Gist of the opinion
The EESC recommends the following:
• The EU should prepare a review of the national analyses of strategic and critical raw materials and establish an EU overview. The criticality of individual raw materials needs to be reviewed regularly, possibly every two to three years, in order to monitor changes.
• An OECD/BIAC workshop on access to raw materials whilst possibly providing a starting point, would limit the EU’s range from the very beginning. Having identified a number of critical raw materials, those countries that are already or could potentially in the future be supplying these raw materials should be assessed with regard to their potential for beneficial cooperation. Then diplomatic steps should be undertaken.
• The Commission should enhance its efforts in support of effective negotiations at international level, not only to eliminate unfair trade barriers and distortions, but also to assist in the shaping of bi- and multilateral investment agreements.
• The Commission should activate the necessary mechanisms for action in case of infringements of the WTO rules by non-EU countries (e.g. export taxes/restrictions on materials).
• The EU's external tariffs should be set with a view to ensuring that sustainably produced raw materials are not excluded from the EU market. A review of existing tariffs needs to be undertaken to identify tariff lines that should be subject to change.
• The Commission should actively participate at the annual meetings of the World Mining Ministers Forum and the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining and Metals with the aim of establishing better relations with a number of the world’s authorities on the matter, in order to identify and strengthen the investment opportunities for the EU.
• The Commission should continue its support for the European Technology Platform on Sustainable Mineral Resources and include its topics in the upcoming calls for 2009-2013. Also, it is important to push forward raw material-related themes among the domains for priority action in the 8th R&D Framework Programme, such as for example promoting resource and energy efficiency.
• The Commission should foster an objective methodology based on a full life cycle analysis to assess the validity of resource efficiency measures and of any “material substitution policy”.
The Commission's departments should strengthen recycling and facilitate the use of secondary raw materials in the EU and propose sound recycling, recovery and re-use strategies in non-EU countries by promoting best practices at international level.