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26 Jan 2024

Juliane Kippenberg, Human Rights Watch in EU Observer

Commentary: Germany throws a spanner in works of the EU supply chain law

For over three years, European institutions have worked hard to develop and negotiate a groundbreaking EU supply chain law, with the aim of preventing and addressing human rights and environmental harm throughout companies' supply chains.

In mid-December, many celebrated the hard-reached agreement between the EU Council and Parliament on a draft law, the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive.

But now, just before getting the law across the finish line, it risks being tripped up by a German government coalition partner, the FDP (Free Democratic Party)...

In a U-turn from its previous support, the party now cites "unreasonable bureaucratic hurdles" in the proposed law.

The FDP refusal to support the law means that the German government would have to abstain from the vote in the EU Council, despite support for the law from the two other, larger, coalition partners, the social democrats of chancellor Scholz and the Green party.

A German abstention during the vote on the EU supply chains law would send a terrible political message from the country that just adopted its own supply chain law.

And it would jeopardise Germany's credibility—after all, German political leaders, including from the FDP, have previously agreed that the EU supply chain law should be adopted, have actively engaged in negotiations, and shaped the most recent draft...

The FDP portrays itself as a liberal party representing the interests of business. But the law is not contrary to business interests. In fact, [...] the German garment retailer Vaude just published a reaction to the FDP decision, saying No, the FDP is not speaking for us companies.

And at the European parliament, the liberal party group Renew — which includes the FDP — supports the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive...

[C]hancellor Scholz needs to rule on the matter and decide that his government supports the law, despite resistance from the FDP. The European supply chains law is close to the heart of social democrats in Germany. Now, Scholz needs to step up and help bring about a future in which corporations respect rights and the environment.