The European Commission’s legislative proposal for a European approach on conflict minerals has been delayed. The EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht had, earlier this year, promised a proposal for an “effective but reasonable” EU system to encourage responsible sourcing of minerals produced in what he called “conflict areas” before the end of the year.
No reason for the delay has been given, but it is believed that the impact assessment report, which must be finalized before any legislative proposal can be brought, has been rejected by the college of Commissioners. According to Judith Sargentini, Member of European Parliament (“MEP”), “the impact assessment was ready but was deemed not enough.” The reason for its rejection remains undisclosed although it is speculated that the hard lobbying of policymakers by German mineral extraction firms may have had an impact.
De Gucht has previously stated that the Commission’s focus would be on the narrowest point of the supply chain – smelters — with incentives to upstream suppliers to carry out due diligence. The Commissioner has also stressed the need for the EU approach to be compatible with the US Dodd-Frank Act, which industry groups argue is too burdensome on businesses resulting in a de-facto trade embargo of targeted regions. Furthermore, the Commissioner has hinted that the geographical scope of any future EU rules on conflict minerals would be wider than that of the US conflict minerals rule.
The Trade directorate (which is responsible for the impact assessment) will now, in the words of Judith Sargentini MEP, “have to their homework again.” The Commission is expected to present its impact assessment into the new conflict minerals law by the end of 2013 but no proposal is now likely to be adopted until February or March 2014 at the earliest.