EU to ratify Minamata Convention on Mercury next week


 After months of legislative work, the Council of European Union on Thursday May 11, 2017 adopted a Decision to conclude, on behalf of the European Union, the ratification of Minamata Convention on Mercury and deposit the instrument on May 18 with the United Nations.

In a press statement on Thursday, the Council said together with the new regulation on Mercury which was adopted on 25 April, the EU has now taken all necessary legislative measures to ratify the Convention, which will help protect its citizens from mercury pollution.

Mercury is a highly toxic substance which, if emitted or released into the air, land and water, can cause serious risks to humans, fish, ecosystems and wildlife. Given that it can travel long distances through air and water, mercury represents a global threat that can only be tackled through cooperation at the international level.

The Minamata Convention provides an international regulatory framework with the aim of protecting human health and the global environment from the harmful effects of mercury. The EU signed the treaty together with its Member States on 10 October 2013 in Kumamoto (Japan) and undertook to ensure its ratification and implementation across the Union.

“The forthcoming ratification of the Minamata Convention is a major step forward against mercury pollution. The EU takes the health of its citizens very seriously, and is part of international efforts to limit mercury emissions and releases on a global scale”, said Jose A. Herrera, Minister for the Environment of Malta and President of the Council. “The Maltese Presidency, and as of 1 July the incoming Estonian Presidency, will oversee the preparatory work required within the EU for the first Conference of the Parties to the Convention”.

The Minamata Convention addresses all aspects related to the use of mercury and sets out measures to:   ban new mercury mines and phase-out existing ones;  reduce the use, emissions and releases of mercury from artisanal and small-scale gold mining and major industrial activities;  phase-out and phase-down the use of mercury in a number of mercury-added products and processes, specifically its use in dental amalgam;  restrict trade and prohibit the manufacture, import and export of mercury and a wide range of mercury-added products such as batteries or lights;   control and reduce air emissions and land and water releases; and  ensure the safer storage and proper management of mercury waste.

On 2 February 2016, the Commission presented a ratification package consisting of two legislative proposals: a regulation and a decision. After successful negotiations with the European Parliament, the new regulation on mercury, this ensures that EU legislation is aligned with international rules as set out in the Minamata Convention, was adopted on 25 April 2017.

The Council Decision on the conclusion of the Convention was endorsed by the European Parliament on 27 April 2017. With today’s adoption by the Council, the Decision immediately enters into force and approves the Convention on behalf of the EU, paving the way for its final ratification.

The EU now needs to deposit the instrument of ratification with the United Nations. The deposit of the instrument will be coordinated through the Maltese Permanent Representation to the United Nations, with the instruments presented on 18 May. Member States will follow their own internal procedures in order to be able to deposit their national instruments of ratification.

The Convention, signed by 128 States and economic integration organisations, will enter into force 90 days after the ratification (or acceptance, approval or accession) by 50 of the parties. Provided that this milestone is reached, the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention (COP1) will take place from 24 to 29 September 2017 in Geneva. As at May 10, 2017, 43 Parties have ratified the Convention.

Twenty-one Member States signed the Convention on 10 October 2013 while Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia and Poland did so on 24 September 2014 and Malta on 8 October 2014. Estonia and Portugal have not signed the Convention, but they have expressed their commitment to ratify it.