Europe's clothing and textile industries have reported mixed feelings about the European Union's proposed REACH chemical control policy, which won agreement in principle from the EU Council of Ministers for competitiveness ministers this week (13 December).

The issue is vital to textile and garment makers who require "vast numbers of chemicals and blends", said the European Apparel and Textile Organisation (Euratex).

Adil Elmassi, policy officer for environmental matters at Euratex, said the council's agreement on lightening the proposed registration requirements under REACH - which calls for the listing of some 30,000 chemicals - is a "positive outcome" which "reduces comprehensively a lot of the unnecessary burden on industry generally."

But the organisation is "quite dissatisfied with the outcome on authorisation," he said.

 Mr Elmassi told that "a precedent has been given to substitution over the question of adequately controlling the risk," when trying to decide whether a chemical that is potentially dangerous can be used in the EU.

Even where it can be shown that the risks of a given chemical can be fully eliminated, it will still have to be substituted by a safer substance and this is both burdensome and unnecessary, he said.

Finally, Euratex is annoyed that REACH imposes some requirements on European companies but not importers "that we cannot agree to both from the viewpoint of competitiveness or from the need for safer management of risk in imported articles," said the spokesman.

It is unlikely to be before next March that ministers will agree formally on a common position. This will then be followed by a second reading in parliament and a second consideration of the policy by ministers with final agreement unlikely before next autumn and entry into force in early 2007.

By Alan Osborn