- Lead registrants responding to our campaign
- Downstream users - tell suppliers what you use your substance for
- ECHA introduces: the ECHA Helpdesk
- Workshop on evaluation
- Evaluation promotes safe use of chemicals
- ECHA and AmCham Finland in a joint chemicals seminar
- A visit from the Governor of the Bank of Finland, Mr Erkki Liikanen
- ECHA's Third Stakeholders' Day
- New appointments
- Interview: Mercedes Ortuño, Chair of the Board of Appeal
- Over 500 REACH Lead Registrants shared good pratice at the Lead Registrants' Workshop
- Living in Helsinki - Learning Finnish
Send your feedback to:echanewsletter (at) echa.europa.eu
Article related to: people_and_perspectives
Interview: Mercedes Ortuño, Chair of the Board of Appeal
Absolutely independent in decision-making: The Board of Appeal is an independent body for legal redress. Registrants can appeal to it against specified decisions of ECHA. The fi rst notice of appeal has already arrived at the Board of Appeal. Mercedes Ortuño, Chair of the Board, is ready for her challenging task.
The first notice of appeal against a decision of ECHA arrived in the Registry of the Board of Appeal in Helsinki mid-September. The real work of the Board of Appeal, a body equipped with independence and power, has started. Mercedes Ortuño, the Chair of the Board of Appeal, needs to decide upon the admissibility of appeals within 30 days. "It could be a short time if the issues are complex," stresses Ms Ortuño.
REACH extends transparency to the Board of Appeal. When a notice of appeal arrives, the Chair first needs to decide on possible confidentiality requests. Mercedes Ortuño stresses the importance of deciding on case by case basis. It should not be possible to claim confidentiality for information that is already publicly available. After the decision, an announcement and a summary of the case will be published in the Appeals section on ECHA's website. Two weeks after that, any person establishing an interest in the result of the case may intervene in the proceedings. "The intervention is limited to support or oppose the remedies sought by one of the parties," explains Mercedes.
Empowered and fair
Both individuals and legal entities can submit appeals against ECHA´s decisions (see footnote). The rules are laid down in REACH and the Commission Regulation 771/2008. "After a notice of appeal has been submitted to the Board, it is sent by the Registry to ECHA. Once the appeal has been admitted, the Board will nominate a rapporteur among its members. The Legal Affairs Unit presents the defence of ECHA.
Then we can decide whether there is a need for additional observations by the parties. We may invite them to put new observations. The parties can ask for an oral hearing, or the Board can decide to have one. Then, and after our deliberations, we decide on the appeal."
"Our core task is to provide legal redress and to guarantee a fair trial. We have to be absolutely impartial and objective. We are very much empowered by the Regulation: we can request any kind of information from both parties, summon the parties to meetings, and we can get all the tools we need for deciding in an objective and technically sound way."
The Board is totally independent in its decision- making. "We are within ECHA but absolutely independent. The Executive Director of ECHA, for instance, does not have any power on our decision-making or any capacity of infl uence", says Mercedes Ortuño. For the Board it is nevertheless very important to understand how ECHA works. "Our decision is fi nal with respect to ECHA which cannot appeal, because our decisions are ECHA decisions. But of course our decisions can always be contested by the appellant to the Court of First Instance."
Board of experts
The Board of Appeal is a collegial body that needs to decide within tight deadlines and with the highest possible standards of technical and legal quality. The members are experts on European Law and in the fi eld of chemical substances and the chemical sector. The Chair of the Board must be a lawyer, and one member must be legally and the other technically qualified.
The other two members are Mia Pakarinen and Harry Spaas. "Mia Pakarinen is a Finnish lawyer with broad experience on EU law. She has been working as a legal advisor for the Offi ce for Harmonisation in the Internal Market in Alicante, Spain. Harry Spaas is a Dutch engineer and has been working in different positions of responsibility in the chemical industry. He has very wide experience, especially in risk assessment and risk management," Mercedes Ortuño explains.
The Registrar, Sari Haukka, was previously working in the Court of First Instance. She has broad experience in Case Law and procedural rules. "She has been working in the Board of Appeal as a pioneer, organising the Registry, before we came." The Registry is in charge of receipt, transmission and custody of all the documents and supports the Board in many different ways.
The ECHA Management Board appointed an alternate member for each permanent member and the Chairman. Even with alternate members, the decisions of the Board of Appeal must be consistent. Mercedes Ortuño is responsible for maintaining this consistency.
Important for stakeholders
"During the drafting of REACH, the stakeholders required the integration of a Board of Appeal as a way of legal redress. It is important for us to create confidence in the appeal system created by REACH and that is why we want a better mutual understanding, to be visible, and to explain to stakeholders what they can expect from us and what they cannot," says the Chair. Mercedes Ortuño knows that the stakeholders have a lot of questions and concerns. "CEFIC is working now on a vademecum on legal redress in REACH, addressing also the Board of Appeal and the appeal system."
As a result of the work of the Board of Appeal, an important Case Law on chemicals will be created. "Then you will know what the criteria are in each issue. Having access to the decisions will help the potential appellants and the sector a lot."
City for cycling
Mercedes Ortuño applied for her position for professional and private reasons. "The objectives of REACH are something worthy to work with. I have been working in the Ministry of Justice in Spain and also in an independent supervisory authority in data protection and security of information, so it was also challenging for me. My work is very interesting and I am very happy of my decision."
"I had also personal reasons, because my partner is Finnish, and part of my family and friends are here. Helsinki is a city in which you feel good. For me it is fascinating when you can ride a bicycle in a city. I know the climate and the lack of light, but I am not too scared about the winter. It is something very positive having these marked seasons."
Decisions of ECHA that may be challenged by an appeal are for instance decisions on: conditions that ECHA imposes on exemptions for substances used in research and development ("PPORD"); rejections of registrations in general; dossier evaluation; certain data sharing issues; completeness check; and evaluation of substances.
Sign in to comment and/or rate this article.
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: