During the 2019-2024 legislative term, the European Commission committed to the ambitious goal of ensuring the highest level of human and environmental protection through the revamp of the European Union’s (EU) chemicals legislative framework. As such, policy actions have been underpinned by the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, a key pillar of the zero-pollution agenda.  

In line with this, the European Union successfully revised the Regulation on the classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures (CLP), which will be officially adopted within the last Plenary sessions of the mandate. In addition, chemicals of concern have been further addressed in cross-sectorial and sector-specific legislation, such as the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation, the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation and the Toy Safety Directive.  

As set under the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, the 2019-2024 mandate was also underpinned by an increased focus on policy measures addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). This will remain a key topic within the discourse in the next legislative term, driven by the continuous work on the universal PFAS restriction proposal, as well as the expected Commission draft restriction on PFAS in firefighting foams.  

Important to note is that the European Commission fell short of presenting the much-anticipated revision of the Regulation on the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (REACH), a process which largely fell victim to the increasing politisation of the chemical policy and the calls for a “regulatory pause” on green legislation coming from countries, such as France.  

In April 2024, the European Commission published a communication on the essential use concept, setting out the overarching criteria, which would only have legal effect if and once introduced into specific legislation. A use of a most harmful substance would only be considered essential if its use is necessary for health or safety or is critical for the functioning of society and there are no acceptable alternatives. As such, one of the most crucial questions is whether the function provided by the substance in the relevant use is needed for the product itself to deliver its service. An illustrative guiding principle of an essential use would be to ensure the safety of products where there are no viable alternatives. Nonetheless, all concrete uses should be assessed on its own virtue against the criteria.  

The future of the initiatives yet to be published is highly dependent on the priorities of the upcoming European Commission President. However, considering the expected political climate, the main focus will continue to be on finding the right balance between achieving the EU’s objectives for a toxic-free environment and managing the overwhelming regulatory burdens imposed on industry players.    

Looking ahead of the next legislative term, the initiatives below will be key milestones

Key chemical initiatives

  • The publication of the revised Regulation on the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (REACH), which is expected to introduce ambitious changes, including the extension of the generic approach to risk assessment, legal introduction of the essential use concept, mixture assessment factor, and registration of polymers. 
  • The publication of the revised Food Contacts Materials Regulation, which among other aspects, could include  prioritising the assessment and management of substances.  
  • The publication of the ECHA Basic Regulation, expected to take into account the new responsibilities assigned to the Agency.  
  • The on-going restriction of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which is expected to be underpinned by the development of scientific opinions of the European Chemical Agency’s Committees, followed by a consideration of the European Commission.  
  • Adoption of the “One Substance, One Assessment” package, which will undergo negotiations between the institutions.