Degussa:EU Chemicals Policy Puts Europe at a Disadvantage


Degussa AG of Dusseldorf, Germany, fears that the planned EU harmonization of chemicals policy regulations will disadvantage global competitiveness and innovative ability. As Dr. Thomas Schoeneberg, Degussa Board of Management member and Human Resources Director, explains: "We are concerned that some of the planned measures will result in massive disadvantages for chemicals companies operating in Europe as compared to competitors from countries such as the US and Japan." He continued that Degussa has always advocated the introduction of regulations that are more efficient and more appropriate, stating, "For this reason we understand and support the processes proposed in the White Book as a first step towards achieving uniform chemicals regulations for the whole of the EU". But, as he pointed out, they should not result in distortion of competition, and should require harmonization of all material- or product-related measures related to consumer protection, occupational safety, and environmental protection. "Only a uniform overall concept will avoid double material classifications, as in water and waste legislation, over the long term,” said Schoeneberg at a press briefing held to publicize the new Degussa's first environmental report.

As a consequence of its strategic focus on specialty chemicals, Schoeneberg remarked, Degussa would be particularly affected by the currently envisaged contents of the White Book. The proposals presented by the EU Commission in February of this year are geared towards unified registration, evaluation and approval of all produced chemicals, regardless of whether they are chemical substances marketed before 1981 or more recent ones. Fixed deadlines are proposed for registration and evaluation, and all chemicals are to be classified by quantity and application type. As Schoeneberg pointed out, responsibility for this would be borne by the manufacturer, the processor or the user, and the input required per material for the respective data gathering and evaluation would have a direct impact on profitability, particularly in Degussa Business Units mainly producing small and medium quantities of chemical materials. "This threatens our innovative ability and the attractiveness of Europe as an industrial center," he explained. He also criticized the White Book for failing to make statements about the economic and social impact of the new European chemicals policy.

The Degussa Works Council and the company's Executives' Representative Body warn against the consequences for the market situation and employment. Dr. Peter Weber, chairman of the Executives' Representative Body, fears that the prohibition-minded EU policy would encourage the shift of jobs into European countries outside the EU. Ralf Blauth, Works Council chairman, adds: "This is something that the members of the Degussa works council will not accept. We urgently call for correction of the European chemicals policy."

Degussa argues in favor of aligning all the envisaged regulations to the value-added chain—from the manufacturer to the processor and formulator to the user—in a pragmatic approach. As it points out, the planned approval process for highly hazardous materials, such as carcinogens, deviates from the rest of the White Book in that it would require a separate permit for every single application involving such an environmentally critical substance. Degussa perceives this proposal as entailing a disproportionately high amount of bureaucratic effort and thus as a threat to the competitiveness and innovative ability of the European chemical industry, taking the viewpoint that regulations in countries outside Europe are simpler and more efficient.

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