NGOs dismiss EU chemical industry dialogue

Green groups accuse Cefic of failing to discuss future EU chemicals policy in good faith

The body representing the European chemicals industry, Cefic, has been criticised by NGOs for failing to participate in a dialogue on the future of EU chemicals policy. Representatives of several environmental groups told ENDS Daily that a stakeholder meeting on Friday, organised by Cefic itself, was a lost opportunity because the organisation failed to offer its own vision of a chemicals policy that could be acceptable to industry while boosting environmental and consumer protection. This was the second such meeting to be organised by the organisation (ENDS Daily 7 December 1999).

"We don't know what will be in the [EU] chemicals white paper, but we still manage to be clear about what we want," one NGO source said. NGOs spelled this out in October (ENDS Daily 30 October), while Cefic outlined its own views in November (ENDS Daily 7 November).

The source added that Cefic had missed an opportunity to clarify its position on any number of contentious issues, including who should be responsible for assessing existing chemicals, deadlines for assessment and how much data should be required for each substance before it is declared safe.

Friday's meeting included speeches by Eva Hellsten, the official at the environment directorate of the European Commission who is in charge of chemicals policy, WWF and the European Environmental Bureau. Ms Hellsten challenged the chemicals industry to set out publicly its long-term vision of chemicals management.

* In a related development, work on overhauling EU chemicals policy continued last week, with a meeting between environment commissioner Margot Wallström and enterprise commissioner Erkki Liikanen. The aim of the discussion was to resolve differences in opinion and pave the way for final negotiations. Publication of a white paper outlining the Commission's proposal for a new chemicals policy has been delayed several times (ENDS Daily 6 June). An enterprise directorate spokesperson said today that the white paper would be ready for debate between commissioners by the end of January.

Follow Up:
Cefic, tel: +32 2 676 7211; European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111.

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