Answer given by Mr Tajani on behalf of the Commission
The Commission is aware of some of the allegations made by stakeholders regarding the impact of ArcelorMittals’s Vanderbijlpark steel plant in South Africa. Through a grant to the European Coalition for Corporate Justice, the Commission co-financed an awareness-raising visit to Europe for a representative of a South African non-governmental organisation (NGO) who is familiar with this case.
Any human rights issues arising in the context of this case should first and foremost be addressed by South Africa itself. In that regard, the promotion of good governance is a core objective of European development cooperation with South Africa. Specific objectives include support for the rule of law, building the capacity of NGOs and strengthening human rights enforcement.(1)
The renewed European policy on CSR, mentioned in the Commission’s Europe 2020 Strategy, is expected to have a stronger focus on business and human rights. The Commission fully supports the work of United Nations (UN) Special Representative John Ruggie. Together with other stakeholders and EU institutions, the Commission expects to play an active part in the implementation of the final Ruggie framework, once it is published in 2011.
The Commission has recently launched studies on the legal framework for human rights and the environment applicable to European companies when they operate outside the EU, and on current CSR and sustainability-related supply-chain practices. These studies will help to better understand the extraterritorial application of laws with regard to business and human rights, including the scope for extending such application as well as the different legal competencies of the EU and its Member States on this issue. Professor Ruggie himself will address extraterritoriality in his next report to be published in June 2010.
The grant agreement for the UCLOS project does not contain specific human rights conditionalities. However, procurement contracts in the field of EU development assistance financed by the EU budget and the European Development Fund (EDF) already include ‘ethical’ clauses stating that, for the period of execution of the contract, the contractor and its personnel shall respect human rights and internationally agreed core labour standards as defined in International Labour Office (ILO) conventions.
At the present time the Commission is not able to comment specifically on the possibility of any new legislative proposals regarding extraterritoriality or access to justice for victims, or new conditionalities in the provision of European public funds. Any such measures should be considered in due course as part of an overall set of actions to better implement the final Ruggie framework and taking account of the results of the current studies being financed by the Commission.