November 18, 2005

UK sets date for EU chemicals deal

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Britain, holder of the European Union
presidency, said on Friday it will hold a special meeting of EU
ministers on December 19 to try to reach agreement on a new
chemicals law after Germany won a delay of the decision.

The move comes one day after the European Parliament voted
in favor of the bill on Registration, Evaluation and
Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH), designed to make companies
prove that substances used in everyday products such as cars,
computers, detergents or paint are safe.

EU member states must also agree a version of the law, but
Germany, home of Europe's largest chemicals industry, succeeded
in delaying a decision among competitiveness ministers
scheduled for November 28/29 to give its new government time to
settle in.

Some environmentalists have speculated that the delay was a
tactic to further water down the bill. Britain has repeatedly
said it wants an agreement this year.

"Parliament's vote yesterday indicates that there is
considerable momentum on this dossier," a British spokeswoman
said. "The presidency hopes to capitalize on that momentum and
reach political agreement at the 19th of December
competitiveness council."

Under REACH, the properties of roughly 30,000 chemicals
produced or imported in the European Union would have to be
registered with a central agency. Those of highest concern,
such as carcinogens, would require authorization to be used.