Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Business as usual

Despite the outcry, despite the opposition of most of the leading industries in Europe, despite the clear evidence of its damaging effect, not least to small and speciality businesses, the EU commission has decided to press ahead with its controversial REACH directive.

If approved, this will mean that chemical manufacturers and formulators will be required to carry out laborious "safety checks" on an estimated 30,000 chemicals used in products ranging from household cleaners to car parts, at costs upwards of €20,000 a time.

This marks the commission's response to the growing divide between jobs and industry on the one hand, and the environmental lobby on the other, with the Greenies still on the ascendancy. And despite entreaties from industry to withdraw the proposal, EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas was uncompromisingly blunt: "We are not going to do that," he said.

"There was speculation that the commission plans to withdraw the proposal, to rewrite it and resubmit it to the legislators. This speculation was unfounded," he added. "I am convinced that the commission's proposal already strikes the right balance between environmental and health protection, on the one hand, and the needs of a competitive industry on the other."

"Current chemicals legislation has failed to provide the necessary level of protection for human health and the environment," was his parting shot. "The competitiveness of the European industry will not change for the worse with REACH."

As we know, this is cloud-cuckoo land. Anyone who is under any illusions that the Barroso is running a "business-friendly" liberalising commission had better think again. For the commission, it is very much business as usual.

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