EEE plan "launches EU product policy fight"

Enterprise, environment, departments at loggerheads over who should control IPP

The proposal by the European Commission's industrial affairs department for an electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) directive (see separate article, today's issue) is an audacious bid to wrest power from the environment directorate in the emerging field of integrated product policy (IPP), rather than a competitor to the environment directorate's waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) directive, according to sources in Brussels.

One said it was "not a real draft proposal" but a "trial for discussion" between the two departments over future legislative proposals in the context of IPP. The enterprise directorate is aiming to capture product policy making while leaving waste management policies with the environment directorate, they say.

Following pioneering efforts by countries such as Denmark (ENDS Daily 14 January 1999), the EU has been planning to develop its own approach to IPP since a European Commission seminar in late 1998 (ENDS Daily 9 December 1998). IPP is seen as a more integrated way of reducing the environmental impacts of product systems over their entire life-cycles, with a special emphasis on upstream elements such as eco-design and in-use impacts.

EU governments began debating an EU-level IPP following the 1998 seminar (ENDS Daily 10 May 1999) and Sweden recently promised to make IPP a focus of its EU presidency in the first half of next year (ENDS Daily 13 January). The Commission's environment department is due to publish a much delayed green paper on IPP by June.

Mr Liikanen's initiative will open a debate with Ms Wallström's department on issues such as standards to be adhered to in manufacturing and the use of life-cycle analyses in product design. In the immediate future the thorniest issue will be whether substance bans in product manufacture should fall under waste or product management. Ms Wallström passionately believes it should be the former, while industry argues the latter and is being backed by Mr Liikanen.

Here, the focus is likely to return to the WEEE directive, which includes controversial proposals to ban mercury, lead, cadmium hexavalent chromium and two brominated flame retardants by 2004. Industry says this is unrealistic and is using all its influence to water down the proposal. Though Mr Liikanen's plan does not specify what should be done, industry believes his department is likely to be more receptive to its views.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111.

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