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Estonia's MEPs unanimous on planned EU right to repair directive

From left, Estonian MEPs Sven Mikser (SDE), Andrus Ansip (Reform) and Jaak Madison (EKRE).
From left, Estonian MEPs Sven Mikser (SDE), Andrus Ansip (Reform) and Jaak Madison (EKRE). Source: Arp Müller/ERR

All of Estonia's seven MEPs voted in favor of a European Union draft directive which would make mandatory options for household appliances and electronic devices to be repaired rather than discarded.

On the domestic front, the Riigikogu's EU affairs committee, and the government, have both expressed reservations about the initiative, however.

The European Commission presented a proposal for a directive on the right to repair on 22 March.

The European Parliament on Tuesday formulated its position on negotiations with the commission, on a proposal which aims to encourage more sustainable consumption by making it easier to repair defective electrical and electronic goods, reducing waste and supporting the repair sector in the process, proponents say.

In short, the EU legislation would stipulate the fate of, for instance, white goods like a washing machine, once they break down after a warranty period is over, and situations in which it might be more expedient to repair, rather than to rush out to buy a replacement.

Andrus Ansip (Reform) says the legislation should make it easier for people to repair a device.

"We all would like to have some purchased device as long as it is fully paid-off. But if it seems almost new, yet then you have to discard it, this certainly looks like a big waste," Ansip said.

"The whole of Europe is subject to this waste, in very large quantities. It has been stated that the amount spent on discarding completely repairable devices as a public resource comes to €12 billion – a very substantial amount," Ansip went on.

Ansip also called it unreasonable to impose a full repair obligation on the factories, but adding that the representative office in every member state would get round this. Ansip noted that in any case, all manufacturers should be interested in their devices being repairable where possible.

Jaak Madison (EKRE) voted in favor of the bill also – ERR reports that he usually votes against European Commission initiatives – saying that the principle "makes sense."

Madison said that now the initiative will go back to the European Commission, and to the negotiations between the member states. "That can take a very long time, though. We will see some real result in two or three years, if even that," Madison added.

The bill passed with 590 MEPs in favor, 15 opposed and 15 abstentions/absenteeisms.

Back in Estonia, however, both the Rigiikogu's European Union Affairs Committee (ELAK) and the government do not support the proposed directive.

MEP Sven Mikser (SDE) pointed out that a clash of interests between producers and consumers is to be expected. "The European Parliament is, here, on the side of consumers. Consumers are interested in being able to retain their home appliances to the end of their useful lives, so they can be repaired at a reasonable price in the event of a fault."

Mikser also said it is important for consumers to be able to receive information on where and under what conditions they have the right to demand repairs be made.

ELAK chair Liisa Pakosta (Eesti 200) said, however, the proposed repair obligation would be environmentally unfriendly and impractical if the directive required the manufacturer to, for example, take a washing machine from a consumer in Hiiumaa and transport it to France for repair.

Liisa Pakosta. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Ansip rejected this saying that in the course of negotiations, such eventualities would be ironed out.

At the same time, he and Mikser both found Pakosta's counter-proposal that on-site repairers and end users in Estonia have access to all spare parts and repair instructions, available online, to be reasonable.

To combat excessive consumption and to achieve the objectives of climate neutrality in the EU by 2050, the union says it wishes systematically to encourage the repair of electrical and electronic items, when it is reasonable to do so.

Estonia's other four MEPs are: Urmas Paet (Reform), Yana Toom (Center), Marina Kaljurand (SDE) and Riho Terras (Isamaa).

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

Source: ERR Radio News, interviewer Arp Müller.

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