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Päivi Jokiniemi and Paul Trouth
Article related to: News from ECHA
Monitoring the effectiveness of enforcement
One of the main conclusions in the REACH review published in June 2013 by the Commission was the need to have a strong and harmonised approach towards enforcement in the Member States. The Forum of national enforcement authorities is developing a harmonised methodology for enforcement projects and focusing efforts to improve information exchange between ECHA and national authorities. The Commission, in liaison with the Forum, will also develop indicators to monitor the effectiveness of REACH and CLP enforcement.
The Forum of national enforcement authorities has kicked off work to establish harmonised methodology for carrying out enforcement projects in the Member States. "After some years of experience of coordinating enforcement activities, the Forum felt that the time was ripe to establish a harmonised methodology for preparing for key projects," explains Miguel Aguado, a Commission representative in the Forum. "We went through the lifecycles of all the Forum-coordinated enforcement projects run so far, analysed the different phases and tried to identify which aspects could be unified."
The aim is to harmonise the organisational aspects of enforcement projects in advance to make them more effective to develop and implement. The methodology in practice means, for example, creating a manual for what an enforcement project should consist of and establishing criteria for choosing topics for harmonised enforcement projects. "Each enforcement project is preceded by a lot of work and planning in the Forum working group,which develops a manual for the inspectors to highlight what they are actually going to inspect and also creates a questionnaire and a reporting tool to be used by the inspectors to report back," says Katja vom Hofe, the German member of the Forum.
Stakeholders' views welcomved
Along with establishing detailed methodology, the Forum is looking into creating a more systematic approach to Forum-run enforcement activities. Ulrike Kowalski, the team leader of the Forum Secretariat at ECHA, foresees that in the future, harmonised enforcement projects will be run back-to-back as a continuous activity.
"Up to now we have organised REACH enforcement projects (REFs) one after the other, but we are planning to develop an on-going cycle where we develop the next project already while the previous is still operational, to improve effectiveness," Ms vom Hofe adds.
The planning phase in the cycle will include taking on board the views of stakeholders on the project. "We are opening the doors to our stakeholders to give their views on what enforcement activities they think should be taken up at European level," Mr Aguado highlights. The third harmonised REACH enforcement project, REF 3, is on-going in the Member States and will run through the summer. It focuses on cooperation with customs.
Inidicators to help evaluate effectiveness
The REACH review called for more consistent and comparable data on the implementation of the regulation. For this purpose, the Commission is launching a project to develop enforcement indicators and will be discussing with the Forum how best to collaborate in the development. "We need to have an instrument in order to know whether the regulations are functioning well," Mr Aguado notes.
"The aim is to develop measuring tools that will benefit all parties: for the Commission to know how REACH and CLP are working, and for the Forum and the Member States to help evaluate their work and help report back on their activities in a more harmonised and systematic manner."
The conclusions of this work will be publicly available once finalised. The REACH review altogether recommends 55 actions related to enforcement, from which 21 are directly linked to the Forum. "We have extracted all the recommendations given in the review and right now are developing the tasks for the coming years in the Forum's multi-annual work plan. Some of the actions have already been taken up in Forum working groups," Ms Kowalski says.
Training the trainers
The administrative structures of enforcement authorities can differ greatly from one Member State to another, and one of the main tasks of the Forum is also to facilitate exchange programmes between Member States to promote best practice. One such initiative is the annual Forum-organised "Train the trainers" event in which inspectors from each Member State are invited to ECHA to receive practical training and act as multipliers of the lessons learnt in their home countries.
As the national authorities are struggling with resources, the enforcement of other EU legislation also plays a key role in improving the efficiency of enforcement activities. "You have to remember that chemicals enforcement does not cover only REACH, CLP and PIC," notes Mr Aguado.
"The coordination of enforcement activities with those under other EU legislation, such as occupational health and safety and customs, should be further studied to bring the expertise together and to benefit from synergies," Ms vom Hofe points out.
The Forum already cooperates with inspectors in other networks, such as IMPEL, which coordinates the enforcement of the industrial emissions directive, and SLIC-CHEMEX regarding occupational safety and health legislation. "Setting up good communication channels and cooperation between the different levels of national authorities and ECHA is crucial to ensure effective enforcement," Ms vom Hofe stresses.
Multi-annual work plan
The Forum is currently discussing its multi-annual work plan. The three main focus areas in the coming years will be:
The Forum coordinates the network of Member States authorities responsible for enforcement of REACH, CLP and PIC. The Forum spreads good practice, identifies enforcement strategies, sets up harmonised enforcement projects and joined inspections, provides support to inspectors and liaises with stakeholders.
Interviews by Veera Saari
Image: Ulrike Kowalski (left), Miguel Aguado and Katja vom Hofe.
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Biocidal Products Committee:
26 February-1 March
Committee for Risk Assessment:
Committee for Socio-Economic
18-22 March (tentative)
Management Board meeting:
Member State Committee:
13-17 May (tentative)