-- The main institutions of the European Union (EU) have agreed on a framework to stop trade in illegally mined materials used to finance armed conflicts, so-called conflict minerals, particularly in African countries.
During late-night negotiations Wednesday, the European Commission, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament reached a political understanding on a framework for an EU regulation to stop the practice.
"Many long hours of work have paid off. We now agree to put ambitious rules in place against conflict minerals, to root out this bloody trade," EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a short comment posted on Twitter after the negotiations on Wednesday.
The aim of the EU rule is for European companies to responsibly source materials such as tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, minerals typically used in the production of mobile phones, laptops, cars, industrial machinery and tooling industries, as well as in jewelry.
"The EU is committed to preventing international trade in minerals from financing warlords, criminals and human rights abusers," Lilianne Ploumen, the Dutch minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said on Thursday.
"This political understanding on conflict minerals will help trade to work for peace and prosperity, in communities and areas around the globe affected by armed conflict," said Malmstrom.
The EU approach will build upon the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) due diligence guidance for responsible mineral sourcing, a statement released on Thursday said.
The agreed framework carries clear obligations for the critical "upstream" -- or raw materials -- part of the conflict minerals supply chain, including smelters and refiners.
According to the framework, the EU importers will have to check the origin of the relevant raw materials to see if they come from a conflict zone.
The vast majority of metals and minerals imported to the EU will fall under the law. But small volume importers will be exempt from these obligations, so as to avoid encumbering their businesses with unreasonable bureaucratic burdens.
Besides, recycled metals, existing EU stocks and by-products are also excluded from the regulation, the statement said.
The Dutch presidency has pledged to conclude the informal legislative negotiations before its term ends on July 1.
The regulation should be adopted in the coming months,