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PFAS pollution draft legislation in France raises questions around the EU’s future

While France was taking an ambitious step towards protecting the environment, the parliamentary debate moved to the role the EU should be playing on this matter. In an unusual turn of events, domestic politicians pushed to legislate on this matter at an EU level, calling into question why the EU was so behind.

The French National Assembly adopted on 4th of April a draft bill which aims to protect the population against PFAS substances - a large group of complex chemicals used in many products since the 1950s which do not break down easily and warrant a high level of vigilance due to the public health and environmental threat they pose. The draft legislation was adopted during an opposition day reserved for the French Green Party (Les Écologistes) in the lower house of Parliament. To become law, the bill must now be adopted by the French Senate where it will be discussed on 30th of May 2024.

The draft legislation aims to ban PFAS substances from cosmetic products, wax products and clothing (with an exception for protective clothing) from January 1st 2026, among other measures.

Following the vote in the National Assembly, the French government unveiled on the 5th of April its plan to fight against PFAS products. This plan aims primarily at establishing a full assessment of PFAS pollution in France (water contamination, environmental contamination, food contamination etc.) and also outlines the need for Brussels to “prioritise” the fight against PFAS pollution in strategic sectors.

The debate in Parliament regarding this draft legislation quickly moved onto the more controversial topic of the role of the EU. Members of the parliamentary majority and the French government firmly defended that the topic of PFAS pollution is typically one which Brussels has the scope to regulate, whilst opposition members were quick to point out that Brussels wasn’t moving quick enough on the subject. French MP Charles de Fournier underlined the need to take action now rather than waiting for European measures.

The discussions around this draft legislation therefore open a range of questions regarding the role of the EU. If member States are actively moving quicker than the EU and aiming at going beyond EU legislation, then what does this mean for the future of EU cohesion and the single market ?

Jessica Randell from the French agency Kairos Public Affairs wrote this contribution.

Contact any of our United Government Affairs network members to analyse the threats and opportunities behind this initiative and engage in policymaking.

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