07 July 2013

BAN: New EU ship recycling regulations are a breach of EU legal obligations

Seattle, Washington / Brussels, Belgium -- Basel Action Network (BAN), along with 160 organizations that comprise the NGO Shipbreaking Platform and the European Environmental Bureau, condemned the European Union’s newly adopted Regulation on ship recycling, deemed by many to contain illegal provisions that violate the 180 member Basel Convention. The Regulation was approved June 27th by a vote in the European Council, and was previously approved by the European Parliament and European Commission.

The new Ship Recycling Regulation removed end-of-life ships that contain hazardous materials from the scope of the European Waste Shipment Regulation, despite the fact that the Basel Convention requires strictly regulating these materials in order to prevent the indiscriminate dumping of toxic waste on developing countries. The Waste Shipment Regulation is the EU implementing legislation for the United Nations Basel Convention and Ban Amendment. This unilateral act by the EU would seemingly legalize EU dumping of hazardous waste (contained in ships) on developing countries, yet under the EU law, international treaties agreed to by the EU must always supercede EU or European national laws.

Council and Parliament disregarded warnings

There is clear and compelling legal opinion demonstrating that this unilateral move is a breach of EU legal obligations, as they are required to uphold the Basel Convention and Basel Ban Amendment. Both independent legal experts and the European Council Legal Services have warned of the illegality of the new Regulation, yet the Council and Parliament disregarded these warnings, taking a calculated risk that European Courts will not strike down the Regulation prior to its entry into force.

“What Europe has done is a slap in the face to developing countries everywhere”, said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of BAN. “Europe has a powerful shipping industry lobby, but we never expected the EU to make a unilateral and blatantly illegal departure from their international legal obligations just too allow toxic ship exports to continue.”

A legal dilemma

Under the Basel Convention, Basel Parties are not allowed to exempt themselves from Basel rules unilaterally. While the EU as a political integration organization now has a legal dilemma on its hands, so too does each EU Member State, which are also all independent Basel Parties that will have to reconcile the illegality of the EU’s unilateral action with their own national obligations to uphold the Basel Convention.

Proposed reforms eroded

The Regulation had great promise during early negotiations in the European Parliament to provide real solutions to the global shipbreaking crisis. But the European shipping industry slowly eroded proposed reforms. The legislation not only is out of compliance with the Basel Convention, but it also fails to provide for a producer responsibility fund, and thus failed to internalize costs. Even its one seeming contribution to human rights and the environment – prescribing against dismantling EU flagged ships on beaches, is easily avoided as a ship owner can simply reflag its ship to a non-EU flag of convenience prior to sending to the beaches in order to avoid falling under the new law. Sadly, the European Ship Recycling Regulation does nothing to improve the tragic shipbreaking crisis taking place on Asian shores, but actually makes matters worse as it seemingly legalizes EU dumping on developing countries, an act hitherto illegal in Europe.

Illegal traffic in hazardous waste promoted

“The new Ship Recycling Regulation, very cynically promotes illegal traffic in hazardous waste that would never be allowed for any other industry,” said Puckett. “We have a situation now in Europe where it is a criminal act to export on old computer to India but perfectly legal to export a toxic ship. It makes a shocking and shameful mockery of Europe's alleged concern for human rights and the environment.”

Source: recycling portal.

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