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EU to crack down on modern-day slavery by banning products made using forced labor

'This proposal will make a real difference in tackling modern-day slavery, which affects millions of people around the globe.'

EU to crack down on modern-day slavery by banning products made using forced labor
Cover Image Source: European Commission

The European Commission on Wednesday unveiled a proposal to enforce an EU-wide ban on all products made using forced labor. The plan, which has been in development for a year now, "covers all products, namely those made in the EU for domestic consumption and exports, and imported goods, without targeting specific companies or industries," the commission said in a press release. The announcement comes the same week that a report released by two UN agencies revealed that a disturbing 27.6 million people are in forced labor, of which 3.3 million are children.


"This proposal will make a real difference in tackling modern-day slavery, which affects millions of people around the globe. Our aim is to eliminate all products made with forced labor from the EU market, irrespective of where they have been made. Our ban will apply to domestic products, exports and imports alike. Competent authorities and customs will work hand in hand to make the system robust. We have sought to minimize the administrative burden for businesses, with a tailor-made approach for SMEs. We will also further deepen our cooperation with our global partners and with international organizations," Valdis Dombrovskis, the executive vice president of the European Commission and commissioner for trade, said in a statement.


"In today's geopolitics, we need both secure and sustainable supply chains. We cannot maintain a model of consumption of goods produced unsustainably. Being industrial and technological leaders presupposes being more assertive in defending our values and in setting our rules and standards. Our Single Market is a formidable asset to prevent products made with forced labor from circulating in the EU, and a lever to promote more sustainability across the globe," said Thierry Breton, the commissioner for internal market of the European Union. 


According to the press release, authorities of EU member states will implement the ban "through a robust, risk-based enforcement approach." The preliminary phase will involve assessing forced labor risks based on alerts "from civil society, a database of forced labor risks focusing on specific products and geographic areas, and the due diligence that companies carry out." The proposal states that may request information from companies and carry out checks and inspections, both inside and outside the EU. "If national authorities find forced labour, they will order the withdrawal of the products already placed on the market, and prohibit to place the products on the market, and to export them," the press release reads.


The European Commission is expected to release guidelines "within 18 months from the entry into force of this Regulation." The guidelines will reportedly include "forced labor due diligence guidance and information on risk indicators of forced labor. The new EU Forced Labour Product Network will serve as a platform for structured coordination and cooperation between competent authorities and the Commission." Meanwhile, Yannick Jadot—who has served as a member of the European Parliament since the 2009 European election—told Euronews that the proposed plan is too cautious to be effective. "The proposal from the European Commission is that the countries' authorities should investigate after they are alerted by the associations, experts or certain companies. So, there is the risk of having a not very efficient system," he said. The proposal will now be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union and put into effect once agreed on. 


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