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Welcoming speech by André Weidenhaupt, President of the Luxembourg Presidency Workshop on REACH, 10 May 2005

Date of Speech : 10-05-2005

Place : Luxembourg Kirchberg (Cour des Comptes européenne)

Speaker : Dr. André Weidenhaupt

Policy area : Competitiveness (Internal market, Industry and Research) Competitiveness (Internal market, Industry and Research)

Event : Luxembourg Presidency REACH Workshop

Madam Member of Parlament,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great honour to welcome you to Luxembourg this afternoon for our Workshop on REACH, which brings together today and tomorrow the principal actors in the debate on reform of the European legislation on chemical substances (REACH). This closed workshop has an important place in the REACH working programme of the Luxembourg Presidency: it is crucial to our work both on the legislative text within the Ad Hoc Group, which has made great progress up to now, and in the preparation of the two Councils in June, Competitiveness and Environment.

It goes without saying that REACH is among the priorities of the Luxembourg Presidency, because it is an important example of what the new type of European policy will be within the framework of the Lisbon process, based on an integrated and balanced approach between the three dimensions of sustainable development of our economies - environmental protection, social cohesion and competitiveness. I am convinced that it is only through this future European industry, which is based on the development and use of chemical products that protect both the environment and the health of workers and consumers, that we will be able to achieve a long-term sustainable industry, which will quite obviously contribute to economic development.

The main concern of the Luxembourg Presidency regarding REACH is to arrive at a balanced, flexible and practical REACH at all levels, with no excessive bureaucracy, both at the level of enterprises and at the level of national and European public administrations, while guaranteeing a high level of environmental and health protection. Such a REACH will be a success for Europe because the risks of jobs being transferred abroad will be reduced, and thus employment rates will be maintained. This customised REACH will allow, through the WTO, to reduce any possible social or environmental dumping and will serve as a global example.

The Luxembourg Presidency is convinced that these ambitions can be achieved by uniting all the actors involved in this complex REACH project. At European Parliament level, the public hearing on REACH in January 2005 was a good example. Following the example of our predecessors, the Dutch Presidency, we have decided to continue this tradition, if I may say so, at Council level, and to invite all of you to this inter-institutional workshop. Of course, it is a little unusual to mix together these two lawmaking bodies, that is the Council, represented by the Member States present today, the three principal parliamentary rapporteurs, the Commission, the European Economic and Social Committee and the principal actors, which are industry, the environmental NGOs and the labour representatives, and have them work together. Nevertheless, we are convinced that at Presidency level this mixture will create a favourable climate so that our workshop can become a true think tank. And recent press releases from Commissioners Verheugen and Dimas bear this out.

As I just said, our workshop is based on the foundations laid at the Hague in October 2004. The analysis of 36 impact studies made it possible to draw conclusions and to address the recommendations of the Ministers which were discussed during the Competitiveness and Environment Councils at the end of 2004. In that connection, it is a matter of improving the cost/efficiency ration of REACH, especially for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), of studying additional means of improving the beneficial effects and reducing costs and redoubling efforts to facilitate access to the legislative and regulatory provisions of REACH and of promoting the preparation of its implementation as quickly as possible. Based on this work, certain Member States have prepared concrete proposals for improving the practicability of REACH, especially for the SMEs. I would ask of you at this stage that you be guided by our concern to ensure that these improvements will be made in areas where they are most feasible, without jeopardising the existing political agreement on the European strategy for sustainable development.

Some of these proposals will be discussed during our workshop, such as:

- the Hungarian-British “OSOR�? approach (One substance – one registration),

- a Swedish approach for the efficient and practicable obligations for registering the substances in the articles (Art. 6 of the REACH proposal) and

- the alternative Malta-Slovenia approach for the registration and the evaluation of low-volume substances.

All of these proposals are a logical follow-up to the work within the Council under the Irish and Dutch Presidencies and all of them affect the area of registration, which has recently been the subject of heated discussion. These proposals are met with a certain sympathy within the Council, but it was and is a matter of studying the details to make them practicable.

The discussions that we will have tomorrow should contribute to increasing the understanding and practicability and will be considered when the final draft is being prepared between the legislators in codecision, which should consider their respective merits, which are:

- the joint submission of data to avoid the duplication of useless tests and to put into place a level field for all enterprises, while guaranteeing respect for competitiveness and confidentiality, which is the principal concern of OSOR,

- protecting consumers as regards substances in (imported) products and maintaining European competitiveness, which is the concern of the Swedish proposal, and

- prioritising the setting up of a practical regime for the registration of some 20,000 low-volume substances, of which a large portion are specialised substances, which is the principal concern of Malta and Slovenia.

Before undertaking the work of improving the proposal, we will examine today the follow-up to the work of evaluating the impact of REACH, such as

- the KPMG study on supply chains in the chemicals, automobile, flexible packaging and inorganic (metals, cement, paper and pulp, etc.) and electronics sectors.

- the IPTS study giving a general survey of the situation in the new Member States and

- the REACH impact study of the textile sector by the DG Enterprise.

While the different press releases issued after the High Level Group meeting diverge slightly as regards the conclusions drawn in the meeting, I am nevertheless reassured to know that REACH is acceptable to enterprises, provided that the final REACH proposal is practicable.

With a view to concluding with a mutual understanding of the probable effects of the REACH proposal, we considered it useful to invite the Commission to submit the results of the new impact study conducted within the framework of the memorandum of understanding between the Commission and industry, and to which the NGOs are linked through the high-level group. This common base is necessary for the vital work of the Parliament and the Council, which involves finding areas where there is potential for improvement. In this respect, the Luxembourg Presidency has noted with satisfaction that Commissioners Verheugen and Dimas expressed their willingness to modify its text by taking into consideration the alternative proposals aimed at improving the efficiency of the REACH package.

Therefore, may I without delay call upon your creativity and commitment in order to bring about a win-win situation in which the favourable effects of REACH in the area of protection of the environment and the health of workers and consumers may multiply without increasing costs, and where the costs may be lowered without weakening environmental and human-health protection.  It is in this spirit that I wish great success for the “Luxembourg Presidency Workshop on REACH�?. I hope you all enjoy the workshop.

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This page was last modified on : 12-05-2005

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