Government submits to Parliament its position on the proposed EU-wide ban of products made with forced labour
In September 2022, the European Commission proposed regulation that would ban products made with forced labour. While the Government supports the proposal’s objective, certain points need to be considered during the negotiations.
This is the first proposed EU-level regulation to ban products made with forced labour. The regulation would apply to all economic operators regardless of their size and forms of operation. The prohibition would apply to both products manufactured in the EU and imported products that have been manufactured in full or in part with forced labour.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines forced labour as work required of a person under threat of punishment and to which the person has not agreed voluntarily. The ILO has estimated that about 27.6 million people are in forced labour in many sectors around the world.
“Forced labour is a serious global problem that all economic operators must try to prevent. It is important that the matter is addressed at the EU level. Consumers must be able to trust that products made with forced labour do not end up on the EU market,” says Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen.
Authorities would request companies to report on efforts to prevent forced labour
The Commission proposes that separately assigned national authorities in the Member States would take a risk-based enforcement approach to ensure companies comply with the regulation. In its enforcement, the responsible authority would use information from databases or notices or request information from other authorities.
On the basis of this information, the authority could request a company to provide information on its efforts to prevent and stop forced labour related to the product in question. If the authority deems that this information is insufficient and that the product involves a risk of forced labour, the authority could start a more detailed investigation to assess the risks involved.
If the authority finds, based on the investigation, that the company has violated the regulation, the products would be banned from entering the market. The company would be required to withdraw the products from the market and dispose of them.
The burden of proof that a company has violated the regulation would lie with the authorities, and decisions would include the right of appeal. The Member States would also be required to lay down effective and proportionate sanctions for companies that do not comply with the decision.
Government supports the objective
The Government supports the objective of the proposed regulation to ban the sales of products made with forced labour in the EU market or their export from the EU market. The problems caused by forced labour are significant and must be addressed at the EU level. It is important that regulation is applied extensively to all economic operators and products.
The proposal must ensure proportionality of regulation concerning small and medium-sized companies without jeopardising the objective of the proposal. Among other things, the Government considers it important that the Commission provides guidance to companies and other operators.
In the Government’s view, the disposal of products is problematic, especially from the perspective of sustainability. Alternatives for this should be sought in the negotiations.
Parliament decides on Finland’s position
The Government prepares Union communications on those matters to be decided by the EU which, due to their content, would fall within the competence of Parliament if Finland were not a member of the EU. A communication describes the essential content and effects of the proposal and the Government’s position on the matter. Based on it, Parliament will form Finland’s position on the Commission’s proposal.
The Council of the European Union and the European Parliament will soon discuss the proposed regulation. Once both have formulated their positions, they will begin trilogue negotiations with the Commission. The three bodies will preliminarily agree on the text of the regulation, after which each of them will adopt the text in accordance with the rules of procedure.
Piritta Jokelainen, Special Adviser to the Minister of Employment, tel. +358 295 047 353
Laura Pätsi, Senior Specialist, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 50 592 1220
Nadine Hellberg-Lindqvist, Chief Specialist, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 50 358 8493