus among the 25 - which is already not an easy task. Notice of the draft REACH regulation has been sent to the World Trade Organization. Lucien Lux reiterated the message of his counterpart, emphasising "that a modern regulation of chemical products that focuses on health and environmental protection constitutes less of a brake than an asset for European competitiveness."
In conclusion, Jeannot Krecké declared: "The Luxembourg Presidency has put the REACH proposal on a new track. The fact that we have brought together all the parties involved around one table, and that there were open and constructive discussions constitutes a major advance on the road to a more competitive Europe."
*REACH is a proposal for an EU regulation seeking to subject all chemical products currently produced or imported into the EU to registration, evaluation, and, as a function of their toxicity, registration with the regulatory authorities and restrictions on substances that are of particular concern. This is in order to ensure both better protection of human health, and better protection of the environment.