Yesterday evening, the European Parliament’s committees for internal market and international trade adopted their joint draft report on a new regulation aimed at stopping forced labour within companies’ supply chains.
The regulation, initially proposed by the European Commission, 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. Companies would also have to withdraw goods that have already reached the EU market.
“We do this for the 27 million persons working under forced labour and for all companies suffering from unfair competition”, said Maria-Manuel Leitão-Marques, one of the two rapporteurs and Portuguese social democrat.
With yesterday´s vote the Members of European Parliament also added to the legislation that they want the EU to draw up a list of high-risk geographical areas and economic sectors. In the case of goods from these high-risk sectors, the authorities would then no longer have to prove that forced labour has been used. Instead, the burden would fall on companies to prove that they have not resorted to forced labour. The MEPs also voted for remediation to victims by forced labour, better support to SMEs, a robust database over suspected forced labour products and for an earlier enforcement of the regulation (18 months after adoption compared to Commission´s 24 months).
“Today we are making history. We will prevent modern slavery products from entering the European Union market. This is not only a vote for a ban, it´s a vote for human rights”, said Samira Rafaela, dutch liberal MEP and the other co-rapporteur from the European Parliament.
The solar PV industry is not exempt from the problem of forced labour. At present, approximately 28 million people around the world are subjected to forced labour and PV is currently estimated to be the fourth most prevalent product category exposed to forced labour after electronics, garments, and palm oil. An estimated 35 per cent of the metallurgical silicon globally comes from the Chinese Xinjiang province, where forced labour is part of the Chinese government´s strategy to supress the local Uyghur population.
ESMC strongly condemns all forms of forced labour and welcomes the vote in the European Parliament. In the ESMC position paper, we detail our commitment to working proactively at all levels against forced labour. Yesterday´s vote is an important step towards an EU regulation that prevents the entry of all products made with forced labour, including PV modules. The European Parliament´s committee report needs to be approved by the EU member states ministers (the Council of the EU) and finally in the European Parliament plenary, something that could be done most likely at the beginning of 2024. After that it needs to be approved by the EU member states ministers (the Council of the EU), something that could be done at the end of 2023 or beginning of 2024.
The report was adopted in the European Parliament´s committees with 66 votes in favour and 0 against.