Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2009-11-25-Speech-3-466"

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"Madam President, I apologise because this issue is of great interest and has many facets and I shall be a little long-winded in my statement for the benefit of the honourable Members of Parliament. When the meat consignment arrives in the EU, controls are carried out by the official veterinary services of the Member States at our border inspection points. All imported meat must undergo mandatory veterinary checks at EU borders. The border inspection posts are obliged to carry out documentary, identity and physical checks. Imported meat is subject to 100% documentary and identity checks at border inspection posts. In addition, a physical veterinary check is carried out on a minimum of 20% of all consignments of imported meat. Furthermore, we have an additional level of protection through our ban on feeding swill or catering waste to animals throughout the EU. This measure ensures that susceptible species in the EU are not exposed to the FMD virus should it enter the EU despite all the previous measures I have described. All the measures I have described are fully harmonised. In 2006, the European Food Safety Authority recognised that these measures are very effective at reducing the risk of FMD entering the EU. In its opinion, EFSA stated, ‘The EU thus has a sophisticated import control system in place. These efforts appear to be very effective with regard to legal trade in meat and meat products’. This brings me to my next point. Since the harmonisation of the veterinary import conditions in the 1970s, we have never had an outbreak in the EU of FMD through the legal import of meat. I am sure I do not need to remind you that the FMD outbreak in the UK in 2001 was caused by the illegal introduction of meat – most probably from Asia – and the illegal use of swill feeding. I therefore believe that we should focus our efforts on where the real risks are, and target illegal introductions or personal imports rather than trying to excessively regulate legal imports. In this regard, I hope you have all seen the posters in EU airports and at other points of entry into the EU explaining to travellers the rules concerning the introduction of products of animal origin. I am aware that some of you have expressed concern as regards our imports of beef from Brazil. I would like to remind you that additional requirements were established for imports of Brazilian beef in January last year. These include, in addition to all the requirements I have already outlined, that the farms of origin are audited and approved by the Brazilian authorities. The Brazilian authorities now also require that bovine animals whose meat is destined for the EU market are individually identified and registered in a database. These animals represent less than 1.5% of the total Brazilian bovine population, amounting to about 2.9 million animals in approved holdings. As a consequence, the Brazilian authorities reassessed holdings wishing to produce beef meat for export to the EU. From a total number of more than 10 000 holdings eligible for export in November 2007, only 1 708 farms are currently approved. As a consequence, EU imports of Brazilian beef have dropped dramatically. In early 2009, some deficiencies were identified during a Commission inspection, and the Brazilian authorities demonstrated full cooperation to address these deficiencies. In any case, the overall findings did not justify any further restriction on imports of beef from Brazil. As things stand, imposing further restrictions on imports of beef from Brazil could be interpreted as protectionism by some, and could lead to a challenge to our measures at the WTO. We also need to bear in mind that the EU will have to face, from time to time, animal-health or food-safety problems, and we insist that third countries react in a proportionate manner to these problems. We should lead by example therefore, playing by the rules governing international trade. I would like to conclude by assuring Parliament that the Commission will continue to target illegal introductions which present the greatest risk to our high standards. The Commission will also maintain its current proportional approach towards imports of beef from third countries, including Brazil. These will ensure we maintain our high level of public and animal health in the EU and that the EU retains its respectability at international level. The Commission has in place a robust set of EU animal and public health requirements for meat coming from third countries. For a number of years, the EU has maintained a very effective import policy which takes into account scientific developments and the current disease situation in third countries. In particular, it pays close attention to foot-and-mouth disease in exporting third countries because, as you know, the EU is free of this disease, which has the potential to cause serious economic harm. Very detailed standards and requirements have been established at the level of the World Organisation for Animal Health to prevent the spread of FMD. The WTO agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary measures acknowledges that, while countries may use different standards and different methods of inspecting products, this does not necessarily increase the animal and public health risks. The EU cannot impose an exact replica of our internal legislative measures on third countries, just as third countries, to which we export, cannot impose their own national rules on us. We can only require that their measures have an equivalent effect to ours. Let me take traceability as an example. In the EU, we have very stringent rules on the individual identification and traceability of cattle. In case of a disease outbreak, our rules facilitate the tracing of potentially infected animals to limit the spread of the disease. In addition, our rules allow us to trace and follow food or feed through all stages of production and distribution from farm to table. On the other hand, traceability rules applying to third countries exporting to the EU are aimed solely at ensuring that imported meat does not pose unacceptable risks for the EU. Thus, the scope of these rules is much more limited than the rules in force in the EU. I would also like to stress the fact that the measures on traceability of cattle in the EU were adopted largely in response to the BSE crisis which, as you recall, caused a dramatic drop in consumer confidence and major disruption of the internal market in relation to the trade in beef. Let me now take this opportunity to explain in more detail the extremely effective cascade of risk-mitigating measures that we have in place for beef imports and which ensure the highest possible level of protection for EU public and animal health, whilst taking account of OIE standards and remaining fully in line with the principles of the SPS Agreement. These measures can be grouped into five main levels of protection. They are so comprehensive that only 12 third countries outside Europe are able to meet all these requirements, and consequently, we only import beef from these few countries. First, imports of beef are only permitted from third countries or from certain parts of these countries that have been specifically authorised following a Commission inspection to verify the competence of their veterinary authorities and the animal health situation in general. Second, the territory of origin of bovine animals must be recognised as free of FMD by the OIE and the European Union. Third, beef-exporting countries must have an approved monitoring plan for specific residues from veterinary medical products, growth promoters and performance enhancers which are restricted or banned in food-producing animals in the EU. Fourth, all imports of fresh meat must come from an approved slaughterhouse that has been authorised and listed for that specific purpose. Fifth, we have specific conditions concerning meat production and storage. We have an additional layer of protection by only allowing bone in meat to come from Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand and the United States. For the seven other authorised countries, only deboned and matured beef without offal can be exported to the European Union. This treatment ensures the inactivation of the FMD virus, should it still be present despite all the previous measures I have described, thus providing an additional safeguard. Consignments of meat destined for the EU market must be certified by an official veterinarian who guarantees that all of the above conditions are fully met."@en1

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