The European Parliament Committee on International Trade (INTA) met on February 23 to discuss their draft report on the proposed regulation on conflict minerals. This meeting followed the public hearing held by the committee in December 2014.
The debate opened with the rapporteur, Iuliu Winkler, a Romanian member of the European Parliament (MEP) from the Christian Democrat parliamentary group (EPP), presenting his draft report on the regulation to the committee. MEPs were then invited to express their views and some conflicting opinions emerged. Mr. Winkler’s report reflected broad support for the proposed regulation. In particular, he approved the voluntary approach to certification and called for some changes to ensure cooperation of companies and efficiency of procedure. His report suggests that companies should be incentivized to comply with the self-certification system and a list of responsible importers should be drawn up and maintained by member states and the European Commission. This would provide visibility to complying companies and importers. Furthermore, Mr. Winkler stated that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) should be protected in the process and should be offered assistance so that they can easily comply with the system. Support for this approach was expressed by the conservative group (ECR), who favored a list of responsible importers and a voluntary approach, and the liberal group (ALDE) who endorsed the list approach and further called for a system that does not impair the competitiveness of European companies.
In contrast with these views, a representative from the Socialist group (S&D) criticized the voluntary nature of self-certification and stated that there are no incentives provided in the proposal for companies to change their procedures. She called for an obligatory reporting procedure extending throughout the supply chain which would ensure compliance of companies and assure consumers in the EU that their products are responsibly resourced. In support of this view, representatives from the far left party (GUE/NGL) favored a mandatory approach while the representative from the Green party called for a binding system that also encompasses manufactured goods. In this regard, the representative from ALDE emphasized the importance of binding legislation at EU level and called for a mandatory system for key players only, i.e. smelters and refiners.
The MEPs will now propose amendments to the draft report and these will be debated in the INTA committee meeting on March 19. The draft report will then be voted on between April 13 and 14. Following this vote, the draft report adopted by the committee will be voted on by the entire Parliament in their plenary session to take place between May 28 and 31. At this stage, should the draft proposal be approved, the European Council (made up of the member states) will begin their review of the draft proposal. The Council may adopt or propose amendments to the draft, which will become law only when both the Council and the Parliament have agreed on the final text.