Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


EU needs to act faster

July 2011

Aaron Hall argues that Europe must grab with two hands the opportunity to build on US legislation aimed at curbing the trade in conflict minerals

The European Union is finally starting to address the link between human rights violations and the conflict mineral trade in the Congo.  But while a handful of policymakers within the EU have voiced concern over the issue in the past year, meaningful action has yet to take place, despite the efforts of the US government and the OECD in this sphere.

In late May, the Netherlands-based Center for Research on Multinational Corporations (Somo), and Judith Sargentini, a Dutch member of the European Parliament for the Greens/European Free Alliance, held a series of events focusing on the creation of EU legislation on conflict minerals from the Congo.

The aim of the meetings was to bring together experts and stakeholders, as well as representatives from Congolese civil society, to share input on possible new EU regulations. The meetings included a presentation on some of the lessons learned from the passage of the Dodd-Frank conflict minerals provision in the US, as well as the perspectives of Congolese civil society on the effects of international efforts to curb the trade in conflict minerals.

Sargentini is emerging as one of the most vocal proponents of action on the issue of conflict minerals and the conflict in Congo within the European Parliament. She has filed a motion for resolution, together with 32 other parliamentarians from six different groups, that calls on the European Commission to develop a legal initiative similar to the Dodd-Frank Act in the US.

While this is a positive development, the European Parliament and Commission still have a long way to go. There is little understanding of who among the various policymakers will lead the movement to pass legislation, and what exactly that legislation will focus on.  

Additionally, any new law would require input from at least four separate offices of the commission, and each continues to point to the other when asked who will  lead.

The EU must also address the significant need for a robust supportive package that includes funding for capacity building and development initiatives underway on the ground in Congo – including infrastructural development, economic diversification, police and justice reform, and mineral traceability. These initiatives are critical to the long-term success of an international certification scheme that is a necessary component for peace and development in the region.

The passing of conflict minerals legislation in the Parliament would offer EU states a chance to expand industry accountability and to add diplomatic and financial resources to certification.  The commission should grasp the opportunity that exists to create meaningful and harmonized legislation that includes support for supply chain accountability and international certification.

The Lisbon Treaty, responsible for the formation of the EU, was founded on the core principles of the promotion of peace and human rights. It now has a responsibility to catch up on the issue.  The window for creating meaningful legislative support is closing and the time for a leader to emerge in Europe is now.

Aaron Hall is a policy analyst at the Enough Project:

Aaron Hall | Europe | Human rights

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