Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/1999-07-22-Speech-4-011"

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"(NL) Mr President, it is a shame that in my maiden speech as a new MEP, I should have to speak of serious mistakes that have been made in my country, firstly by companies that supply raw materials for cattle feed, and secondly by the control agencies whose responsibility it is to ensure that when a mistake is made, it is discovered immediately and the consequences limited. Particular mention should also be made of the government then in office which wasted weeks and caused us a great deal of harm by not giving the European Commission and the Member States adequate warning that something was wrong. These mistakes have resulted in an extremely serious situation, firstly as regards public health, and secondly, they have caused economic disaster in agriculture and throughout the food sector. People"s trust has been damaged and it will, of course, be a long time before it is restored again. These mistakes were duly punished in the political arena at last month"s elections. There is now a new government in Belgium which is trying to limit the damage, pick up the pieces and also repair the damage, as quickly as possible and using all the means at its disposal. I hope that Belgium will also be able to count on the Union"s support in this, for it is clear that whether a crisis such as this is caused by a disease or an accident, or even a crime, that is of no consequence to a consumer, a farmer or a company that falls victim to the crisis. They are victims and they suffer. Fortunately, Mr Commissioner, at the beginning of the week, the Commission opened the door for the Belgian authorities to come to the assistance of companies in need. I hope that will not prove to be the last step. In the long-term, there is also a task for us here in the European Parliament. Mr Commissioner, you have said that you will soon be presenting proposals. I assume, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, that we and the Council will be able to discuss the texts very shortly and will be able to turn them into the legislation we need. We must have European regulations. Speaking as a liberal, Mr Commissioner, I am very pleased that you have said that these regulations must be simple and user-friendly. Of course, they must also be strict, so that people know what is meant by healthy food, and they must apply to the whole food chain. But it is clearly absurd that at the height of the crisis, the Commission and its technical services should be wasting time on discussions with the Belgian authorities and their technical services because there are no standards, because people do not know what the permitted level of dioxins is for different products. At the height of a crisis, time can be better spent on other things. Clear and unambiguous regulations must be drawn up for all matters of this kind which are clear, simple and strict. And, of course, you must monitor them as well. We must ensure that consumers are able to tell from a quality label when something is healthy, and they must also be made fully aware when something has the European seal of approval. I think it is a good thing that Romano Prodi said yesterday that there is to be a European agency for food. Of course, it goes without saying that such an agency must discharge its responsibility in a democratic manner and must be embedded, if I can put it this way, in the European institutions. If we, as European Parliament, European Commission and European Council, fail to ensure that regulations and effective controls are introduced very rapidly, then yet another item will be added to the long list of disasters already in existence. My colleague said things of this kind can happen in any country. We have seen a number of examples. I think that we should spare no efforts in ensuring that the list of examples does not grow ever longer."@en1
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