In two recent posts (Regime Standards and Shorties-10) we concluded that the EU’s ideology of ever closer union has done identifiable damage in at least one area – fire standards. Once the EU has regulated a standard its member states are obliged to implement that standard and not introduce anything that contradicts it, even if it is a higher standard.
We see two reasons at least to doubt the capability of the EU to make regulations and set standards in the way that it should. The first is its inflexible ideology of ever closer union (uniformity) which disables the EU as much as it disables its member states. The second is the vulnerability of EU institutions to lobbying; an issue that it is signally failing to address adequately.
In this post we look at another area where EU standards may limit the ability of members states to protect their citizens. We draw on a report by Aleksandra Eriksson in EUObserver (https://euobserver.com/health/138434) from which our quotations are taken unless otherwise stated.
“Scientists say endocrine disruptors are found in a wide range of everyday products, including food packaging. … The so-called endocrine disruptors (EDCs), scientists say, contribute to serious health problems such as diabetes, obesity and infertility.”
The European Commission has been working to “define what chemicals pose a threat to human health by interfering with hormones in the body.” Their experts have proposed a revision to current regulations in a draft paper “setting out scientific criteria for the determination of endocrine disrupting properties…”.
Four years ago the European Parliament set a deadline for the Commission to specify the scientific criteria to define EDCs. (Among other things, the delay in drafting the criteria is indicative of the Parliament’s ineffectualness.) Corporate lobbying was one reason for the delay (we will tackle this issue in another post) but also, and perhaps not unconnected, there was some resistance within the Commission itself.
Corporate lobbyists were arguing that the initially proposed restrictions on EDCs were too demanding. Meanwhile “Denmark, France and Sweden complained of the high burden of proof in the commission’s proposal, which would mean only a few chemicals fell under the scope of the proposal.”
Ake Bergman, a member of the Endocrine Society, said such a benchmark would be all but impossible to attain. “No other legislation requires such strict causality. That’s not the way cancer legislation works, for instance,” Bergman told EUobserver (https://euobserver.com/environment/133850).
France, now under the governance of a new president, prime minister and parliament, has dropped the opposition of the previous socialist government to the draft criteria. This appears to have broken the deadlock but has left France exposed to accusations of inconsistency and even hypocrisy. The French minister of environment, Nicolas Hulot, said in late June that he deemed the Commission’s proposals to be insufficient. Now he says that the proposals have evolved, although they haven’t changed. It has been suggested that Emmanuel Macron, as a noted supporter of the EU, does not want to seem obstructive in Brussels.
So the European Commission is now supporting criteria that, according to “three of the major organisations of scientists and doctors caring for people with hormone-related conditions – the Endocrine Society, the European Society for Endocrinology and the European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology … will fail to identify EDCs and will not secure a high level of health and environmental protection.”
However, representatives of the chemical industry are also unhappy with the criteria, which they believe are flawed. Previously the industry, including Bayer, the American Chemistry Council and the American Chamber of Commerce in Brussels, had lobbied against imposing any further restrictions on EDCs.
Given special interest corporate lobbying on one side and national and environmental considerations on the other, it is not surprising that the sclerotic bureaucracy of the EU cannot produce a conclusion in a reasonable time.
The EU commends itself as the only way to achieve the necessary clout across Europe to impose standards but then acts – or fails to act – in ways that prevent it from using its scale to be effective. Ideology, incompetence and an obsession with self-preservation block potential achievements.
Achieving high and common standards for economic growth and the protection and security of citizens is best left to individual nations, which could collaborate under a community organisation free of both ideology and over-weight bureaucracy; preservation would be assured by effectiveness. The EU is clearly not that organisation.