martes, 23 de noviembre de 2010

It’s time for SMGs (Small and Medium sized Governments)?

OK, you are aware. This is another boring entry with complains about how hard is to work for (and almost live on) an industrial Small and Medium sized Enterprise (SME) inside the European Union. Yes, I know, this is a recurrent topic in this blog but the closeness of end limits dates of the new European Chemicals Regulations makes clear and present a problem that very few people want to talk about.

Yesterday, as every Monday, we had our weekly programming briefing. Our Product Stewardship specialist and attorney at law, Borja Fernández-Almau reported about the project he has been dealing with for last weeks: help the last effort of one of our clients that has been working hard for five years preparing a long list of registrations on REACH Regulation with date limit on December 2010.

The main technician on Environment, Safety and Quality of this SME and Borja has been living in the factory for the last two weeks and they're planning they will have to stay there almost the weekends until December.

No, never mind, it is not the traditional “Spanish way” to leave everything to the last moments. Not at all. The European consortium has hired a very big and important consulting firm, a world class one, but every company members of it, from Czech Republic to Germany, from Denmark to Italy, is on the same dire situation.

Last week I had the chance to attend to conference imparted by Josu Jon Imaz, CEO of Petronor, the biggest oil refinery in Spain, titled “Energy and Sustainability” organized by the Official Chemical College of the Basque Country.

The conference was very interesting in deed but the debate at the end was even more fascinating. There were opinions and questions from every point of view in this polyedric matter that Sustainability is. From those who complain about the vicious circle of consume, production and environment devastation to those others who complain about the European leadership in environmental matter and the differences in regulation level among countries inside WCO, differences that, in their opinion, generate unfair competition.

Mr. Imaz answered to this last question with a very sharp and undeniable argument: we don’t have to complain about the European legislation because is a strong force to push our companies toward the innovation and, in a medium term, improve the competitiveness. He used a very old motto of AVEQ-KIMIKA: “The cleanest factory is the most competitive one”.

It was a little bit odd and very remarkable this kind of answer coming from a CEO of a very important oil company. He broke all clichés… but there is a question that kept unanswered: are there legal tools to protect the European SMEs, people who are “sleeping in the factory” to fulfill its legal commitments on time, of the external competitiveness that are free of that “strong force of innovation”?

And we are not talking about long and medium term… we are talking about next month, when the first date limit of REACH Regulation finish.

The company Borja is working with produces a chemical substance essential to the steel and aluminum industry. It is not directly used in steel factories, it is previously processed and transformed in articles (following vocabulary of REACH Regulation ).

If this SMEs sector fail in fulfilling their obligations before December 1st they will lost their permit to put on the market this strategic substance…. But, don’t worry, the European steel industry will not have to stop the production because they always can import the final articles they need from third countries… and articles are not affected by REACH… Probably, this imported articles will be low quality, environmentally worse and surely more expensive… but the production must go on.

European Union has got an strong and very detailed legislation on toys safety. The Council Directive 88/378/EEC of 3 May 1988 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States concerning the safety of toys and its amending acts applies to any product or material intended for use by children under 14 years old.

Is a very tough regulation that secures an harmonized high level of safety of the toys in every country of EU, symbolized with compulsory CE conformity marking in every article, that means the conformity with the provisions of these Directives.

It is not conceivable an European toys producer putting in to market any article intended to be used by children without a complete and exhaustive safety evaluation to reach the conformity assessment which permits the producer to stamp the CE marking in his products… but the CE marking is stamped by the producer himself.

Any person versed on the requirements of these Directives must go blind in a variety store … thousand of toys coming from Far East countries, every one of them marked with CE capital letters that clearly break almost every provision of the EU regulation are putting every day in to market, coming trough European customs… will be a different regime for articles that break REACH?... I don’t think so.

EU regulation signs checks that European Governments are no able to pay…. Law must be compulsory, giving to the executive branch resources to detect and punish those who break the law… if not, it will be a big load for honest professionals and a competitive advantage for dishonest buccaneers.

Big companies always has the resort to call their attorneys if they detect a competitor breaking the law… but, one of the main belief of the democracy and of the Rule of Law is that law and justice is equal for everyone and it must not depend of the money each one has…

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