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Member states call on EU to accelerate chemicals policy measures

Organisation - European Commission © J Logan,

Environment and health ministers from ten countries have expressed "serious" concerns over potential delays in the implementation of EU chemicals policy initiatives, as the current Commission nears the end of its term in 2019.

The Commission is composed of a college of 28 commissioners, who comprise the political leadership team during a five-year term.

In its first four years, the ministers say, the current college has enabled EU and EEA states to "make progress on EU environmental policy, especially focusing on climate change and circular economy, which we intend to take forward ambitiously".

However, in a 27 July letter to the EU executive – obtained by Politico – the ten signees remind the Commission that the Council of Ministers has reiterated a number of times the need for specific initiatives and requested that it follow up on them.

In the letter, ministers from Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia and Sweden say they are "seriously concerned" about the potential delay to measures "foreseen to advance EU chemicals policy and that are also necessary to achieve a circular economy".

The initiatives are:

  • the strategy for a non-toxic environment (due this year). This includes horizontal measures announced in the 2015 Environment Action Programme (EAP) to ensure safety of manufactured nanomaterials; minimise exposure to EDCs; address combination effects of chemicals; and reduce exposure to hazardous chemicals in imported products;
  • the strategy on EDCs, which, they say, should minimise exposure beyond biocides and pesticides and include cosmetics, toys and food packaging;
  • the integrated product policy framework (due this year as part of the circular economy action plan); and
  • the strategic approach to pharmaceuticals in the environment (due back in 2015).

These are set against the backdrop of the 7th EAP. Adopted in 2013, this saw the EU agree to the safeguarding of health and the wellbeing of citizens – by strengthening EU chemicals policy –as one of its three main priorities.

"The sound management of chemicals is not only vital to protect our citizens and environment but also to strengthen EU competitiveness and innovation," the letter says.

It is a "challenging area", it adds, which "urgently" requires the development and enhancement of policy frameworks. While there has been "some progress made" in certain areas such as EDCs, the REACH Review and the REACH Annex for nanomaterials, "important gaps" remain. 

To achieve the 2020 goals and avoid any further delay, the ministers  urge the Commission to "facilitate the swift development of EU policy and present these proposals" during the EU executive’s current term.

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