Small businesses face heavy burden
Europe's small to medium-sized businesses will be hit hard by costs planned for the European Chemicals Agency, industry representatives have warned.
The latest budget for the ECA will make Europe's chemicals regulation scheme Reach (registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals) 25 per cent more expensive, they claim, and small to medium-sized firms will bear the brunt.
The concerns came to light after the European commission revised the budget for the ECA, which will oversee the running of Reach. The latest figure of €1189 million (£804 million) is almost four times higher than 2003 estimates of €359 million.
The agency will be based in Helsinki, Finland, and must be up and running 12 months after Reach comes into force. The agency's role is to receive and manage the data sent by companies as they register and test chemicals.
Thomas Jostmann, executive director responsible for Reach at Cefic, Europe's chemical industry council, said the new budget will make Reach 25 per cent more expensive. The extra costs will inevitably be paid in part by industry and will hit small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) extra hard, he said. For small volume substances (one to 10 tonnes), produced mainly by SMEs, these extra costs could make registration fees as high as the testing fees (two fees of €9000 for each substance). 'This is a bad message,' Jostmann told Chemistry World. 'It could be not only double but triple the price that was quoted when we started the discussion.'
An extra burden for the fees cannot be put on bigger companies, Jostmann said, because this would force them to raise prices. 'Any cost increase will destroy and hamper competitiveness in European industry,' he said.
European council spokesperson Victor Flavian stressed that this was a draft budget open to further revision. 'Until the whole [Reach] regulation has been agreed in all its terms, the ECA doesn't exist,' said Flavian. 'These figures are not final.'