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Address of the Minister Mazej Kukovič at the Opening of the "Chemical Lovers" Exhibition

Distinguished ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen, dear guests:

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the exhibition that Slovenia organised within its Presidency of the EU Council here in Brussels, in this building where representatives of all the Member States of the European family meet and discuss our future.

The purpose of this exhibition is to stress the importance of the safe use of chemicals. However, safe use can only be achieved by cooperation, a synergy of all stakeholders in the life cycle of a chemical. "SI.NERGY for Europe" is also the motto of the Slovenian Presidency. And if anywhere, we must find synergy in the field of chemical use in order to reach our common objective, which is the protection of health and the environment. We will only achieve success if our activities complement each other. In this context, I would like to say that the exchange of best practices is very important. One of the advantages of the European Union is that each Member State and European institution has developed policies and practices which could serve as an example to others. This is one of our strong potentials, which we all need to be aware of and to exploit better within the Union.

Let me return to the exhibition, which is the reason we are gathered here today and through which we would like to point out that chemicals have become an important and inevitable part of our everyday life – so much so, that often we don't notice them anymore. It is also our wish that everyone would be more aware of how much our actions affect our health and the environment.

The term "chemical safety" has not yet been clearly and uniformly defined at the international level. Some of the most important world organisations define chemical safety as "the prevention of the adverse effects, both short- and long-term, to humans and the environment throughout their life cycle, including the production, storage, transportation, use and disposal of chemicals".

On the other hand, chemical safety can be understood as an ideal state where chemicals are used in a way that poses no risk to human health and the environment but allows sustainable economic development. We are aware that it is impossible to completely avoid the adverse effects of handling chemicals and that absolute safety cannot be achieved without ceasing to use chemicals altogether. Nevertheless, our common goal and at the same time the goal of every individual should be to gradually raise the level of chemical safety.

For this purpose a large number of world organisations and countries ensure chemical safety on a global scale by adopting new policies and strategies. Their main objective is to encourage all segments of society to openly participate in the development process and in measures for improving chemical safety, and thereby to contribute to improving the safety of chemical production and use.

Never in history has the world been so linked together as today. My work, too, before I became a minister, was devoted to the protection of the environment. Care for the environment has only in the last years been given an important place in the political agenda of the developed countries. The awareness that it is not unimportant in what kind of environment we live and what kind of environment we will leave to those who come after us directs that we share new findings concerning chemical safety with the developing countries and countries in transition. It is very important that while doing this, we give them financial and technical support, as some countries are already doing under the Quick Start Programme Trust Fund, for a faster and more effective implementation of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management. The latter represents an international effort to achieve the agreed goal that by the year 2020, chemicals will be produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health. We are all aware that the modern way of life does not allow us to completely give up chemicals, and in fact this is not necessary if we learn and undertake to use them safely.

The Republic of Slovenia will increase its contribution to the aforementioned fund. We hope that other countries will do the same.

Major changes in the chemical management strategy/policy of the EU or its Member States and also on the international level will play another significant part in raising the level of chemical safety and thus improving the effectiveness of the protection of human health and the environment against the effects of hazardous chemicals. These changes are the introduction of a new European chemical strategy (REACH – Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical Substances) and the new Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

In order to ensure chemical safety, it is essential that all stakeholders in the entire life cycle of a chemical carry out their mission: the state – here, I would like to point out the importance of intersectoral cooperation – and producers and those who put chemicals on the market, as well as consumers or users.

With this exhibition we would like to draw your attention to the fact that even consumers can contribute to our common safety by their awareness and correct use of chemicals. As everywhere else, in this field, too, it is becoming evident that cooperation at all levels is of utmost importance for achieving success. Considering that the quantity of chemicals in an average household today equals that of a chemical laboratory a hundred years ago, we believe that awareness-raising and the correct use of chemicals will contribute to achieving the goal, above all, to make chemicals useful with minimal damage to human health and the environment.

We only have one Mother Earth. We should preserve the air we breathe, the water we drink and the earth that feeds us for future generations.


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Date: 02.06.2008