Late last night, after long negotiations between the Commission, Council and European Parliament, we agreed on a political framework to stop the financing of armed groups through trade in conflict minerals. This trade has led to documented, serious human rights abuses. As the worlds biggest trading bloc, the European Union has a responsibility to contribute to fair, transparent and value-based trade. This is a big step in that direction.
Minerals such as tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold are used in the production of everyday products such as mobile phones, cars and jewellery. However, exports of those minerals have also, throughout history, been known to finance wars and human rights violations across the globe. With the agreement that we have now reached (a press release and video from the press conference are available), we want to make sure that EU companies that import such raw material source their imports responsibly, and do not take part in the despicable business of financing war. With this joint effort, and with an EU Regulation set to be formally adopted in the coming months, we now stand a serious chance of rooting out this bloody form of trade.
The agreed framework sets out clear, mandatory due diligence obligations for the critical so-called "upstream" part of the mineral supply chain, which includes those who import raw materials to smelting and refinery plants in the EU. This covers the vast majority of such metals and minerals imported to Europe. The particular needs of small companies will be catered to so as to avoid subjecting them to overly cumbersome procedures, by exempting recycled minerals, and imports of very small volumes.
For "downstream" companies, that use the refined forms of these metals and minerals in components and goods, the Commission will now carry out a number of measures. These include the development of reporting tools and standards to further boost due diligence in the supply chain, as well as setting up a transparency database. Those downstream operators who import refined, metal-stage products into the EU will be covered by the mandatory obligations. Through a review clause, there is also the possibility for the Commission to propose further mandatory obligations for the downstream supply chain if deemed necessary.
We are combining all of this with a range of foreign policy and development cooperation efforts to promote change in the regions affected, as well as providing support to small and medium-sized businesses to make the Regulation workable and effective.
Our hard work to reach an agreement across the EU institutions has now paid off, through this political understanding. Our agreement will help trade to work for peace and prosperity, in communities and areas around the globe affected by armed conflict.
The eradication of conflict minerals is one of the issues in my portfolio as EU Trade Commissioner that I feel the most strongly about. The very idea of conflict minerals undermines most of what we want trade to achieve. Trade should be a tool to spur development, to pull people out of poverty and to foster prosperity and peace. Having trade in everyday minerals finance the campaigns of warlords and human rights abusers is something that we must never accept, nor in any way participate in.
Some technical work still remains, but the three institutions have reached a good political agreement which I hope can enter into force very soon.