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". (DE) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, esteemed colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. Sincere thanks for affording me the opportunity to be able to inform you of the measures taken in relation to the recent dioxin crisis in Belgium. I would also like to take this opportunity, however, to outline, in a somewhat broader context, some plans and projects which will help, firstly, to put this event in context and secondly, to provide us with the opportunity to give consideration as to where we must, and should, make improvements in the law concerning animal feed and foodstuffs. Another ambitious programme, which was last discussed on Monday at the meeting of Agricultural Ministers, concerns substantial changes to current foodstuffs legislation. The Commission is trying to deal with this matter as quickly as possible but, in this regard, we also need the support of the Member States and, above all, of this Parliament. We wish to concentrate on three different types of measures. In the first instance, we want to expand the list of animal feed raw materials which should not be used in mixed animal feed. Secondly, we wish to establish maximum dioxin values for oils and fats as well as mixed animal feed products to which oils and fats are added. Thirdly, we want to change the definition of animal feed raw materials, in particular with regard to oils and fats and animal products. In order to achieve this, we have a catalogue full of concrete proposals which have already been discussed by the committee responsible for animal feed products. I have forwarded this catalogue to the Committee Secretariat since it would simply take too long to go into all of these points here and now. Therefore, I would like to mention a few points briefly. A legal basis must be created as regards the application of a safeguard clause in the event of emergencies which may occur in the European Union in connection with animal feed products and which may pose a serious risk to the health of humans or animals and the environment. Secondly, it is a question of making it incumbent upon the Member States to implement a Union-wide monitoring programme for contaminants in animal feed products. Thirdly, we also wish to introduce an early-warning system for animal feed products, along the lines of the one already in place for foodstuffs. I would like to point out that the time frame for this has been altered and that it will now be in place as of September 1999. From this time, there will be a ban on the intermixing of contaminated animal feed raw materials and the exemption regulation for the regional use of animal feed products that have been contaminated due to local conditions will also cease to apply. Finally, we want to inspect current provisions relating to the information concerning raw materials, in particular provisions concerning the labelling found on mixed animal feed products in the sense that, in future, a clear statement of quantity on all the raw materials used should be possible which will obviate the need for information on raw materials by categories. We then want to approve, in general terms, all mixed animal feed manufacturers as well as drafting an exhaustive positive list for approved animal feed raw materials. I would also like to point out that not all of the measures contained in this list, which I have forwarded to the Committee Secretariat, are completely new. This is the case, for example, as regards the approval of mixed animal feed manufacturers. We have already made a proposal along these lines in the past, but at that time the Council did not accept the Commission"s view and the proposal was therefore dropped. I would now like to talk about some trade issues with third countries. It was extremely important to inform these countries on the ensuing situation and of the precautionary measures taken by the Commission and to keep them updated on an on-going basis. To this end, the competent services of the Commission have been in regular contact with third countries and we used the WTO/SPS plenary session which took place on 7 and 8 July to report in detail on the current situation and the relevant legal documents. During this session, we also made it clear that the dioxin problems are not only a Community issue. No country is free from dioxins and we can cite a whole number of examples of dioxin contamination which have made the headlines in many different parts of the world. It is to be hoped, therefore, that all countries, not only Europe, can take some lessons from this. The majority of committee members at this session welcomed this report and thanked the Commission and the sovereign authorities for the on-going and reliable exchange of information. A final word on the tests. The Foodstuffs and Veterinary Office of DG XXIV has introduced a range of measures on site. Even in the case of the first visit to Belgium, it became clear that the crisis, unfortunately, had been poorly handled by the Belgian authorities. This state of affairs could be attributed primarily to the lack of co-ordination between the various competent administrative authorities and the responsibilities of these authorities which were fragmented and unclear. In addition, it was revealed that Community decisions concerning the withdrawal from the market of potentially contaminated products had been inadequately enforced by the Belgian authorities. Tests carried out in the Netherlands, France, Germany and Spain also demonstrated certain loopholes in the procedures relating to the inspection of animal feed products. Unfortunately, certain Member States used the crisis in Belgium as an excuse to erect trade barriers against non-contaminated Belgian products, thereby infringing the principle of the free movement of goods. It has also transpired that other Member States have also been supplied with reconditioned used oil which is Belgian in origin. With regard to the infringement procedures, I can report to you that the Commission has introduced, on the basis of Article 226 of the EC Treaty, summary infringement proceedings against Belgium, since it failed in its obligation to inform the Commission and Member States immediately regarding the dioxin cases and did not fully transpose Decision 1999/389. Other issues concern the import barriers imposed by certain Member States with regard to Belgian products in general. The Commission"s services met with the competent authorities to discuss in detail the uncertain legal and administrative provisions. These talks have led, in the meantime, to specific health protection measures being implemented and the lifting of temporary import barriers for a range of products. Other problems persist of course, but the Commission"s services are endeavouring to co-operate closely with those parties responsible at a national level, and we want to resolve the issues outstanding as quickly as possible. In conclusion, I would like to assure you that the Commission will continue to do everything in its power to alleviate the consequences of this crisis as quickly as possible. Now to the reason itself. Unfortunately, the Commission was only informed of the problem by the Belgian authorities on 27 May, but we immediately implemented a whole range of measures with a view to safeguarding the health of humans and animals. With the consent of the representatives of the constituent Member States on the Standing Veterinary Committee, firstly, emergency measures were laid down for the poultry industry as well as for poultry products of Belgian origin. These were followed, several days later, by measures relating to the cattle, pig and milk sectors and products derived therefrom. (Applause) In the meantime, however, it was possible, on the recommendation of the Scientific Committee, and following consultation with the Standing Veterinary Committee, to lift the bans on milk and milk products. As far as the question of the source of the contamination is concerned, and I should point out that inquiries are still continuing in this regard, it can be assumed, based on the latest findings by the Public Prosecutor's Office in Gent, that the cause of the crisis was a serious product contamination which took place in January of this year. I should also point out that Community officials arrived at the same conclusion during their inspections which were carried out on site between 8 and 11 June. Looking ahead, one can assume that all products which are manufactured or marketed in the Community today, be they of Belgian origin or otherwise, will not be contaminated by this source. Naturally, our work is continuing, and we will verify, as soon as the Belgian authorities have provided us with the necessary information, whether the PCB certificate can also be applied to pork and beef. This would then allow us to make certain changes to the precautionary measures already taken. In order to limit the economic damage caused by the dioxin crisis, the Commission has also introduced a number of measures. A Regulation was passed on 16 June with the aim of maintaining exports at an acceptable level in spite of the more difficult conditions. Pig breeders can also profit from having to keep their animals for extended periods. With regard to the poultry sector, a Regulation was passed on 13 June allowing export grants for destination countries in addition to the Middle East. As regards the milk sector, on 15 July, the management committee for milk decided to extend the period of use of butter and butter concentrates in bread, cakes, pastries and ice cream. A Commission resolution for eight different state subsidies, which were announced and notified by the Belgian authorities, was passed the day before yesterday. Apart from the emergency measures which have already been adopted, the Commission is, however, now working, and this is where the general context comes in, on proposals to improve and define Community provisions relating to foodstuffs and animal feed more closely. These projects far exceed what is required. In connection with this, I would now like to cover certain issues which have already been discussed in Parliament and which will continue to be discussed. Firstly, I shall come to the question of foodstuffs legislation. Here, we have already long since set about consolidating the texts of all hygiene-related regulations in the area of foodstuffs. This project is about to draw to a conclusion. On this point, we should also look to simplify matters from a legal viewpoint, which should serve to make the regulations relating to hygiene more transparent and ensure that they are applied better. In this regard, we have come to a definitive ruling on an issue which we have already discussed previously here in Parliament, namely to what extent the decontamination process, modified and carried out under strictly controlled conditions, should apply to slaughtered hens and chickens as well as to red meat. Another key issue is the traceability of animal products from the shop counter to the manufacturer. In the pig sector, of course, we have come a long way in this regard but the question still has to be asked regarding the extent to which this system should be applied to other sectors. Throughout the Community, four research laboratories are at our disposal for the testing and inspection of foodstuffs and the development of different research methods in connection with said testing and inspection. One of these, the laboratory in Rome, has been specially commissioned to develop, where necessary, new and improved research methods. In addition, this laboratory offers a further education programme which is particularly concerned with the consideration of environmental contaminants. In the last Council, which the President-in-Office of the Council has already talked about, political agreement was reached on different measures and, even prior to this in June, at the meeting of Agricultural Ministers, an agreement was reached on a Regulation concerning biological farming and its expansion to include animal products. This is also one of the Commission"s initiatives which should assist in improving production conditions and, above all, transparency for the consumer."@en1

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