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- Career of a skillful negotiator
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Article related to: People and perspectives
Career of a skillful negotiator
REACH, CLP, GHS and much more - retiring from ECHA Anna-Liisa Sundquist recounts her remarkable career in the public service.
Her university background in chemicals engineering paved the way to a successful carrier in the public service, but Anna-Liisa Sundquist has also experienced firsthand the momentous negotiations that have marked the legislative history of the chemical sector over the past three decades.
|Retiring MSC chairperson Anna-Liisa Sundquist has made her mark in the EU chemicals legislation.|
Her first important international assignment came in the late eighties when, as a member of the Finnish delegation, she negotiated the chemicals acquis* for the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement.
"Together with the European Commission, we went through all the Community chemical legislation," she recalls, "We had very in-depth discussions, and it was quite a learning experience for me."
When the EEA agreement came into force, Mrs Sundquist was already engaged in the negotiation of a new chemicals acquis, but this time for the accession Treaty of Finland to the EU. "Having already discussed all issues with the Commission during the EEA negotiations, reaching an agreement was really easy," she recollects.
After Finland joined the European Union in 1995, she decided to spend more years in Brussels at the Commission as a seconded national expert. Yet again, she started negotiating as a member of the EU delegation to the United Nations to set up the new internationally-harmonised system for classification and labelling - the GHS. "It took some years to reach an agreement, but I am proud of the work we did with EU colleagues and others because it served as the initial basis for the CLP Regulation," Mrs Sundquist says.
A few months after her return to Finland, she received a phone call from the Commission asking her to contribute to the drafting of a new strategy paper for a future chemicals policy. It was the beginning of REACH.
Working as a Ministerial Advisor at the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Ms Sundquist was involved in all sorts of negotiations. So, when Finland had the EU presidency in 2006, she was selected as Chairperson of the Council working party on REACH. "It was really an experience, and the most exciting part was the final deal on the REACH text," she explains.
In 2008, when she joined ECHA as Chairperson of the Member State Committee (MSC), she was already a well-known and successful negotiator.
At ECHA, she has chaired 34 MSC meetings moving debates forward when needed and helping to calibrate the discussion amongst delegates with her fair and balanced style. She confesses that she will miss the intellectual challenges that her work provides. "Chairing the MSC was a very good time for me; together with my colleagues from ECHA and the EU Member States. We have really accomplished many important goals, and managed to set a sound governance framework that ensures effective and efficient decision-making in the Committee".
Indeed, Mrs Sundquist's career has been a model to follow. Thanks to her warm personality and consensual style, she has created a unique career path for herself. The history of the EU chemicals legislation is testament to the soft skills of this talented negotiator and the sharp mind of a chemical engineer. * The acquis is the body of common rights and obligations, which bind all the EU Member States. Applicant countries have to accept the Community acquis before they can join the EU and have to transpose it into their national legislation and implement it from the moment of their accession.
* The acquis is the body of common rights and obligations, which bind all the EU Member States. Applicant countries have to accept the Community acquis before they can join the EU and have to transpose it into their national legislation and implement it from the moment of their accession.
Interview by Lisa Locchi
Said about Anna-Liisa Sundquist:
"Anna-Liisa knows the chemicals world and the chemicals world knows Anna-Liisa. Her achievements are numerous. She not only masterly chaired the Council ad-hoc working group during the Finnish presidency bringing REACH to a successful closure, she also brought the Globally Harmonised System (GHS) to the world and now delivered on REACH as the Member State Committee chairperson. Thank you Anna-Liisa, hoping retirement will bring you as much fun!" Bjørn Hansen, Head of Unit, Chemicals, DG Environment
"My experience of working with Anna-Liisa in the Member State Committee has only ever been positive, right from the beginning. The first memory I have of meeting her was just before the first MSC meeting, where she went around to each member individually, spent a few minutes with them introducing herself and welcoming them to the Committee. In my many years of working for the Irish competent authority and attending EU meetings, that was a first. It was a great start to the Committee's work and set the tone for the many meetings to come, as we all felt included from the beginning.
Anna-Liisa has been an inspirational chairperson, bringing much knowledge and skills to the group, along with an incredible ability to stay focused during many long and complicated discussions. The MSC is a lovely, hardworking and successful group to be part of. A lot of the respect and success within the group comes from Anna-Liisa, as she has fostered these values within the group since the Committee was set up. She will be greatly missed by all of us as she now starts the next, exciting chapter in her life. For her retirement, I wish her good times and lots of laughter, happiness and long days filled with those things she has never had the time to do! Go raibh míle maith agat Anna-Liisa, agus go n-éirí an t-ádh leat." Majella Cosgrave, Irish Health and Safety Authority
"It has been a pleasure to have Anna-Liisa as Chairwoman of the MSC. I've always appreciated her correctness and ability to successfully calibrate political biases during the meetings. She always made sure that everyone was playing the same game so it gave all delegates a fair chance to join the discussions. I wish her to take her retirement as a new beginning and find new endeavours that really please her." Erwin Annys, Director REACH / Chemicals Policy, European Chemical Industry Council
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Committee for Socio-Economic
1-4 and 8-11 June (tentative);
7-11 and 14-18 September (tentative)
Committee for Risk Assessment:
1-5 and 8-12 June;
7-11 and 14-18 September (tentative)
Member State Committee:
Biocidal Products Committee:
Management Board meeting: