Dancet Urges EU Commission to Rethink Cuts

« Agency faces fewer biocides posts and less subsidy for REACH- ECHA executive director, Geert Dancet, has urged the European Commission and Council of Ministers to settle for a cut in the agency’s biocides staff from 48 to 42, rather than to 36.

Mr Dancet told Chemical Watch the agency’s volume of work on biocides has grown “exponentially” this year. This is shown, he said, by the fact that the value of biocides-related fees it has collected is more than twice that forecast in its 2015 Budget.

“The volume of work is enormously more than originally anticipated. There’s the review programme on active substances – for which we don’t get fees – and there are applications for Union authorisations and others for which we do receive fees, and which must be done within a certain timeframe.

“Most of these were submitted by SMEs, which are the main actors in this industry, and their survival depends on the timely approval of EU applications.
“The fee part has enormously increased, while we have been unable to increase biocides staffing levels – and may even have to cut posts next year.”

Mr Dancet said the current uncertainty, surrounding future staffing levels, makes it impossible to recruit new biocides expert staff – who must be offered five-year contracts. “Even if I have more work that for the people I currently employ, I can’t recruit [new staff] because I have no certainty that I’ll have these posts next year, and the year after, and so on … that’s why we are significantly stressing out our people at the moment.”

The Commission directorate responsible for biocides, DG Sante, has promised to go back to DG Budget to ask for more posts, said Mr Dancet, but winning this argument “won’t be easy” because the Commission and Council of Ministers want zero growth for EU agencies as a whole, and the posts to be taken from Echa are earmarked for other agencies.

The Commission and Council have also decided that Echa’s subsidy for work on REACH and CLP should be cut by nearly €4m.
This, said Mr Dancet, is due to a “wrong classification” of Echa in the budget proposal as three separate agencies instead of one: although Echa’s work on biocides and the prior informed consent (PIC) Regulation is classified as start-up agencies and so doesn’t face subsidy cuts, REACH/CLP is deemed to be a mature agency, and all EU mature agencies are facing subsidy cuts.

“If we had been classified as one agency, we’d have been classified as a new task agency and would not have had any cuts,” said Mr Dancet.
Echa’s budget is part of the much larger EU budget, which includes allocations for all EU agencies. In September, the Council of Ministers backed the Commission’s position, but the EU budget must also be voted on by the European Parliament, before the three institutions thrash out an agreed final decision in a 21-day conciliation period.

This is due to start on 29 October, the day after Parliament’s plenary vote on the budget.
Echa’s 2016 work programme, which was adopted by its Management Board in September, allows for 42 biocides posts. But “should the staff posts or subsidies that Echa receives be significantly different to these the board voted for earlier this year, the programme will have to be revised in December, identifying which part of the fee- or non-fee based work will be decreased or get low priority.”

Article of Geraint Roberts

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