EU Commission bites back on PVC research

Bjerregaard's office rebukes industry group over prediction that studies will find PVC "innocent"

The European Commission has hit back at the PVC industry for claiming that forthcoming EU research studies will "exonerate" the controversial plastic (ENDS Daily 13 April). Peter Jørgensen, spokesman for acting environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard, said yesterday that it was "completely irresponsible and totally misleading" for industry association ECVM to have drawn any conclusions from studies that had not yet been completed.

Mr Jørgensen was responding to comments made by ECVM director, John Svalander, on Monday. Briefing journalists, Mr Svalander said he believed the Commission's research would find in PVC's favour and show there was no need for drastic new regulations to restrict its use. Mr Svalander implied he had seen drafts of the research - due to be completed later this year - and that the evidence gathered so far was looking good for his industry. He challenged the Commission to publish all the results, suggesting that it might otherwise selectively release information pointing towards a need for tougher regulation.

Mr Jørgensen condemned the suggestion that the Commission would hide positive results, saying he found it "extremely unfortunate that the PVC industry puts into question the objectivity and independence of the work initiated by the Commission".

The research - five studies in all - is intended to form the basis for any future proposals the Commission might make on new regulations on PVC. Ms Bjerregaard launched the so-called horizontal approach to PVC after being defeated in an attempt to include restrictions on the plastic in the Commission's proposed end-of-life vehicles directive (ENDS Daily 14 July 1997). Mr Jørgensen underlined yesterday that the studies had been commissioned "due to the concerns of the Commission related to the use of PVC".

A Commission official told ENDS Daily that the draft reports were strictly confidential and that no drafts had been circulated outside the research bodies or the Commission itself. The ECVM today clarified its position, admitting that it has not, in fact, seen any of the drafts.

On whether or not the reports would eventually be made public, once completed, the Commission official said that reports of this kind were usually published, but that this was at the discretion of the Commission. "Any report commissioned by the Commission is property of the Commission and it can decide at any time to do what it wants [with it]," he said.

ECVM's Jean-Pierre De Grève said that although the Commission was not obliged to publish the research, he felt sure it would do so because of the public interest. "A lot of people - especially MEPs - are waiting for the horizontal initiative, and there is no reason not to publish," he said.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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