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Posted: April 22, 2009
Chemicals industry questions value of stakeholder dialogue in Europe
(Nanowerk News) The current format of stakeholder dialogue practised in Europe "has no value in itself," according to a leading figure in the chemicals sector.
Dr Gernot Klotz, executive director of research & innovation at industry group Cefic, told EurActiv that a new form of social engagement is needed to debate complex issues.
He expressed frustration with the existing process, complaining that each discussion begins with a rehearsal of old arguments and fails to move debate forward.
"The current stakeholder has to build on previous discussions, and not start from scratch every single time. Stakeholder dialogue should be designed not as an exchange of statements but allowing room for negotiations. That can only be done through smaller discussion rounds, in smaller fora," Dr Klotz said.
He said public debate on issues such as nanotechnology and the future of the chemcials industry, had to lead to concrete conclusions.
"The stakeholder dialogue as practiced today in the EU, due to all political pressures of transparency, has no value in itself – it only serves a purpose as a tool," Dr Klotz said.
Last year, the European Commission announced it would publish a list of individual experts who sit on its advisory groups in an effort to improve transparency (EurActiv 26/03/08).
The role of stakeholder groups has also come under fire recently from NGOs. Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) slammed the European Commission's high level groups (HLGs) in February, claiming they are "skewed" in favour of business interests (EurActiv 11/2/09).
FOEE singled out for particular criticism the HLGs on chemicals, pharmaceuticals, competitiveness, energy, the environment, cars, and textiles and clothing. The groups were established by the Commission's enterprise and industry directorate.
"The composition of the majority of groups examined was found to be skewed to the benefit of industry," according to a FoEE report.
In response to FoEE's criticism, the EU executive defended the HLGs by saying they were a "useful tool" for drawing on the expertise of industry.
The public disagreement over the value of such consultation exercises also highlighted differing views within the environmental movement, with the European Environmental Bureau contributing to the HLG on the chemicals industry, and FOEE calling for the group to be dissolved.