Appropriate, clear and enforceable legislation is a key factor for long-term investments and innovation. Legislation has to keep pace with innovative research developments for citizens to place trust in innovation. This also includes having appropriate, recognised methods in place for determining legally required data.
In the Malta Initiative, a voluntary network without an official mandate, representatives of European countries, several Directorates-General of the European Commission, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), authorities, research institutions, NGOs, universities and industry work together on a voluntary and self-organised basis. They work together to find possibilities for developing and amending the measurement and test methods required to enforce legislation (particularly in the field of chemicals). In order to make REACH enforceable for nanomaterials, in a first step the Malta Initiative focuses on projects in which OECD Test Guidelines (TGs) are amended or developed for nanoscale substances. Other legislative areas, such as European regulations on biocides, cosmetics and plastic food packaging also refer to some extent to the OECD TGs when it comes to safety assessments for nanomaterials and thus also benefit from the amendments.
Germany laid the foundation for this in 2017 when it asked the EU Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) to politically and financially support the development and amendment of the OECD TGs and Guidance Documents (GDs) to ensure that nano-specific issues are addressed. To achieve this, several projects were put to tender within the framework of Horizon 2020, the 8th EU Framework Programme for Research. As this issue was addressed on Malta during the Maltese EU Council Presidency, the initiative was named ‘the Malta Initiative’.
As a further step, the initiative aims to call attention to the fact that the importance of amended, appropriate test, measurement and verification procedures goes far beyond the area of nanomaterials.