Efforts to prevent the trade in minerals from fuelling armed conflict abroad were blocked today (14 April 2015) as Conservative and UKIP MEPs bowed to corporate pressure by opposing plans for full mandatory trading rules.
However, despite losing today's vote in the European Parliament's trade committee, Labour MEPs have vowed to retable their tougher proposals before the new EU rules are put to the all MEPs for approval in May.
MEPs are debating plans for a proposed voluntary certification system which aims to decrease the trade in gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten used in products on sale in Europe originating from conflict zones.
Labour MEPs have been leading the push for the new certification scheme to be mandatory, requiring companies throughout the entire supply chain to take steps to prevent the trade of conflict minerals.
David Martin MEP, the Labour MEP who coordinates the work of the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Group on the trade committee, said:
"A fully mandatory scheme is absolutely vital to stop the European Union being complicit in the devastation caused by the trade in conflict minerals. With the US and China already running mandatory reporting schemes, it is shameful that the EU looks likely to fall short on these proposals.
"We have had voluntary guidelines in place for five years and over 80% of companies have chosen not to publish any information on their supply chain due diligence. Conservatives and liberals now have to explain why they bowed to corporate pressure and supported a weak and unenforceable system."
Jude Kirton-Darling MEP, who had co-tabled Labour's proposals, said:
"Most people don't realise that these minerals can be found in the electrical products that they use every day and they would be horrified to discover that products on sale in Britain could contain minerals mined in conflict zones. Labour MEPs have been campaigning for legislation on this issue for some time, so it is hugely disappointing that now we have a chance to act, tough action is being blocked by right-wing MEPs."
Seb Dance MEP, who was the lead MEP on this issue for the S&D MEPs on the European Parliament's development committee, added:
"After battling to achieve a comprehensive report on combating conflict minerals both in INTA and DEVE, it is truly disheartening to see the report gutted by a grand coalition of the right. Especially when you consider that the ECR group vote was led by a British MEP from the Conservative Party who made bedfellows with other MEPs such as UKIP to scupper a progressive package that would have drastically improve human rights around the world."