Uncertainty reigns in EU chemicals dispute

European court of justice advisor side-steps plea to clarify rules on dangerous substance controls

The perennial battle between maintaining the EU's single market and member states' rights to impose tough controls on chemicals going beyond EU restrictions has been thrust back into the limelight by a legal opinion issued in the European court of justice.

In a dispute with the European Commission, the Netherlands is challenging an EU measure extending the right of Sweden and Austria to maintain stricter controls on cadmium than specified under the EU's 1976 directive on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations. Originally granted in 1995 when the two countries joined the EU, the derogations were extended in 1999 by a further four years to December 2002.

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