MEPs throw lifeline to national ecolabels

EU scheme should not replace national labels unless criteria are "at least as strict"

The EU ecolabel scheme must not replace existing regional and national labels unless its criteria for any particular product category are at least as strict as theirs, the European Parliament said today.

Voted today as an amendment to the European Commission's proposal to revamp the EU scheme, the move could safeguard national and regional ecolabel schemes such as the Nordic Swan and the German Blue Angel, its proponents believe.

Nordic MEPs from across the political spectrum lobbied their colleagues to support the amendment. If accepted by the Council of Ministers, it will mean that EU scheme product criteria will have to be "at least as strict as the best national ecolabel scheme" before the EU can require national and regional schemes to withdraw existing labels for the same product group.

Under the Commission proposal, national schemes would be forced to withdraw labels that overlapped with the EU flower logo. The idea behind the plan is to progressively harmonise ecolabelling around the EU and prevent a potential proliferation of different ecolabel logos on the same products.

Defenders of the longer-established Nordic Swan scheme remain unconvinced by the EU ecolabel, which they say has still to prove its worth (ENDS Daily 22 April). Matti Jarvi at the Finnish ecolabelling agency SFS Ecolabelling, which works on the Nordic Swan label, was heartened by today's vote. "The Commission must think again about [its proposal] and not ban [national] ecolabelling schemes," he said.

Heidi Hautala, the Finnish Green MEP who tabled the amendment, was also optimistic about the chances of persuading the other institutions to accept the Parliament's opinion. She told ENDS Daily: "The Commission still firmly refuses to accept most amendments, it is now up to the Council of Ministers and there is quite lot of support for this within the Council."

As expected, the Parliament also voted against the Commission's plan to create a new independent agency to administer the EU scheme, saying that the Commission should retain management responsibility. MEPs oppose the idea of creating a new agency on grounds of cost and suggest that member states would be reluctant to fund the agency, especially if they already finance a national or regional scheme.

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: + 32 2 285 6111; European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111; European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111.

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