Parliament prioritises human rights in conflict minerals crackdown

MEPs have approved mandatory reporting on all levels of the supply chain in the production of minerals, going against the EPP's proposal.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

21 May 2015

Parliament turned into its own conflict zone when MEPs approved new rules in an effort to stop blood minerals from being used in products made in Europe.

Tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold - found in a large number of electronics, such as mobile phones - are often produced in war-torn countries, with profits funding the conflicts.

Now, led by an S&D campaign, parliament has voted for a mandatory due diligence system throughout the entire supply chain, going against rapporteur Iuliu Winkler's proposal for a voluntary reporting mechanism.


The EPP deputy said, "by supporting the voluntary approach, we want to avoid distortions and negative effects, for example a de facto embargo. Therefore, mandatory certification could mean the killing of jobs on both sides - Europeans and people in the local communities affected in conflict areas".

His German colleague Daniel Caspary added, "we must prevent jeopardising small mines because of unrealistic legislation and that the local people are then unintentionally pushed into unemployment, smuggling or illegal activities. The export of conflict-free minerals from these regions is of existential importance - a de facto export ban would worsen any development prospects for people in the regions".

The Socialists, however, were ecstatic, with group president Gianni Pittella calling it "a decisive vote for the credibility of the European parliament".

He underlined that, "when talking about immigration, it's hard to talk about dealing with problems in Africa and say 'let's reduce migratory flows by helping Africa' and then not follow through".

He was also pleased that MEPs "proved that the EU cares about human rights and human dignity beyond empty declarations".

And, Pittella called on governments "to leave aside weak and insignificant reactions - they must be ethical, think about these issues and not brush them under the carpet, and open the page on a new chapter for Africa and EU-Africa relations".

The group's shadow rapporteur on the dossier Maria Arena said she was "proud to be part of a parliament that puts human values before economic values".

She also made link between dealing with conflict minerals and the issue of migration, highlighting that "we cannot think in a compartmentalised way, looking at the economy on one hand and migration on the other - we cannot impoverish countries of origin and then wonder why people living in these areas want to leave".

She added, "we see MEPs rising up against the situation in the Mediterranean, but when it comes to actually doing something to change matters, they are not in favour of taking action to change things for the better".

ALDE shadow rapporteur Marielle de Sarnez explained, "after three years, there is a review clause. We can take stock of the implementation of this regulation and assess in concrete terms what has and hasn't worked".

She was confident that "this EU legislation will then serve as a model to create a positive dynamic in other parts of the world".

Belgian MEP Louis Michel pointed out that, "it is sufficient that businesses report the identity of their direct suppliers. We do not request any audit or any report. It is therefore a minimal burden without additional bureaucracy".

Greens/EFA MEP Jill Evans stressed that "self-regulation is not effective in eliminating conflict minerals. We need legislation that covers the whole supply chain, ensuring transparency and accountability".

Patrick LeHyaric was of the same opinion, underlining that, "believing that those who are pillaging the African continent will self-certify is naïve. Mandatory and binding mechanisms with ethical, social, environmental and moral rules are necessary".

Parliament will now enter into negotiations with the council and commission.


Read the most recent articles written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli - MEPs vote against beginning negotiations on updating EU copyright laws