EP disrupts Commission’s criteria on endocrine disruptors

Here we go again! Another chapter has been added to the endless saga: the European Parliament’s Environment (ENVI) Committee opposed the Commission’s proposal on endocrine disruptors on 28 September.

The Motion for a Resolution, co-signed S&D-Greens, was adopted by 36 votes to 26 and objected to the draft criteria for identifying endocrine disrupting properties in pesticides (Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009). The vote occurred after a particularly vivid and interesting session of the ENVI Committee.

The co-rapporteurs considered the Commission’s proposal a breach to the Rule of Law by the Commission. By presenting their draft Motion, the two MEPs cleverly avoided entering into any details of the actual criteria and preferred urging their colleagues in the ENVI Committee not to be simplistically pragmatic: the criteria 'are not legally sound’ - MEP Guteland stated.

Echoing the European Parliament’s Legal Service, the co-rapporteurs considered that, by introducing a derogation to the criteria for non-target organisms (point 3.8.2 in Annex II), the Commission created a loophole and exceeded its mandate. In their view, this derogation would be an essential element of the Regulation, and not simply a technical provision, and therefore should have been examined through the co-decision procedure (instead of the used ‘regulatory procedure with scrutiny’). Thus, the draft Motion focused on the concept that the Commission was not delivering scientific criteria, as required, but arbitrarily regulating certain substances with endocrine disrupting properties.

In the other court, the timid stroke made by MEP Girling – that is a legal opinion is not law - did not exactly deliver an ace. And the same went for the intervention of the Commission’s official, who reminded the assembly about the opposite conclusion reached by the Commission’s Legal Service without any success.

All in all, with many opinions existing on the Commission’s proposal (see previous article), the S&D-Greens duo made ENVI MEPs play on the field of polity, instead of on the policy. ‘We do have our views on the criteria, but is the Commission violating its powers?’ - MEP Eickhout rhetorically asked the assembly - ’This is about the Rule of Law!’ - he continued.

MEP Guteland further called on ENVI Members not to follow the Commission’s concern that time was running out: it was the Commission that has cumulated delays in proposing these criteria, she told them, despite the General Court of the European Union’s 2015 Judgement (Sweden v. Commission), and therefore it should not be the European Parliament’s turn (to pay). In her view, the Commission’s faults should not make the European Parliament a hostage, forcing de facto the co-legislator to accept the proposal in a rush.

To be fair, the policy-element was indeed mentioned during the discussions, but very briefly and only evoked through adjectives or short sentences. While objecting MEPs clearly referred to the criteria as ’not good enough’, ‘weak’, and ‘not able to adequately protect citizens’ health nor the environment’, the entire assembly agreed that the Commission’s proposal ‘is far from being perfect’. This common idea therefore reinforced the objectors and reduced the approving team (mainly composed by EPP and ECR MEPs) to a merely defensive position, their main argument focussing on the necessity to adopt criteria for endocrine disruptors as soon as possible. 

Some pragmatic reasonings were nonetheless given: MEP Delahaye emphasised that adopting these criteria would ensure citizens’ health and guarantee innovation, MEP Gieseke pointed to the fact that this proposal was the conclusion of long and intense negotiations and therefore the best that could be achieved for the time being, and the Commission’s official again reminded MEPs about the review clause introduced in Art. 3, that would allow further developing the criteria in the future. However, their arguments were not really taken into consideration by the ENVI Committee, clearly supportive of the Motion for a Resolution objecting the Commission’s proposal. 

The match is not over yet: the next set is to be played at the Wednesday plenary session, when MEPs will be invited to formally adopt the Motion for a Resolution. Later, eyes should be turned to the match on the draft criteria under the Biocidal Products Regulation, which risks ending with similar results - sorry for the spoiler.

 

To be continued