CHEMICALS : NEW PROPOSAL ON TRADE IN DANGEROUS PRODUCTS.
The European Commission has presented a proposal for a regulation on imports and exports of dangerous chemicals - COM(2006)745 - aiming to transpose into Community law the provisions of the Rotterdam Convention, which enshrines the so-called prior informed consent (PIC) procedure. This proposal is accompanied by a report on the functioning of the existing regulation EC 304/2003 coveringthe period 2003-2005.
The report outlines the regulation's main provisions, the responsibilities falling on member states and the industry and reviews how procedures have been applied. It emphasises the need to introduce closer collaboration as well as regular exchange of information between designated national authorities. While the procedures outlined are broadly speaking functioning well, the report nevertheless highlights some imprecision in certain provisions, notably the wording of Article 17 of the regulation on the specific obligations of exporters and the need to provide appropriate tools to assist customs authorities in controlling exports and imports. It also emphasises difficulties highlighted by the member states regarding the PIC procedure, notably in obtaining swift responses from importer countries, and calls for further clarification of the scope of rules on export notifications.
International trade in dangerous chemicals has been governed since 24 February 2004 by the Rotterdam Convention on the basis of the PIC procedure. The Convention has been implemented at Community level through Regulation EC 304/2003 of 28 January 2003. This regulation was repealed on 10 January 2006 by the EU Court of Justice, which nevertheless ruled that it should continue to apply until such time as the new regulation is adopted.
The Court was called to settle the dispute between the Commission and the Council over the legal basis applicable in this area: the Commission based its proposal on Article 133 (trade policy) whereas the Council, backed up by the European Parliament, adopted the regulation solely on the basis of Article 175 (environment policy,co-decision procedure).
The Court ruled that commercial policy and environmental protection aspects constitute the regulation's primary goals and are "intimately linked". It states in its judgement cancelling EC Regulation 304/2003 that a new regulation should be adopted "based on the two legal bases, namely Articles 133 CE and 175(1) EC". The proposed new regulation meets this requirement and makes a number of technical modifications to the current provision.