On 26 May, SOMO organised a Roundtable in the European Parliament, together with Judith Sargentini (Member of European Parliament, GroenLinks). This well attended meeting focused on conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This Roundtable focused on two objectives: urging the European commission to develop legislation in the matter, and offering a platform for Congolese NGOs. The meeting was a success, but the road to actual legislation is still a long one. But doing nothing is not an option, according to Judith Sargentini.

Conflict minerals are minerals the mining of and trade in which contribute to violent conflicts, for example minerals originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which are used in the manufacture of mobile telephones, among other things. Armed Congolese groups control mines and sell the minerals, which eventually also end up in European electronics. The mining of tin, coltan, wolframite and gold intended for our mobile telephones and computers contributes to the continuation of the conflict in Congo. The purpose of the Roundtable on conflict minerals from the DRC was twofold. Firstly, urging the European commission to develop legislation on the use of conflict minerals, comparable to the law which was passed in America last year (Dodd Frank 1502 on Conflict Minerals). Secondly, the organisers wanted the meeting to offer a platform to Congolese NGOs, in order to play a role in international initiatives. This meant that local perspectives could also be taken into account in the process. The importance of this was emphasised several times during the Roundtable.

There were 80 participants at the meeting, with representatives of NGOs, companies, the European Parliament, the European Commission, sustainable investors and the Congolese government. The discussion started with four lectures which addressed the current situation in Congo, a Congolese and American perspective on the Dodd Frank Act and the current status of legislation in the EU. There was broad consensus among the participants on the need for European legislation, which led to a targeted discussion. The Congolese participants, in particular, indicated that legislation should be accompanied by various measures, such as security sector reform and improvement of governance, including local administration. Another important subject of discussion was a de facto embargo on Congolese minerals, which could be the result of any law introduced. Such unintended consequences must be prevented. But it became clear that legislation which makes the flow of minerals more transparent and legal must form an integral part of a long-term solution to the conflict in the region.

Although the meeting expressed the intention to tackle the issue of conflict minerals, the road towards actual legislation is still a long one. The European Commission is not keen to develop such a law, based primarily on fear that this will harm the competitive position of European companies. Up to now, they have only been prepared to develop legislation on country-by-country reporting (also on the basis of the American Dodd Frank Act). There is therefore still a great deal of work to be done to convince the European Commission that legislation on conflict minerals is also necessary. Judith Sargentini provided a hopeful note for a sequel to this Roundtable: ‘Doing nothing is impossible; the example from the US, in whatever form, needs to be followed. And, in my personal preference, this must not be voluntary.’

See the report on the Roundtable.

Further reading at GroenLinks' website, only available in Dutch language.