Chances of early Reach agreement get dimmer

The chances of the European parliament agreeing its first-reading position on the EU's Reach chemicals revision before summer elections have receded almost to nothing after it emerged the issue will no longer be discussed by the assembly's environment committee next week.

Parliamentary sources say committee chairman Caroline Jackson has intervened to delay discussion of proposed amendments tabled by Italian rapporteur Guido Sacconi. She reportedly feels that MEPs have not had long enough to study them.

Her decision has angered Mr Sacconi's fellow Socialist and Green MEPs who wanted a prompt start to debate. An aide to the rapporteur said he would probably ask MEPs to start discussing the mammoth regulation on 27 January, the next available opportunity.

Were this to happen, then parliament might be able to finalise its position at its last full pre-election plenary in April. But Mr Sacconi and his supporters seem resigned to defeat, complaining that the assembly's big centre-right EPP political group does not want a vote before summer.

An autumn first reading would delay the whole process of finalising Reach. It would also introduce significant new uncertainty over its eventual shape since MEPs from the ten accession states joining the EU in May would participate fully.

The situation is further complicated by a row brewing between the environment committee and its sister industry and legal affairs committees. All are claiming they should have lead responsibility for the dossier.

The dispute echoes a similar tussle within parliament over who should lead debate on the environmental liability directive, as well as developments on Reach in the EU council of ministers. Here, lead responsibility was taken away from environment ministers and given to industry ministers in the competitiveness council.

Ms Jackson is battling to retain lead responsibility for Reach. In a letter to parliament president Pat Cox, which has been seen by Environment Daily, she argues the case hard, pointing out that debate on all previous chemicals legislation - plus the European Commission's Reach white paper - were handled through her committee.

Republished with permission from Environment Daily



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