In January this year, the Council and the European  Parliament reached a crucial agreement on banning forced labor products from the EU market. The provisional agreement must now be approved and formally adopted by both institutions. This agreement represents a significant step forward in the fight against the persistent scourge of forced labor and modern slavery, which affects 27.6 million people worldwide, in both the private and public sectors, as in the case of forced labor by prisoners or ethnic groups.

The agreement aims to prohibit the placing on the EU market, the making available on the EU market, as well as the export from the EU market of any product derived from forced labor.

A key measure of this agreement is the creation of a database containing regularly updated information on the risks of forced labor. This database, developed by the European Commission, will support the work of national authorities responsible for assessing potential breaches of the regulation.

The agreement establishes clear criteria for assessing the likelihood of violations of the regulation, including the extent of alleged forced labor, the quantity of products on the EU market and the proximity of economic operators to forced labor risks. Guidelines will be published to help companies comply with the regulation, with particular support for small businesses.

The agreement clarifies responsibilities for investigations, determining that the Commission will lead investigations outside the EU, while national authorities will be responsible on their respective territories. It also provides for economic operators to be heard at all stages of the investigation.

Final decisions on product bans will be taken by the investigating authority, with mutual recognition in all member states. In some cases, as in the case of photo-voltaic panels from China in the USA, critical products may be withheld until companies can prove the absence of forced labor in their supply chain.

In the event that a part of a final product is recognized as having been produced using forced labor, this part will have to be replaced by a properly manufactured equivalent, so that the final product can be released (in the case of a car part, for example).

This agreement on the prohibition of forced labor products represents a crucial step in the fight against modern slavery. This agreement demonstrates the EU’s commitment to protecting fundamental workers’ rights and promoting ethical business practices.

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