JOINT PUBLIC LETTER: EU Forced Labour Regulation

JOINT PUBLIC LETTER: EU Forced Labour Regulation

May 15, 2023

To Mr. Pascual Navarro Rios,
Secretary of State for the European Union, Ministry
of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation
[email protected]

Re: EU Forced Labour Regulation

Dear State Secretary Navarro Rios,

We are writing on behalf of the undersigned civil society organisations and trade unions to share our
concerns about the slow pace of engagement at the Council level, on the proposed EU Forced Labour
Regulation (FLR).

With the European Parliament actively defining its own position, it is of utmost importance that, during
the Spanish Presidency, the Council opens avenues for concrete discussions amongst Member States
with the goal of agreeing, during your Presidency, on a General Approach that would centre the
regulation around remediation of forced labour.

As described in a joint statement by 75 nongovernmental organisations, the proposed regulation could
contribute to creating conditions for EU companies to meaningfully address forced labour in their value
chains, both inside and outside the EU.

But the draft published by the European Commission falls short of attaining this objective. It has the
following serious gaps:

● Forged as a product-based legislation, it does not provide remediation to workers who have
experienced forced labour. As a result, it fails to put workers and their complaints about
working conditions that amount to forced labour at the centre of the legislation’s architecture.
● Targeting product lines only is a narrow and flawed approach to tackling forced labour. The
underlying systemic causes that create working conditions that rise to the level of forced labour
are not isolated to product lines within a production site. As a result, the proposed regulation fails to address forced labour in full production sites and does not cover group-wide bans that
could have a greater impact. In particular, it does not explicitly address State-Imposed Forced
labour (SIFL) such as in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region or in Turkmenistan.
● While foreseeing some transparency requirements, it does not require sufficient transparency
and traceability, including at raw material level. It also does not formally require a revision of
the EU Custom Code that would allow civil society organisations, trade unions and companies
alike to monitor trade data to identify forced labour cases in supply chains, as is the case in the
● The proposed evidentiary threshold is too high and will hinder meaningful enforcement.
● The enforcement could gain effectiveness by centralising at least the complaints mechanism,
and some investigations, at the EU level as opposed to the Member States.
● Fails to sufficiently clarify buyers’ responsibilities to conduct robust due diligence, especially fair
purchasing practices, the need for living wages, support for remediation, and responsible
disengagement, and lacks provisions to disincentivize “cut and run” by buyers identifying forced
labour in their supply chains. This would be in particular important for companies that are not
subject to the upcoming Corporate Sustainable Due Diligence Directive rules. In the absence of
such provisions, companies can continue doing the very minimum though many reports have
already documented serious problems with the use of standard social audits as a tool to detect
forced labour.
● Does not foresee concrete cooperation mechanisms (at the investigation level in particular)
with other forced labour ban institutions in the US or Canada for example that could streamline
investigations and enforcement efforts, avoid circumventions by companies, and increase
efficiency and savings for competent authorities in the EU.
● Fails to carry concrete protections for whistle-blowers and human rights defenders, especially
requiring companies to refrain from using SLAPP to silence journalists, workers, or
nongovernmental organisations who file complaints of forced labour.

While the initial proposal was already published in September 2022 by the European Commission, thus
far the file has not been prioritised at Council Working Party level.

Though we understand that the legislative workload is heavy for all member states, the upcoming end
of the EU legislative term in June 2024 should create a sense of urgency around important pieces of
legislation such as the proposed EU FLR.

Therefore, we strongly urge the Spanish Presidency to take the following measures:
– Commit to speed up the discussion at Council level and prioritise the proposed EU FLR at the
Council Working Party level during its own Presidency, and until then, press upon the Swedish
Presidency to step up its engagement on this issue.
– Urge all actors to advocate for a robust worker-centric EU FLR as a priority.
– Sponsor a Council roundtable on the proposed regulation, inviting rights organisations, unions,
migrant workers’ rights groups and specialised child rights organisations to brief all Council
members and, more generally, engage with stakeholders on the issue to better understand the
various points of view.
– Address the above-mentioned gaps in discussions and negotiations around the proposed EU
– Open discussions with the Belgian Presidency for a smooth transition in the treatment of the
file, with the aim to successfully adopt this legislation before the next EU Parliament elections

We hope that your timely and urgent prioritisation of the proposed EU FLR will help finalise a General
Approach as soon as possible at the Council level and no later than before the end of the Spanish
Presidency so that the file can conclude trialogues before June 2024.
We thank you for your consideration of this important matter and stand ready to discuss the proposed
EU FLR and the concerns raised in this letter.


• Anti-Slavery International
• Brussels Office of the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB)
• Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
• Clean Clothes Campaign Europe
• Environmental Justice Foundation
• European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights
• European Trade Union Confederation
• Fair Trade Advocacy Office
• Finnwatch
• Human Rights Watch
• IndustriAll European Trade Union
• International Federation for Human Rights
• La Strada International
• Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants
• Terre des Hommes International Federation
• World Uyghur Congress

Letter sent in copy to Ms. Cecilia Robles,
Director General of the UN, International Organisations and Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
European Union and Cooperation [email protected]