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9 Dec 2021

Silvia Ellena, EURACTIV.com

NGOs ask von der Leyen to intervene on delayed corporate human rights law

The letter came after the Commission again delayed discussions on new rules subjecting EU-based and operating companies and their international value chains to stricter controls on respecting human rights issues such as child labour and environmental rights.

The Commission was set to adopt the Sustainable Corporate Governance initiative in December, but discussions were put back to 2022...

A Commission official told EURACTIV that preparations for this proposal are still underway but did not explain the delay.

“What I would like is for it to be transparent and clear why it’s being rejected- and that’s exactly the problem, we don’t have clarity on what has happened for this to be rejected,” said MEP Lara Wolters, rapporteur for the corporate due diligence legislative initiative that was adopted by the Parliament last March.

According to civil society representatives and MEPs, the proposal was postponed because it did not pass the assessment by the Commission’s internal regulatory scrutiny board, a seven-member independent body charged with quality control and impact assessment of legislation.

Wolters said she “won’t hesitate to launch a freedom of information request” if the board refuses to provide further information on the rejection.

“There’s a lack of transparency. There’s also a lack of respect, I think, to all the stakeholders who were so closely involved,” Claudia Saller, director of the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ), told EURACTIV...

Meanwhile, the delays at the EU level pushed the Netherlands to announce the proposal of a national due diligence law. Other EU countries also have legislative frameworks for corporate accountability like France and Germany.

However, the supply chain law adopted in Germany last June has weaknesses, according to Johannes Blankenbach, Researcher at the Business and Human rights Resource Centre...

While national legislation can pressure the Commission to adopt binding rules, activists said these initiatives risk creating a “patchwork legislation.”

According to Saller, the EU law would guarantee legal certainty and a level playing field for companies and victims across the bloc.