EU to review air quality rules

The public consultations on the robustness of the EU air quality legislations, comprised of the two Ambient Air Quality Directives as well as of the Implementing Decision and the Commission Directive have recently been finalized.

The Directives had established European standards for a series of pollutants and aimed on ensuring their comprehensive and harmonized implementation in all member states. The review of the Directives is building upon the implementation experience in the EU Member States aiming to consolidate the EU legislative and regulatory framework. In addition to the entry into force of the new National Emission Ceiling Directive the EU is making decisive steps to achieve its 2030 emission reduction commitments.

The new legislation is expected to enshrine the stringency of the policy’s health objectives to reduce the impacts of atmospheric pollution to public health and reflect the cost of pollution to public budgets. While a debate on the rationalization of national public health budgets is expected to be triggered thereof, the effects of the stringent regulations are expected to be felt mainly on the EU agriculture, transport, shipping and energy production, especially in units that are beyond the urban limits. The above sectors are expected to bear the burden of timely and accurate compliance to the reviewed legislation.

EU to focus on water policies

tobaccoThe European Commission has recently launched the debate on the fitness check of the backbone of its legislation on water protection and management. Therefore, the Water Framework Directive as well as the closely related Groundwater Directive, the Environmental Quality Standards Directive as well as the Flood Directive are currently under review.

The main purpose of the review is to ensure the protection and sustainable management of the water in the EU via an integrated approach. Notwithstanding that the consultations are still ongoing, from the
analysis so far of stakeholders’ input, it clearly emerges that under the agricultural, chemical and pharmaceutical sectors are already under the Commission’s cross-chair. Certain incidents and practices of the above sectors in the EU have triggered controversy and had initiated the relevant
debate in 2016.

With the debate ongoing until March 2019 and the EU trying to strike an acceptable balance between the need for sustainable water management and the viability of its industry, all parties are expected to try to secure a favorable outcome in the consultations.

EU to finalize Union strategy on chemicals

The Council of the European Union adopted conclusions on the development of a sustainable EU chemicals policy strategy in June 2019. These conclusions fall within the current 7th Environment Action Plan (EAP), adopted in 2013, which mandated the European Commission to develop a Union strategy for a non-toxic environment that is conducive to innovation.

The recent conclusions address particular topics of REACH, endocrine disruptors, nanomaterials and pharmaceuticals. The conclusions are expected to guide a new Union strategy for coordinating the protection of vulnerable groups by introducing risk management requirements into relevant EU legislation on chemicals of concern. The Council of the European Union has urged the European Commission to include in its proposal an 8th Environment Action Programme to implement the measures to the strategy.

The European Commission is set to finalize a Union strategy for a non-toxic environment by the end of the year. The proposed strategy is expected to deliver a regulation for water use, as well as the creation and implementation of an early warning system for chemical risks. Given the relevance of the upcoming EAP and chemicals Union strategy for the environmental and medical sector, it will be necessary to monitor the negotiations, which are set to start in the following months.

EU to review State aid in fishery and aquaculture

The European Commission launched a consultation on the review of State aid framework concerning fishery and aquaculture, which is set to expire in September 2019. The European Commission’s subsequent proposal is expected to be adopted in the fourth quarter of 2020.

The review aims to secure consistency of the regulations and guidelines concerning the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), by questioning whether the current framework serves its objectives efficiently. This consultation comes at a crucial point as the two governing regulations expire at the end of 2020. The replacement of such instruments with a new regulation will be necessary for the upcoming period of 2021-2027.

The inception impact assessment mentions the possibility of fully aligning State aid framework to the post-2020 EMFF rules, which would result in a loose definition of aid measures eligible for block exemption. This would facilitate public investment, fomenting the industry’s growth while preserving competition by giving Member States more flexibility to implement State aid measures without prior European Commission approval.

EU to review rules on food contact materials

The European Commission has recently launched a public consultation to gather views on the current performance of the Food Contact Materials (FCM) legislation. This review will affect, among others, packaging and professional food manufacturing, preparation, storage and distribution. The results will feed then into the evaluation of the current legislative framework of FCM rules.

Currently, common EU rules on Food Contact Materials cover the safety of FCMs as well as labelling and traceability. More concretely, they limit their transfer into food in quantities that could endanger human health or change the composition of the food. Existing common rules help ensure not only a high level of protection of human health, but also a common level playing field.

Considering that this will be the first evaluation of the rules, all companies in the food contact material supply chain as well as firms that have articles that might come into contact with food in the future, should submit their views before 6 May 2019.

EU Eyeing New Restriction on Plastics

Starting from January 2018, China notified the WTO that it will ban the importing of 24 categories of waste, including plastics and mixed papers, on grounds of environmental and public health protection.

The domino effect of the world’s biggest waste processor has already affected China’s biggest client, the European Union, which used to ship approximately 60% of plastics and 13% of paper collected for recycling.

Following the Chinese ban, the EU is now considering several options that include unpopular new taxes, limits on plastic bags and a set of other standards and rules. The new measures will try to encourage the re-use of plastics, ensure that plastics packaging is fully recyclable and make the disposal of plastics economically burdensome. In addition, the European Commission is considering imposing new quality standards via new consumer labeling. Finally, the proposal is set to target water polluting plastics that are increasingly becoming a serious health concern.

EU Takes Aim at Food Retailers

telecomunicationThe European Commission has put large supermarket and food retail business under its regulatory radar, in an attempt to rationalize the European food supply chain. The initiative, likely to make its debut as early as in 2018, will place producers and farmers under its aegis, in an attempt to bridle at the hypermarkets power by remedying unfair trading practices and arbitrary contractual clauses.

The current situation has allowed for the accumulation of disproportionate market powers to a few retailers, raising controversy over the misuse of dominant position, price controls as well as abusive and retaliatory business practices. Moreover, the present environment has driven many small-scale producers out of the market, threatening to compromise the entire EU agricultural sector.

Following closely the 2016 recommendations of the Agricultural Market Task Force, the new bill will focus on issues of price fairness and transparency by allowing collective price negotiations and imposing a mandatory price reporting system. Furthermore, the possibilities of easier access to finance for producers as well as the establishing of an independent adjudication system are on the table.

Currently, no concrete proposal has been presented yet. The nascent bill is expected to take form during the following months. This initiative will target primarily supermarkets and food retail business. NGOs and consumers organizations are already voicing their concerns to try and shape the proposal.

EU to digitalize healthcare

healthcareThe European Commission is adopting additional measures to promote digital innovations in healthcare. The recent midterm digital single market review calls for new health care legislation. The review was based on the 2014 European Commission communication to reach cost effective, as well as financially sustainable and resilient healthcare in the EU.

The aim is to transform the system from a hospital-based healthcare model to a person-centred and integrated model. Further to this, the Commission already launched a public consultation concerning personal health data, and the sharing of data to advance research.

The public consultation will have an impact on the new policy communication to be presented by the end of 2017. Considering that the EU health care sector is lagging behind with the use of technology, we expect the upcoming proposals to have an incisive impact for providers.