CONSUMERS: WILL PARLIAMENT AND COUNCIL BE ON SAME WAVELENGTH?

On consumer policy, the Hungarian EU Presidency inherits some touchy issues, at various stages of the legislative pipeline: the proposal on consumers' rights (first reading), the regulation on nutrition labelling (second reading) and the regulation on novel foods (third reading). The negotiations are not likely to be easy considering the differences of views between the Council and the European Parliament.

CONSUMERS' RIGHTS

After more than two years of talks on the draft directive on consumers' rights, the EU institutions do not yet see eye to eye on this highly sensitive text. The Presidency will have to try to bring them closer together. So far, only the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) has managed to develop a general approach (set to be validated by the Council on 18 January). This directive represents one of the most important challenges for consumer policy due to the changes it would bring to national legislation. Its aim is to regulate all stages of concluding a contract at EU level.

The task promises to be risky: the approach taken by the Coreper is described by some lobbies as "cavalier" since the tentative agreement was obtained at the price of abandoning two whole chapters of the proposal. This decision makes negotiations even tougher with the European Parliament, which is already highly divided and set to vote in plenary in February 2011. German rapporteur Andreas Schwab (EPP) has already made it known that he would continue to hold discussions with fellow members on the basis of the Commission's proposal, even if this means leaving to the last minute the chapters abandoned by the Council (Chapters 4 on guarantees and 5 on unfair contract clauses).

NUTRITION LABELLING

The Hungarian Presidency will then supervise negotiations with the Parliament on the draft regulation on...

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