EU Commission accused of anti-industry "green policies"

By Kirsty Barnes

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European commission European union

The European Commission continues to be accused by European
industry of pushing 'green policies' that are stifling progress and
global competitiveness - the controversial REACH chemicals
legislation remains a sore point.

These concerns were most recently raised at a workshop in Brussels this month, attended by politicians and manufacturers from a wide range of industries in Europe, run by the Alliance for a Competitive European Industry (Alliance).

The Alliance is currently putting pressure on the European Union (EU) legislative institutions and Member States to ensure swift implementation of concrete measures to strengthen the long-term competitiveness of industry, and in turn the economy, in the EU.

"We all know that a strong and healthy manufacturing industry is essential to achievein full the EU's potential for growth. There is no reason why our economies should lag behind those of our main trading partners,"​ said Alliance chairman Jean-Marie Chandelle.

"Now words have to be translated into deeds. European industry and the EU legislative institutions must work together to ensure that the European Union remains an attractive place for industrial investment and job creation."

At the workshop, a number of delegates spoke up against the European Commission's perceived lean towards green and how this is damaging industry.

"Currently environmental groups are the ones steering European legislation,"​ said Hungarian MEP Edit Herczog.

"The industry needs to take action and do more to influence politicians, while at the same time improve its public image, because currently for a politician, being industry-friendly is a suicide route."

"While this situation continues, it is spelling out economic suicide for the European economy," added Ivan Hodac, secretary general of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA).

When challenged on how to overcome these problems, Heinz Zourek, the European Commission's Enterprise and Industry director-general said that the industry could do more by improving the way they communicate and providing more reliable and transparent information, pointing to the example of the controversial REACH chemicals legislation.

"The industry's view on the REACH regulation was represented only by the chemical industry, which has a bad reputation, and was considered to be overly aggressive and one-sided in their interests,"​ said Zourek.

"Downstream users spoke out far too late, which is why the industry failed to influence MEPs."

Indeed, it appears the industry has learnt a costly lesson.

The approval of the REACH legislation remains a major sticking point throughout many European industry sectors, particularly the chemicals industry, who fiercly criticise the European Commission of pandering to environmental group minorities at the expense of innovation, competitiveness and viability throughout European businesses.

Last month, the Chemical Business Association (CBA), formerly known as the British Chemical Distributors and Traders Association (BCDTA), announced that it believes the industry's worst fears about the financial burden that REACH will impose on smaller and medium-sized firms (SMEs) appear to be justified.

The claim followed the European Commission's release of the draft budget for the European Chemicals Agency (ECA), which will have the task of managing the technical, scientific and administrative aspects of REACH.

The CBA said its analysis of fees payable by the industry to the ECA under the REACH legislation reveals some major increases.

"This level of cost increases is indefensible and make a nonsense of the pious noises made by politicians and Commission officials about preserving the competitiveness of one of Europe's most successful industries and protecting SMEs from these damaging costs,"​ said Melvyn Whyte, Chairman of CBA's REACH Task Force.

Furthermore, the CBA pointed out that the estimated cost for establishing the ECA in Helsinki - one of the most expensive cities in the world - has more than doubled from €359m to €1,189m.

"The Commission maintains that many of the additional costs have resulted from the extra responsibilities imposed on the Agency by political decisions. This may well be, but the fact of life remains that the chemical industry is being asked to pick up the tab for these decisions - which will only serve to erode the competitiveness of the sector and damage SMEs,"​ said Whyte.

"In addition, the Commission also admits that Helsinki represents the equivalent of a 'green field' site and that 'no synergies are possible with existing institutions'. On balance, the decision to base the ECA in Helsinki appears to be a masterful piece of strategic planning."

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