EU electroscrap proposal on hold again

Internal Commission dispute over legal base delays adoption of draft directive

The adoption of draft EU rules on the treatment of waste electrical and electronic equipment has been delayed yet again as internal European Commission tussles continue, it emerged today. The item has been removed from the agenda of tomorrow's meeting of the full college of commissioners. It is now scheduled for adoption next week but could easily slip further.

A meeting of senior aides to commissioners yesterday failed to find agreement on the major remaining point of issue in the proposal - plans by the environment directorate to ban some heavy metals and flame retardants in product manufacture. The dispute now centres on the legal basis which will be used to propose the directive and the resulting degree of freedom that member states will have to implement stronger national provisions should they wish.

The Commission's enterprise directorate - which has been sympathetic to industry opposition to substances bans - is arguing that the directive should be based on the article 95 of the EU treaty. This article is used to create harmonised standards extending the EU's internal market. Under it, member states wanting to impose more stringent substance bans than proposed in the directive, by limiting exemptions from the ban or extending it to other substances, would have to justify their actions and receive Commission consent before taking the move.

The environment directorate, meanwhile, is insisting that article 175 of the treaty - the environmental protection article - be used. On this basis the directive's provisions would act only as minimum requirements, with member states free to impose stricter measures if they wanted.

The Commission's legal service has now been asked to provide a opinion on the appropriate base for the proposal. A meeting of aides will consider the service's views before a full Commission meeting in Strasbourg next Tuesday. The environment directorate's case is bound to be strengthened by the recent finalisation under article 175 of the end-of-life vehicles directive, which contains bans on much the same substances targeted under the draft electroscrap proposal.

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

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