Competitiveness and innovation are crucial for the ongoing development of the chemicals industry, and EU industry at large. The chemicals industry is very energy intensive and is dependent on favourable climate change policies. The European Commission is working to support the sector in a number of ways. It implements policies to facilitate structural change within the sector itself. These include policies that support the ‘clustering’ of related aspects within the sector and the implementation of ‘smart specialisation’ regional strategies to stimulate large scale investments.
Regulation has a significant impact on the industry. The quality of legislation, along with its correct implementation and proper enforcement are highly significant, not only for the achievement of health and environmental objectives, but also to create a fair level playing field for the chemicals industry. Together with the removal of trade barriers, this can boost the international competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry. The following steps were taken as a result of the findings of the High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the European Chemicals Industry:
The European Commission is conducting a fitness check on chemicals legislation (excluding REACH) as part of the REFIT programme.
In December 2012, the European Commission announced the launch of the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT). According to the related Communication, this programme will “identify, assess, adopt, and monitor the implementation of initiatives, which will result in significant regulatory cost reduction or simplification”.
Among the tools used under REFIT are fitness checks. These are comprehensive policy evaluations designed to ascertain whether the regulatory framework for a policy sector is fit for purpose.
Links to further information on REFIT
The European Commission Communication COM(2013) 685 final ('REFIT: Results and next steps') identified a number of policy areas, in which a regulatory fitness check should be conducted. One of those areas identified is the most relevant legislation relating to chemicals (excluding REACH) as well as related aspects of legislation applied to downstream industries.
The EU legislative framework for the risk management of chemicals comprises a complex interplay of legal acts. These range from horizontal chemicals legislation (e.g. the CLP Regulation) to product-specific and sectoral legislation, related to particular uses of chemicals in downstream industries.
These intricacies, in particular, the many cross-links between the different legal acts, warrant a broader evaluation of the legal framework, in the form of a fitness check.
The goal of the fitness check is to assess the relevance, coherence, effectiveness, efficiency and added value of the legislative framework for the risk management of chemicals. It will also identify excessive administrative burdens, overlaps, gaps, inconsistencies and/or obsolete measures. This will promote better legislation, making it more responsive to current and future challenges and help improve implementation.
The Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs and the Directorate-General for the Environment share responsibility for this fitness check.
The fitness check roadmap (315 KB), outlining the aim of the exercise, its exact legal scope and the related evaluation questions, is now available. In case of comments, please use the dedicated feedback form on the Commission's roadmap web pages (type 'chemicals' in the field 'Name'). A draft list of relevant legislation (109 KB) is also available.
DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROWTH) has launched a study in support of the fitness check on chemicals legislation (excluding REACH) (see Call for tender).
The study is being conducted between July 2015 and September 2016 by RPA (Risk & Policy Analysts Limited), together with Milieu Ltd, Ökopol (Institute für Ökologie und Politik) and NCEC (National Chemical Emergency Centre, a division of Ricardo-AEA). It includes an evaluation of CLP and the interplay between CLP and related legislation, in particular, other legislation governing hazard identification, classification and communication ('horizontal links') and downstream legislation that establishes risk management measures directly or indirectly triggered by a CLP hazard class ('vertical links').
Stakeholder consultation is an important element of the fitness check. The consultation strategy (401 KB) comprises the following actions:
For further information, please contact DG GROW.
In 2014, the Commission launched a study analysing cumulative costs of the most relevant EU legislation for the EU chemical industry. The EU legislation subject to analysis includes chemicals legislation, energy, emissions and industrial processes, workers' safety and health, and product-specific legislation. This study will be followed by another study, launched in 2016, which will compare costs with international competitors, and draw conclusions on their impact on the competitiveness of the chemicals sector.
This study assesses the cumulative costs for the EU chemical industry as a result of the EU legislation over the period 2004-2014.
The chemical industry is regulated by more than 70 important pieces of EU legislation, many of them applying to all sectors, chemicals included, to effectively protect citizens and the environment against risks related to hazardous substances.
The most relevant legislation for the chemical industry is chemicals legislation, energy, emissions and industrial processes, workers' safety and health, and product-specific legislation. It is the cumulative cost effect of this legislation that has been shown in this study launched by the European Commission as part of the REFIT Programme.
The study shows that the 3 main drivers of regulatory costs are:
This provides useful insights into the nature of such costs and their development over time. As the study focused on the direct costs of legislation without assessing neither indirect costs nor economic or broader societal benefits of the legislation, no policy conclusions can be drawn at this stage.
There is a need for a more detailed understanding of the drivers of administrative burdens for chemical companies. As a next step, the results of this study will be compared, to the extent possible, with the regulatory costs for chemical companies in other regions, such as the United States, China and India. They will also be used in the ongoing fitness check on chemicals legislation (other than REACH).
Specific efforts will be dedicated to understanding better the drivers of administrative burdens for chemical companies, and notably SMEs, with a view to reducing them wherever possible without compromising on the level of protection for citizens and environment.
In 2013, the Commission published the first general report on the implementation of its regulation on the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (REACH). It concluded that REACH functions well and has delivered on all objectives that could be assessed. Some adjustment needs were identified, but they were balanced against the interest of ensuring legislative stability and predictability. The Commission decided not to propose any changes to the enacting terms of REACH, while using all opportunities to further optimise its implementation at all levels. Activities focus on reducing the financial and administrative burden on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the simplification of the authorisation process.
Most of the industries linked to EU manufacturing and services are using products from the chemicals sector. New materials and processes, which originate in the chemicals industry, help other sectors to innovate. A competitive chemicals industry is not only important for creating growth and jobs in the chemicals sector, but also for the entire EU manufacturing industry. This improves living standards and generates employment and wealth throughout the EU.
In addition to improvements to the regulatory framework, the Commission also provides regulation guidance and support for SMEs, as well as actively supporting innovation in key areas.
The chemicals sector is at the forefront of innovation as a solution provider for many societal challenges, as well as for many other economic sectors. New forms of industrial cooperation between the chemicals industries and other industries are emerging that shape new industrial structures and help keep manufacturing jobs in Europe.
Policies that facilitate structural change, such as cluster policies and the implementation of smart specialisation regional strategies are crucial to stimulate large-scale investments in the chemicals sector. These include bio-refineries and recycling industries, as well as import terminals for gas.
Nanotechnologies and materials present many opportunities for the chemicals industry, with a number of new applications developed. Those include a high number of consumer products such as consumer electronics, UV-filters in paints, renewable energy applications, many medical applications, and lithium-ion batteries for electric cars.
Those applications have the potential to create major technological breakthroughs, and nanotechnologies have been identified as a key enabling technology. In order to ensure the safety of nanomaterials, the Commission is reviewing the regulatory framework, most prominently the Annexes of the REACH Regulation. There is also significant research on nanomaterial safety as part of the 7th Research Framework Programme and Horizon 2020.
The chemicals industry is a strong driver of resource and energy efficiency, and has high potential to provide decisive innovative 'game changers'. The Commission supports initiatives in key areas, e.g. through the Spire Programme for innovative materials and processes, and the Bio-based Industry Joint Undertaking under Horizon 2020. These initiatives can contribute to decarbonisation by promoting higher resource efficiency including through the bio-economy or the reuse of CO2 as a chemical feedstock. The new alliance between chemicals, agriculture, and waste converters in the Bio-based Joint Undertaking offers new business opportunities and helps make the concept of the 'circular economy' a reality.
DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs oversees the implementation of EU legislation relating to REACH, CLP, the principles of Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) and sector-specific legislation on chemicals such as fertilisers, detergents, explosives, pyrotechnics, and drug precursors.
It also holds meetings and conferences related to key issues including the follow-up to a High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the European Chemicals Industry.
Read more on chemicals and events.