Food Law News - EU - 1997

12 November 1997: BSE - Infringement Procedures against four Member States in relation to BSE.

Commission Press Release (IP/97/975), 12 November 1997

Infringement Procedures against four Member States in relation to BSE.

The European Commission today decided on basis of a proposal from Mr Franz FISCHLER, Commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Development, the immediate pursuit of the infringement procedure by the issue of Reasoned opinions against three Member States (France, Spain and the United Kingdom) for non respect of various aspects of EU Legislation relating or relevant to BSE. It also decided to issue a new letter of warning to Portugal. On 26 June 1997 and 16 September 1997, the Commission had opened infringement procedures under Article 169 of the EC Treaty against a total of eleven Member States (Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom). Today it reconsidered the issue in the light of the reactions of the Member States concerned to the Commission's letters of formal notice. In respect of the remaining seven Member States, the Commission has not yet decided to take further action.

The infringement procedure against France relates to that Member State's failure (indeed refusal) to implement Commission Decision 96/449/EC which concerns the mandatory treatment standards for animal waste to inactivate the agents responsible for transmission of spongiform encephalopathies (TSE's). As France maintains its position further pursuit of the infringement proceedings is necessary.

Spain failed to react to the Commission's initial letter of formal notice concerning the Member State's failure to apply decision 96/449/EC to low risk material, non respect by a rendering plant of the EU procedure for validation of certain processing parameters (Decisions 92/562/EEC and 94/382/EC on the approval of alternative heat treatment systems for processing high-risk material and animal waste of ruminant origin) and failure to adequately control the respect of Decision 94/381/EC which bans the feeding of protein derived from mammals to ruminant species.

The Commission has taken the view that Spain's failure to react to the opening of the Article 169 procedure justifies the pursuit of that procedure by the issue of a Reasoned Opinion.

The infringement procedure against the United Kingdom concerns that member State's failure to maintain the level of veterinary control in meat plants and cold stores required by community legislation notably Council Directive 64/433/EEC. This inadequate supervision does not merely have consequences for the respect of the general public and animal health matters covered by EU legislation but also for the particular problem of enforcement of EU legislation concerning BSE.

Although in its reply to the Commission's initial infringement letter the United Kingdom offered its co-operation in improving the situation the reply made clear that because of a serious shortage of veterinarians in the UK early compliance with the requirements of the EU legislation concerning the frequency of inspection by the official veterinarian could not be achieved.

The Commission's view is that the staff shortages concerned do not in EU Law excuse the United Kingdom's failure to comply with its obligations under the relevant legislation.

The Commission also decided to issue a new letter of formal notice against Portugal in respect of failures to respect Directive 90/667 concerning the disposal and processing or animal waste and Decision 96/449. The initial Article 169 procedure concerning the failure to reply to Commission correspondence on the BSE issue will be amalgamated with the new procedure.

In respect of the remaining seven Member States concerned by the above mentioned infringement procedures the Commission has received replies to its letters of formal notice. These replies have in some cases necessitated further communications with the Member States concerned requesting more detailed explanations and information. In no case has the immediate closing of the infringement procedure been proposed.

The Commission intends in the coming months to continue monitoring the evolution of the situation regarding compliance with EU rules regarding BSE in all 15 Member States. It will not hesitate to open further infringement procedures if any new infringements are discovered.

Commenting on today's decision, Mr Fischler stressed that member states have a responsibility to ensure that all EU rules in relation to BSE are fully implemented in the interest of protecting human and animal health. The Commission, he added, will not hesitate to take any action necessary against member states who ignore this responsibility as EU rules are irrelevant if they are not respected.

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