UNILATERAL CHANGE TO FORMALDEHYDE LIMITS: LEGAL ACTION TAKEN AGAINST GERMAN REPUBLIC
Proceedings at the court in Cologne promoted by Fantoni, also representing six other companies. The fight continues against the free-for-all of non-tariff barriers hampering Europe's free market.
A new chapter has been added to the battle to contrast Germany's unilateral decision to introduce its own limits to formaldehyde emissions in wooden panels. The matter has already been denounced by the European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton, who spoke in response to two questions brought by numerous members of the European Parliament from various countries, including Elena Lizzi, MEP from the Friuli region, who defined the new legislation as illegal, and therefore invalid. The Fantoni company from Osoppo, also representing six other companies in the wood industry (Italians Frati, Saib, Saviola, Arper and Panguaneta, as well as Belgian Unilin), initiated proceedings against the German Republic at the court of Cologne. The decision to take the judicial route, an option only open to manufacturers, was made with the support of Federlegno, following preliminary analysis by the Brussels law office of DWF. The case is being handled by Melchers of Frankfurt, and the arguments in its support are of a purely technical nature. The change in limits introduced by Germany disrupts the uniformity of formaldehyde measurement and classification methods, thus breaching the CE mark regulations for wood-based products. Furthermore, the German standard came into force on 1st January 2020 without any prior notification to the European authorities. Finally, as a more general observation, it hampers the free movement of goods within the European Single Market. “We are not against any new standards for formaldehyde emission limits in principle,” emphasises Paolo Fantoni, who is also President of the European Panel Federation (EPF), “but we do oppose a free-for-all in which individual countries make unilateral and asymmetrical decisions. Seven of the 28 EU countries have a mandatory limit, and among these, Germany has opted to introduce more restrictive rules and testing methods unilaterally, but this limits free competition within the single market. As a result, it not only puts European producers in difficulty when selling in Germany while leaving the doors wide open for completely unregulated products to be imported into the rest of Europe from further afield, but it also creates confusion among European consumers. For this reason we asked the EU some time ago to intervene and ensure uniformity of regulations by introducing a unified maximum category for formaldehyde”. But the issue is part of a much wider context, which is what makes it particularly worrying. “The world has entered a phase of commercial warfare, which is clearly reflected in the use of import duty,” explains Fantoni, “but we are also constantly seeing the introduction of non-customs barriers, which are less visible, but which have a significant impact on international trade, even within what should be a single market, such as Europe. In conversations with the offices of the European Commission we have ascertained that there are enormous numbers of cases of unilateral introduction of standards and technical limitations, above all involving Central European countries. Indeed, the authorities in Brussels have been overrun with work in recent months. As a result, the custodians of the single market are experiencing extreme difficulty in intervening rapidly to solve these issues.” Sheet – Formaldehyde limits The panels produced in Europe are used in furnishing, construction, packaging and many other sectors. Standard EN13986 divides formaldehyde emissions into two categories: E2 and E1. The second, lower emission rate (0.1 ppm – parts per million – as recommended by the World Health Organisation), was adopted by companies belonging to the European Panel Federation (EPF) back in 2007. The Federation intends to push for a precautionary reduction in this volatile substance, based on the recent restriction report from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). In January 2020, Germany unilaterally introduced an emissions limit set at half of emission class E1, calling it E0.5, on all products brought into the country.
For more information contact Mrs Rosita Venturini, Communication & Media Relations Manager: Fantoni spa via Europa Unita 1 I-33010 Osoppo, Udine / Italy Tel. +39 0432 976282 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org