The European Commission's disputed proposal to classify titanium dioxide as a carcinogen is facing a showdown in the European Parliament's environment committee (Envi) next week.

Earlier this month, Parliament extended the period of legislative scrutiny over the Commission's delegated act by two months until 4 February 2020 after one political group – the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) – tabled an objection.

That prevented the swift approval the Commission had hoped for on the category 2-carcinogen proposal – part of the delegated act that forms the 14th adaptation to technical progress (ATP) of the CLP Regulation.

A meeting of Envi on 2-3 December will establish whether other political groups will lend support to the ECR's motion of objection. It will be put to a vote on 3 December, the result of which will be decisive for the next step, those close to the discussions have said.

If the objection is approved, it will then be tabled for a plenary session of Parliament where an absolute majority among the 751 MEPs will be required to veto the Commission's proposal. If the Envi vote fails, the objection will not be carried to the plenary.

Chemical Watch has contacted all of the political groups to ask about their position on the issue, but only one – the Renew Group – responded. Its line "is to be discussed and confirmed only ahead of this [Envi] meeting, on 2 December at the latest", it said.



One source close to Envi said there were "positive signals" from the European People's Party (EPP) to back the objection, but that further discussions were needed for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) – part of the Renew Group – and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&P) to move their stance.

The S&P had previously told Chemical Watch it was not raising objections, as did the Greens/European Free Alliance.

If the Envi motion fails, another route open to political groups is to table the objection as a resolution directly to the plenary. It is not clear whether ECR is considering this option.

Meanwhile, the Council of Ministers, which separately scrutinises Commission proposals during the same period, has also backtracked from its initial position of non-objection.

The Council's Committee of the Permanent Representatives of the Governments of the Member States to the EU (Coreper) removed the 14th ATP from its agenda last week because of the extension of the deadline in Parliament.

Previously the Council was understood to be pressing on with its decision, which was to be submitted to the competitiveness council (Compet) on 28 November as an 'A' item. This enables the delegated act to be formally adopted without debate.

The Council formed its draft position after objections tabled by Germany and the Czech Republic failed to muster a qualified majority.

The Commission adopted the Regulation containing the classification of inhalable powder forms of titanium dioxide on 4 October, despite a continuous wave of opposition from stakeholders.

Delegated acts are seldom overturned during the EU scrutiny phase, due to the high vote threshold needed. An objection raised by either institution is sufficient to revoke a delegated act.

The Commission can only publish its decision after both Parliament and Council have approved it, with harmonised classifications applying 18 months after that.

Industry has slammed the Commission's decision to classify the substance, questioning the robustness of the science behind it. While NGOs and some member states have been campaigning for a more comprehensive classification.

A spokesperson for the French presidency at the Council said discussions regarding its stance were of a "confidential nature". France was the member state behind the original proposal.

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