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REACH impacts in Greece will be felt most by importers
Chemical industry chief says there is demand for help on data-sharing, dossier preparation
The impacts of REACH compliance will mostly be felt by preparation and article importers in Greece, according to the Director-General of the Hellenic Association of Chemical Industries (HACI) Panos Scarlatos.
Speaking to journalists during the European chemical industry convention in Athens, Mr Scarlatos pointed to the industry’s negative trade balance and said he was concerned that Greek importers would neither be able to swallow costs passed down by suppliers of substances nor have enough economic weight to barter over them.
On the other hand, he noted that raw material supplies are mostly purchased within the EU, which could make the job of Greek importers easier as suppliers should have higher REACH awareness than those based outside the EU. Nevertheless, he warned, many downstream users of chemicals still have a lot of work to do to understand their supply chains and identify their roles under REACH.
Mr Scarlatos said a survey commissioned by the government last year put the cost to Greek industry of REACH compliance at around €430,000. Around 60 producers will need to register their substances. Some SME manufacturers are likely to find the cost of registering may equate to a year’s turnover.
Around 200 firms belong to HACI and four associated trade bodies representing the industrial gases, paints and coatings, agrochemicals and expanded polystyrene sectors. The Greek chemical industry in total comprises around 300 firms and also include comapnies involved in fertiliser manufacturer, crop protection chemicals, detergents, polymers and base chemicals. HACI does not operate a formal REACH helpdesk but, together with REACHCentrum, the commercial service provider of the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC), it is running monthly training sessions on REACH-IT and other issues during the six-month REACH pre-registration period. These are provided at a cost, with discounts for members of the trade associations, and are said to attract 20 participants at a time.
Mr Scarlatos himself runs a privately-owned REACH consultancy which as well as offering on-site help with preparing substance inventories and registration services, also offers third-party and only representative services. It has been contracted by one Chinese firm to register six substances.
He predicts growing demand in Greece for REACH expertise. In the near term, he says, companies need to learn how to manage their involvement in substance information exchange fora (SIEFs) and REACH consortia. Then they will need to understand how to generate information for exposure scenarios and other aspects of preparing REACH registration dossiers. Greek firms are becoming involved in consortia established by CEFIC sector groups but have yet to initiate any of their own. Companies also need help to understand the strategic impacts of REACH in order to calculate their most cost-effective compliance responses.
The Greek REACH competent authority set up a helpdesk for SMEs last autumn, which is reported to offer a good quality service. Both the competent authority and the REACH inspectors appointed are said to have experience of previous EU chemicals legislation, offering good continuity of service for chemical firms. The government is now drafting legislation to set out the penalties that will apply for non-compliances.
Mr Scarlatos said Greek firms are, like their counterparts in other EU countries, concerned that enforcement provisions will be insufficient and will allow competitors to gain unfair advantage with lower-priced products containing non-REACH registered substances. The inadequate expertise of customs authorities to spot non-compliant imports is a key issue, he warned.
As well as being pushed by their trade bodies, Greek firms will be required to take action through their supply chains, he said, and that this form of communication - forcing producers to share and discuss data with customers - is one of the biggest benefits of REACH.
At the same time, he points to a growing trend among firms to distinguish their products on the EU market by emphasising their social responsibility. As an example, he notes that nine Greek firms have certified some 80 products under the EU ecolabel scheme - "there are more Greek products carrying the EU ecolabel than from any other European country".