On 17 April 2018, the European Commission published a proposal for a Regulation (the “Proposal”) on the marketing and use of explosive precursors. The Proposal has for objective to address the use of home-made explosives in terrorist attacks in Europe over the recent years. 

The Commission proposed to add new chemicals, such as nitric acid, hydrogen peroxide, sodium chlorate, potassium chlorate, and perchlorate, to the list of banned substances which could be used for the manufacture of home-made explosives. The Proposal applies both to substances obtained in brick-and-mortar shops as well as from online retailers or via online market platforms. The new framework will bring to an end the registration systems introduced by some Member States which allow “members of the general public” to register purchases of some restricted substances upon presentation of an ID card and which are considered as insufficient from a security point of view. 

Moreover, under the Proposal, Member States may adopt a mandatory licensing system for the purchase of a limited number of restricted substances which could have a legitimate use. Member States will verify the legitimacy of license requests and conduct a pre-authorization security screening, including a criminal record check of individuals. Businesses will be imposed the obligation to report any suspicious transaction within 24 hours. A transaction is to be considered “suspicious” when aiming at acquiring regulated explosives precursors in quantities, combinations or concentrations uncommon for “legitimate” use, and also when the substance or mixture could seem to be intended for the illicit manufacture of explosives. Member States will have to ensure that the competent national bodies and agencies are granted the necessary investigative powers. 

The Proposal also maintains the existing provisions that national authorities may impose effective and dissuasive penalties as well as the so called “safeguard clause” under which Member States may introduce further restrictions by lowering the concentration limits defined in Annex I to the Regulation. The Commission may request the Member State(s) concerned to withdraw such restrictions, if it finds such measures not to be justified. The Commission will regularly update guidelines to assist the chemical supply chains and national authorities upon consultation with a specialized committee of experts. 

Member States will also provide training for law enforcement, first responders and customs authorities to recognize regulated explosives precursors substances and mixtures and to react in a timely and appropriate manner. At least twice a year, Member States will have to organize awareness-raising actions, adapted to the specifics of sectors and businesses using regulated explosives precursors.

The Proposal also provides that the Commission must carry out an evaluation of the new Regulation and report on the main findings six years after the date of application of the new Regulation.