MEPs split over conflict minerals legislation

The European parliament is divided on the impact of EU proposals to halt the trade in raw materials from conflict zones.

By James O'Brien

14 Apr 2015

MEPs have passed a legislative proposal aimed at eliminating the risk of EU businesses inadvertently financing the conflict mineral and metal trade.

The draft legislation establishes criteria for EU companies involved in the trade of certain minerals and metals must adhere to should they wish to declare themselves "responsible importers".

"We absolutely have to keep in mind that everything we put in place will not alone solve the issue of conflict minerals" - Marielle de Sarnez, ALDE group

Members of parliament's international trade (INTA) committee approved the text by 22 votes to 16, with two abstentions, following a compromise reached between the EPP, ECR and ALDE groups.

Iuliu Winkler, parliament's rapporteur on a union system for supply chain due diligence self-certification of responsible importers of tin, tantalum and tungsten, their ores, and gold originating in conflict-affected and high-risk areas, said, "The goal of this legislation, which parliament called for years ago, is to break the link between mining and trade in minerals and metals and the financing of illegal armed groups."

The Romanian EPP deputy described the legislation as "efficient and workable" and called on the S&D group to join in the common position adopted by other groups. She said local communities in conflict-affected areas would be "empowered" by the regulation.

The leader of parliament's S&D group Gianni Pittella, speaking from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said group leaders Manfred Weber (EPP) and Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE) "should be conscious" of the need for binding legislation. He called on them to join his group and "lead this battle for civilisation and justice".

ECR group shadow rapporteur Emma McClarkin said, "The system we have agreed gives customers the power to check that companies are carrying out suitable checks before they buy their products."

The British deputy added that, "The thought that the goods we purchase could inadvertently fund bloody conflicts in parts of Africa will fill most people with dread."

ALDE group shadow rapporteur Marielle de Sarnez said the aim of the legislative proposal is "to permanently break the link between mineral exploitation and armed conflict".

De Sarnez emphasised that, "We absolutely have to keep in mind that everything we put in place will not alone solve the issue of conflict minerals. This must be done intelligently, pragmatically [and] must also be feasible for European companies to implement".

The Greens/EFA group saw the INTA committee's amendments as an improvement on the commission's proposal, but felt they failed to ensure that rules are applicable throughout the supply chain.

Greens deputy Judith Sargentini said the vote "would create binding rules on transparency, [but] these will only apply to a limited number of firms that import raw materials and not target other companies in the supply chain".

She described this as a "crucial shortcoming, which will mean conflict minerals will still be able to enter the EU market".

However, INTA committee MEPs rejected amendments requiring mandatory certification for those who purchase metals or minerals for the production of goods such as mobile phones, washing machines and fridges.

MEPs also voted down a proposal to extend the scope of the legislation to other minerals and metals.

The INTA committee has also suggested assisting small and medium-sized enterprises with technological and financial assistance with the self-certification process.

The proceeds of conflict minerals and metals has been linked to funding militias in the ongoing Congolese conflict which has claimed the lives of 5.4 million people and displaced two million.

 

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