EU Presidency leads to agreement on conflict minerals

Europe has approved the Netherlands’ proposal on combating the trade in valuable minerals from conflict areas, which funds armed groups and criminal gangs. ‘An excellent result after years of talks,’ said development minister Lilianne Ploumen in Brussels today. ‘Importers of gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten will now have to verify their sources more carefully. This will help reduce the extent to which miners and people living close to mines are oppressed and exploited – or worse – by local warlords.’

During the Netherlands’ EU Presidency a great deal of work has been done to get the European Commission, European Parliament and EU member state ministers responsible for trade on the same page. The result was presented today in the form of a political agreement, which will form the basis for an eventual Conflict Minerals Regulation. ‘The key part of the regulation is that businesses will now be obligated to investigate in advance whether their raw materials are provided by companies controlled by warlords, for instance,’ said Ms Ploumen. ‘The aim is twofold: stopping the purchase of such materials and helping improve the lives of those in question. The regulation weakens armed groups while increasing sustainability.’

The Netherlands, in its role as Presidency holder, has been intensively involved in talks with representatives of the European Parliament and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, as well as with NGOs and the private sector. ‘We took the Dutch political tradition of seeking consensus and applied it at European level. Sometimes that’s a bit more difficult than at home. But the outcome – clear requirements for companies across the EU – is what counts,’ said Ms Ploumen.

Now that a political agreement has been reached regarding the main points of the regulation, the parties involved will now consider what form the regulation will take. In addition to the work it has done to bring about this EU regulation, the Netherlands is also one of the initiators of the European Partnership for Responsible Minerals (EPRM). The EPRM brings together partners from government, the private sector and NGOs with the aim of ending the unintentional and unwanted financing of armed groups and the abuses that result from this. It does this by offering EU business a platform for investigating the origins of their raw materials and determining whether they have been mined in decent, conflict-free conditions. It also aims to directly improve the situation in affected areas, for example by supporting the training of miners.