CEO's researchers and campaigners Nina and Joao holding a banner outside BASF chemical plant in Antwerp

Environmental crises need toxic-free solutions


Dear friends,

Recently Corporate Europe Observatory uncovered a secret meeting about to take place between Belgian Prime Minister De Croo, Commission President von der Leyen, and other top EU officials, with top brass from the largest producers of chemicals, pesticides, and other polluting industries, at the BASF chemicals factory in Antwerp. The closed meeting, held on 20 February, was organised by the EU’s biggest lobby spender, the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC), its Belgian industry member Essenscia, and the Belgian Presidency of the EU.

The agenda? To discuss a new 'Antwerp Declaration for a European Industrial Deal' — a blatant showcase of corporate capture by Big Toxics, and part of a worrying attempt to shift the political agenda further towards industry’s deregulatory desires.

Tellingly Antwerp, where the meeting was held, is the location of a huge pollution scandal about PFAS – forever chemicals – affecting surrounding populations with severe health effects. The wider context also matters: researchers say we have already crossed the safe planetary boundary for chemical pollution. 

However, no-one from the local community, nor civil society, nor independent scientific experts, nor the wider public was invited to the meeting. But we didn’t let that stop us from showing up anyway to raise our voices in protest

We weren’t alone with our concerns: 70+ NGOs also objected to the privileged access offered to Big Toxics by top EU officials, and the wider implications of the Antwerp Declaration.

If you want to help, you can take action for a Toxic-Free Europe by signing WeMove’s petition.

This meeting comes amid a weakening of the Green Deal's ambition to reduce and replace hazardous substances that harm health and ecosystems, with urgent action to tackle both toxic pesticides and harmful chemicals destroyed by corporate lobbying and right-wing political manoeuvring. This is a harbinger of new levels of big business-friendly policy-making by the coming Commission, as von der Leyen seeks re-appointment. 

That’s why Corporate Europe Observatory is working hard to take apart the lobby tactics of Big Toxics, not least the way they use industry-commissioned studies to scaremonger politicians over the impacts of new regulations as shown in our recent article Crying wolf pays off for the chemicals industry. These kinds of messages get broadcast loud and clear at meetings like the one that just happened in Antwerp, while critical and independent voices are shut out. 

That’s also why we are building support for a Toxic Free Politics which would take such closed door privileged access, far from democratic scrutiny and public opinion, off the table, and prioritise public interest decision-making instead. 

In solidarity,

Vicky, Kat, Joana, Marcella 

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