In this edition of Brussels, my love?, we discuss rumours to keep the financial sector out of corporate sustainability regulations and examine the EU’s proposals to combat child abuse online.
Our guests this week were Elizabeth Kuiper, associate director with the European Policy Centre, Michiel Hoogeveen, Dutch MEP for the European Conservatives and Reformists and Isabelle Schömann, deputy secretary general of the European Trade Union Confederation.
With European elections looming, Brussels is busy of late with EU ambassadors chewing over various European Commission proposals with the aim of concluding them before European Parliament elections next year. One directive under discussion this week, known as the ‘Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive’, aims at holding larger companies accountable for their protection of human rights in labour and their impact on the environment.
NGOs welcome the prospects of EU-level corporate responsibility rules and say it is a necessary measure in the face of a worsening climate crisis.
“We don’t have a choice but to make it a reality,” said Elizabeth Kuiper. “Businesses don’t have a choice because we already see that climate change is impacting their business.”
Businesses and entrepreneurs, however, are worried the legislation could hinder Europe’s global competitiveness. With a background in banking, Dutch MEP Michiel Hoogeveen of the European Conservatives and Reformists expressed concern that the measures would place an undue burden on the European economy.
“Businesses have to comply with these rules and regulations,” Hoogeveen said. “They have to report. They have to hire consultants. They have to hire audit firms. They have to hire law firms.”
Several EU states, including Spain and Italy, are calling for the exclusion of the financial sector from the directive, a move which found pushback from Isabelle Schömann, deputy secretary general of the European Trade Union Confederation.
“Justice has to be a part of what businesses have to respect,” Schömann said, “and there is no business outside legislation.”
Another item discussed in this week’s edition was the safety of children on the internet.
MEPs on the Civil Liberties Committee this week voted in favour of new legislation meant to fight the spread of child sex abuse materials and grooming activities on the internet.
The law has renewed the debate over the balance between regulation of the internet and the protection of the privacy rights of its users.
“I think the European Parliament did a very good job here,” said Hoogeveen. “Child abuse content is obviously very important to tackle. But we don’t want to end up in a mass surveillance sphere.”
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