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Last night the negotiators from the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission came to an agreement on the proposed regulation to prohibit products made with forced labour. As expected, the agreement keeps the fundaments of the original proposal; that all products made with forced labour should be banned from the European market.

Finally, an agreement and a landmark win for human rights everywhere. Forced labour should have no place on the European market

Jens HolmESMC Sustainability Policy Director

Given the exposure to forced labour of certain segments within the global solar PV manufacturing sector, ESMC concludes that the ban will have a positive impact on the resurgence of European manufacturing in solar modules.

“This should put an end to all imports of solar modules or components from areas where massive state-imposed forced labour takes place. The agreement marks a historic opportunity to bring back manufacturing capacities to Europe instead of being reliant on regions with risks of forced labour”, says Mr. Holm. 

The European Commission published its proposal for a Regulation on Prohibiting Products made with Forced Labour in September 2022. The regulation will establish a framework to investigate and prevent the use of forced labour in the supply chains of companies. If the use of forced labour is proven, all import and export of the related goods would be stopped at the EU borders. The legislation is expected to have a great impact on the solar PV sector. According to the Global Slavery Index solar panels represent the fourth highest at-risk goods for forced labour that is imported by the G20.

This is something that now should come to an end with the forced labour legislation in place, according to the European Parliament:

“People worldwide suffer from forced labour, in places such as Xinjiang, with the solar cells often ending up in our stores and then in our homes. This is now a thing of the past. The EU will use the might of its market to fight forced labour worldwide”, says Anna Cavazzini, German Member of the European Parliament to Financial Times.

In the same manner as ESMC welcomes the new law, the slow implementation process raises concerns. According to the agreement it will take three years before the new law is fully operational. Far too long, asserts Jens Holm.

“The lengthy implementation time of three years is completely unacceptable. The solar PV supply chains needs to be free from all human rights abuses now. Until the law is in place it will be up to the EU and its member states to do all they can to support socially and environmentally clean manufacturing in Europe”.

The final adoption of the forced labour regulation is expected to take place in the European Parliament and by the EU member states (the Council) well before the elections to the European Parliament in June. After that it will take 36 months until the regulation is implemented on the European market. The Database on risk products and risk areas will however be made public 18 months before, according to the agreement.

Jens Holm
ESMC Sustainability Policy Director

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