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Janez Potočnik

European Commissioner for Environment

REACH: we are succeeding

REACH Conference

Brussels, 23 September 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, Good morning,

It is a pleasure for me to be here today.

The Earth Summit that took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 was a landmark event that placed sustainable development on the international agenda. During that same Summit the international community also recognised the importance of safely managing toxic chemicals, calling for greater knowledge build-up and the elimination of unacceptable risks. This commitment was renewed and reinforced 10 years later in Johannesburg - where 2020 was set as a target date.

It was with these same global objectives in mind that the EU adopted REACH in 2006. REACH is about the safe management of chemicals to protect human health and safeguard the environment, while at the same time supporting the competitiveness of the European industry.

REACH is a challenging, comprehensive and modern legislation, and, if it is successful, it will not only help us in the EU, it will also support and be a drive for others.

But, as we all know perfectly well, legislation is only as good as its implementation. This is why today I would like to use this occasion to assess together whether the political ambitions set in REACH are starting to give their fruits and see what can be done to ease the way forward.

So, what have we learnt from the 2010 experience? To put it in very simple terms: We have succeeded! We have delivered even if some doubted we would:

  • The 2010 deadline was taken seriously, very seriously, by everybody.

  • First by industry which has done an excellent job. They submitted almost 25.000 registration files before the registration deadline. These registration files concerned 4.300 substances – almost 86% came from large companies and 14% from SMEs. I am well aware of the efforts and hard work behind these figures. Industry also managed their SIEFs1, developed their chemical safety assessments and implemented risk management measures… and …..continued to operate. Well done!

  • But other players also deserve praise. Indeed the entire REACH "machinery" was successfully put in place at all levels: with the setting-up of ECHA whose job was paramount; the national authorities that, among others, created helpdesks; NGOs who played their vital role of watchdogs and, of course, the European Commission and its leadership in the Directors' Contact Group.

  • Another lesson I draw from the 2010 experience is that the registration procedure requires a high level of cooperation and exchange of information between all players. This did not exist in the past but we have succeeded in creating a truly innovative partnership between all players … which … is already leading to a solid and unique knowledge database on chemicals that we will be able to use to the benefit of all.

  • And last but not least, we have learnt that the quality of the information provided in the registration files is a must if we want the next phase – the evaluation phase - to be successful. Here it is fair to say that there is room for improvement. But I will leave the details to the experts that will take the floor in the course of the day.

All this was possible because we all care! We have all acted with a strong sense of responsibility.

Our next deadline now is 2013. This time the registration will be extended to a wider circle. For many companies this will be the second round, but for many others, the next deadline will be the first REACH registration experience. In this context, and because obstacles to registration can obviously be reduced, the Commission has decided to continue the work of the Directors' Contact Group.

I have just referred to 2013. But we all know that, in the meantime, the Commission will table a review of REACH. This review is a legal requirement. Many of you may wonder whether the 2012 review will change the rules of the game and which impact this will have on the 2013 registration deadline. Let me reassure you, the 2012 review is in no way a revision, it is a review, no more, no less, to make sure that we are going in the right direction. On the basis of the review, the Commission would only put forward a legislative revision if it were really needed and necessary. But the fact is that legislation is just starting to function and we have still much to learn. You will hear more about this later this afternoon…


Dear all,

We are continuing and building on the work started in a larger environmental and global context, at the Earth Summit in Rio nearly 20 years ago. This is extremely important because REACH has a very significant global dimension that we must not forget.

As I said, REACH is a very challenging legislation. I know, you all know, how controversial and sometimes conflictual REACH has been. Let's not be blind: It is difficult to implement. But, the 2010 registration experience has shown that REACH can work. So let's build on this positive experience and continue working together toward the next challenges.

I wish you all a fruitful day and lively discussions and I look forward to receiving feedback from your experience – I know that it is still early days but the contours of what REACH can do for the EU are already visible.

Thank you for your attention.

1 :

Substance Information Exchange Fora

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