President. – The next item is the report (A6-0231/2006) by Johannes Blokland, on behalf of the European Parliament delegation to the Conciliation Committee, on the joint text approved by the Conciliation Committee for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators and repealing Directive 91/157/EEC [PE-CONS 3615/2006 – C6–0154/2006 – 2003/0282(COD)].
Johannes Blokland (IND/DEM), rapporteur. – (NL) Mr President, finally, the moment had arrived. On 3 May 2006, more than two and a half years after the Commission had presented a proposal for the review of the Batteries Directive, the Council and Parliament, through conciliation, reached agreement on the final text.
First of all, I should like to thank the Austrian Presidency for the constructive way in which this dossier was brought to a favourable conclusion. In the 23 amendments that were adopted at second reading, the presidency, and by extension also the Council, did more than meet this House halfway. I should also like to thank all Members of this House, especially those who were in the delegation and the conciliation secretariat, for their commitment and support. It is partly thanks to them that we have a good result.
In addition, I am indebted to the Commission for its input in the compromises and the drafting of new text proposals. This has proved invaluable in terms of the process whereby agreement was reached. What have we now achieved? I should like to single out a few key points.
First of all, the directive enables consumers to choose a cost-effective battery more easily. After all, the cheapest battery is not always the most cost-effective. Since the directive makes it compulsory for producers to specify the capacity on batteries, consumers can assess the price/quality ratio themselves and select the most cost-effective battery for each purpose.
Secondly, the agreement also stipulates that it must be straight-forward to remove batteries from appliances. By replacing the battery, we can prevent consumers from having to dispose of perfectly good appliances because the battery is flat.
Thirdly, the producer must take back batteries after use and handle the recycling of them. This also applies to those supplied in the past.
Fourthly, the directive requires all Member States to set up an effective collection system. This is a considerable improvement for at the moment, only six Member States have a national collection system for batteries. Moreover, the differences in collection percentages are still very high, ranging from 59% in Belgium to 16% in France.
Fifthly, all producers of batteries in the European Union will be registered, so that all producers will be responsible for funding the collection and processing of spent batteries.
Finally, I should like to mention the keystone of the directive on which we had already reached agreement at first reading, namely the ban on cadmium in portable batteries, which enters into effect in 2008. As a result, this harmful metal will, in time, disappear from household waste, with a consequent benefit to the environment and to public health. Moreover, the alternatives to nickel cadmium batteries appear to be far superior.
Given the positive negotiation result, I warmly recommend this House to vote, tomorrow, in favour of the new Batteries Directive, and should like to ask the Council to do likewise as soon as possible, so that the new legislation can be published. In addition, the importance of what the Member States have to do in implementing and enforcing the Batteries Directive should not be underestimated. I would express the wish and expectation that a start be made straight away, so that we do not need to do the impossible in the closing stages.
In my view, a review will be needed in future with regard to the applications to which an exemption from the cadmium ban applies. I take it as read that the Commission will be attentive in this respect and will present a proposal to Parliament in due course.
Stavros Dimas, Μember of the Commission. (EL) Mr President, I should like to congratulate the representatives of the European Parliament on the discussions held in the conciliation committee last May. In particular, I wish to thank Vice-President Roth-Behrendt, who chaired the conciliation committee, and Parliament's rapporteur, Mr Johannes Blokland, who truly made a very important contribution to the positive results achieved.
The discussions in the conciliation committee were constructive and moved in the right direction, thanks also to the efforts of the Austrian Presidency, and agreement was reached on numerous important matters, as Mr Blokland mentioned: the possibility of removing accumulators from appliances, the exemption for very small battery producers, capacity labelling on batteries and other important matters to which positive solutions were found.
The European Commission supports the outcome of the procedure and we recommend that Parliament vote in favour of the excellent results achieved by its negotiating team.
Peter Liese, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I am much obliged to the rapporteur, Mr Blokland, for his committed work. Of course, his original proposals were rather more ambitious than the outcome of the Conciliation Committee we have ended up with, and so it could be said that this is not an unqualified success for the environment. What was decided does, however, represent a clear improvement in the protection of human beings and the environment against the hazardous chemicals that can escape from batteries. That is why a vast majority in the House should support this outcome tomorrow.
I agreed with Mr Blokland on most points but, even from the start of the procedure, I disagreed with the extension of the cadmium ban to industrial batteries. I am pleased that we have managed to find a solution in committee at second reading. A cadmium ban relating to industrial batteries – unlike such a ban relating to portable batteries – would have put too great a strain on industry whilst having little effect on the environment, as we have an effective recycling system for industrial batteries.
The German Federal Environment Agency has informed me that even operators of certain plants in the Libyan desert are looking into how to dispose of their industrial batteries, as these batteries are so large that they cannot just be put into the household waste. Even in the Libyan desert, therefore, recycling is a real consideration, and that is why I advocated a derogation for these from the outset – which has in fact been laid down in the final resolution.
I agree with all the other proposals Mr Blokland has presented, however, and am glad that agreement has been reached between all three institutions.
Dan Jørgensen, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DA) Mr President, I too would like to begin by thanking Mr Blokland. It has been a long process, and you have worked hard. You have seen eye to eye with the Socialist Group in the European Parliament for a large part of the way. It is also for this reason that we are able to support the compromise even if, like the preceding speaker, we are not entirely satisfied. There are certain areas where this piece of legislation could have been better. We do not agree that cordless power tools, specifically, should be excepted. They account for a large proportion of the cadmium batteries in use today. There are alternatives, which may be reusable. It may also be possible not to let some of these batteries slip through the system, and for the environmental damage therefore not to be as large – if, that is, the system works. We must simply point out, however, that there are alternatives, and since there are alternatives, why should we not use them? Why should we not, then, ban these hazardous batteries?
It is, of course, the progress, indeed great progress, made that ensures that we are supporting this legislation despite everything. The capacity labelling is a good thing, particularly for consumers. We are, of course, aware of all the advertisements for batteries – I shall not specify any product names, but there is definitely something to do with a rabbit – and the manufacturers clearly wish to give the impression that these batteries last much longer than those of their competitors. It is also possible that they do just that, but now we will have proof of the matter, because it will now state on the packaging how much energy such a battery contains. This is clearly a good thing.
A further positive is that we are obliging the manufacturers to ensure that if there is a battery in an appliance it must be easy to remove. Another positive is the fact that we in Europe will now have a high overall percentage of recycling. Again, we could well have wished for an even higher figure, but we are happy to have Community rules in this area. All in all we have to say that it is an important area that we are now legislating for at Community level. Our ambitions were higher than what has been achieved, but we nonetheless support the legislation, overall, on the basis of the improvements that have been achieved.
Anne Laperrouze, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I support the aims of this directive, which forms part of European environmental policy.
As a member of Parliament’s delegation to the Conciliation Committee, I advocated a degree of flexibility, especially for accumulators that allow safety requirements to be met.
The wording proposed by the Conciliation Committee not only allows ambitious rules and targets to be retained – especially in terms of collection and recycling – but also allows account to be taken of reality and of the efforts being made by the manufacturers of accumulators, especially for industrial use.
Distributor take-back is in fact adopted as the default method of collection, but schemes that are already working can be retained, provided an assessment, which must be made public, shows that they are at least as effective as distributor take-back.
This guarantee of equivalent effectiveness in terms of collection seems to me to be crucial for a flexible but non-permissive system. Moreover, appliances must be designed in such a way that used batteries and accumulators are easy to remove and they must be accompanied by instructions containing information for consumers.
However, these provisions will not apply where, for safety, performance, medical or data integrity reasons, continuity of power supply is necessary and a permanent connection between the appliance and the battery is required. Once again, flexibility is closely circumscribed.
I nevertheless remain sceptical about capacity labelling of portable and automotive batteries and accumulators; and while I understand this concern for consumer information, I think that too many variables, such as conditions of use and usage, affect the life of such batteries and accumulators.
Finally, the joint text that is being put to the vote seems to me to bring balanced responses to the different institutions’ demands. I therefore invite you to vote in favour of this text, and I thank our rapporteur for the quality of his work.
Carl Schlyter, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (SV) Mr President, thank you, Mr Blokland, for a long fight that eventually led to an acceptable result. The Council was pulled this way and that by the industry’s lobbyists and fought against the best interests of consumers and the environment. I wonder what EU citizens would say if they knew that a majority of their governments were fighting against the consumers’ right to know the capacity of the batteries they buy. The Council wants us to buy a pig in a poke.
What would voters say if they knew that the Council did not want batteries to be easily removable so that they might be recycled easily or have their lifetime extended? What would voters say if they knew that their governments were fighting tooth and nail to obtain the lowest possible level of liability in respect of extremely poisonous heavy metals? As luck would have it, Parliament succeeded in putting most things right, but, scandalously enough, cadmium batteries in hand tools are still permitted. On this issue, the industry lobby unfortunately won, both in the Council and in Parliament. Thank you, Mr Blokland. You have done a good job, and I shall vote in favour of the report.