Reach talks "set to move to political phase"

The way is clear for EU member states to start political negotiations on the Reach chemical policy reform after competitiveness ministers agreed this week that enough economic impact assessment work had been done, the Luxembourg EU presidency says.

"I think that with 50 impact studies, the time has come...for the council to...reach political decisions with a view to increasing the feasibility and viability of Reach," industry minister Jeannot Krecké said after a ministerial meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.

The ministers' decision to move to the negotiation phase of Reach talks follows an informal meeting of member state experts last week that came to similar conclusions.

It is significant because competitiveness (essentially industry) ministers are perceived to be more cautious on Reach than their environment counterparts. At their last meeting in November 2004, several ministers had wanted to delay political talks until more impact assessments were completed.

Political haggling could now begin around September, when the council is expected to complete a line-by-line reading of the Reach regulation, by then under the chairmanship of the UK. A formal political agreement could emerge by the end of the year, taking into account the European parliament's first-reading opinion, which is also expected by then.

At this week's council meeting, ministers debated the role of the future European chemicals agency in the Reach regime. The exchanges revolved around a French proposal to give the agency a much stronger role in deciding the "rolling plan" under which registered substances will be evaluated.

Ministers agreed that some centralisation of evaluation decision was needed, but want a mechanism that allows national bodies to influence the rolling plan. "The French proposal was warmly accepted, but almost all member states want some role for national authorities," a Luxembourg presidency official told Environment Daily.

Republished with permission of Environment Daily



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