Answer given by Mr Barnier on behalf of the Commission
The Commission fully shares the objective of promoting greater transparency in particular as regards the extractive industry. The Commission notes the recent developments in some Member States and in the United States on this issue. In this context and as agreed in a Declaration(1) to the European Parliament of 22 September 2010, the Commission is currently completing an impact assessment on requiring certain issuers of shares in the EU listed market to disclose certain financial information on a country-by-country basis and other alternative options. To this end, many different sources of information are being considered, including, for example, the study prepared by Transparency International and Revenue Watch on Promoting Revenue Transparency: 2011 Report on Oil and Gas Companies (March 2011), which focuses on transparency in the oil and gas sector. A public consultation was conducted on this subject during October 2010-January 2011 in order to receive views of various stakeholders. A summary report of the responses has been published on the Commission's website. Work is currently ongoing on preparing draft legislation. The Commission plans to present a proposal in October 2011.
As far as trade in diamonds are concerned, the Commission supports the so-called Kimberley Process Certification System, which imposes extensive requirements on its members in order to enable them to certify shipments of rough diamonds as ‘conflict-free’, and represents a pioneering regulatory instrument in the fight against ‘conflict resources’.
The Commission has addressed the issue of occupational health and safety in its policy dialogues in the area of employment and social policy with some of the main EU trading partners (e.g. China and India). Moreover, following the 2010 mining accident in Chile, the Commission focused its employment dialogue with this country on health and safety at work. As a result, the Chilean authorities used the lessons learnt to amend the national legislation on health and safety at work
Furthermore, the Commission has been closely following the work of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for business and human rights, Professor John Ruggie, who is successfully creating a framework in which business should respect human rights, including labour rights. The Commission intends to explore the ways as to how to implement this framework in the context of European companies operating in third countries. The Commission will also continue promoting principles of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and encourage the European companies to adhere to the international instruments in this area, including the recently updated OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
The EU attaches high importance to labour right as part of its overall human rights policy towards third countries. In doing so, the EU for instance, encourages and facilitates the ratification and implementation of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions on core labour standards, including through technical cooperation and through close cooperation with the ILO. In some cases, the EU has been including issues related to employment, labour legislation and social protection in bilateral experts’ dialogues. Moreover, the EU is firmly committed to promoting core labour standards and decent work for all in its trade policy, and routinely includes cooperation initiatives and incentives for better working conditions in the trade agreements it negotiates. The EU's draft trade agreements with other countries and regions are carefully examined for their potential effects on social development, including labour standards. Under the terms of the EU's Generalised System of Preferences, developing countries that have ratified and implemented the core labour standards of the ILO can receive special tariff rate cuts when they export to the EU.