In this segment of Brussels, my passion?, we explore speculations about keeping the financial industry out of corporate sustainability regulations and analyze the EU’s propositions to combat online child abuse.
Our guests this week included Elizabeth Kuiper, affiliated director at the European Policy Centre; Michiel Hoogeveen, Dutch representative for the European Conservatives and Reformists; and Isabelle Schömann, assistant general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.
With the European elections approaching, Brussels is currently bustling with EU ambassadors deliberating various proposals from the European Commission, aiming to finalize them before the European Parliament elections next year.
One directive that was under consideration this week, referred to as the ‘Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive’, targets holding larger companies accountable for their safeguarding of human rights in labor and their influence on the environment.
NGOs welcome the potential of EU-level corporate responsibility regulations and assert that it is an essential measure in light of the deteriorating climate crisis. “We are compelled to actualize it,” expressed Elizabeth Kuiper. “Enterprises do not have a choice, as we can already observe the impact of climate change on their operations.”
On the other hand, businesses and entrepreneurs are apprehensive that the legislation could impede Europe’s global competitiveness. Drawing from a banking background, Dutch MEP Michiel Hoogeveen from the European Conservatives and Reformists conveyed worry that the measures would place excessive strain on the European economy.
“Businesses must adhere to these regulations,” said Hoogeveen. “They must disclose. They must enlist consultants. They must employ audit firms.
They must engage law firms.” Several EU nations, including Spain and Italy, are advocating for the exemption of the financial sector from the directive, a stance met with resistance from Isabelle Schömann, assistant general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.
“Equity must be an integral aspect of the obligations that businesses must comply with,” remarked Schumann, “and there should be no entity beyond legislation.” Another topic addressed in this week’s section was the protection of children on the internet.
MEPs on the Civil Liberties Committee this week voted in favor of new legislation aimed at combating the distribution of child sexual abuse materials and grooming activities on the internet.
The law has reignited the debate regarding the equilibrium between internet regulations and the preservation of the privacy rights of its users. “I believe the European Parliament has done commendable work in this context,” stated Hogeveen.
The content related to child abuse is evidently crucial to address. However, we do not wish to find ourselves in a realm of mass surveillance.”