After a lengthy exchange of views between the EU industry ministers on Thursday 1 December, the Czech Presidency of the EU Council finally achieved a political agreement (general approach) on the corporate due diligence directive. However, reaching this agreement was not straightforward. During the discussion, many ministers spoke out against the latest compromise put forward the day before. The issue of the financial sector being included within the scope of the directive almost jeopardised its adoption.
The seventh compromise, circulated by the Czech Presidency on 22 November, had been agreed by the ambassadors of the EU27 (see EUROPE B13070A4). However, several delegations had continued to comment on the content of the text, in particular on the issue of the financial sector.
EU countries are divided between those who wish to exclude the financial sector entirely from the scope of the directive and those who believe that all companies that fall within the defined thresholds should apply the due diligence obligations, including financial institutions. The inclusion of the customers of these companies has also been the subject of discussions.
At the last minute, the Czech Presidency proposed a different solution to try and get everyone to agree: whether or not to add the financial sector will be left to the discretion of the Member States. Several ministers indicated that this solution was not ideal, as it could lead to fragmentation among Member States.
Some countries, such as Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Malta and the Netherlands, wanted to return to the seventh compromise, which they considered more balanced.
Despite the many comments from Member States and their differing positions on several issues, the Czech Minister of Industry and Trade, Jozek Síkela, called on his counterparts to compromise: “I understand some of you who’d like to improve the text, but the problem is that your demands are often going in completely opposite directions. I’m convinced this compromise is the highest common denominator”, he explained, before calling on his colleagues to vote on the text.
A qualified majority was reached to support this general approach, despite the strong rejection of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Slovakia.
See the general approach: https://aeur.eu/f/4ek (Original version in French by Léa Marchal)