Referring to the Export Certified Herd Scheme which would lead to an easing of the export ban on beef from herds in Northern Ireland which meet a strict set of criteria, together with a tightening of controls to avoid illegal exports of beef, Mr Fischler said that the proposal has been fully endorsed scientifically and is designed to ensure maximum protection for human and animal health. Mr Fischler recalled the ‘Florence Agreement’ which was reached at the heads of States governments and clearly referred to the lifting of the UK beef ban using a step by step approach and on a scientific basis. Member States, he said, must respect the commitment they made on this occasion.
On the proposal to ban certain Specified Risk Material, Mr Fischler said that EU policy makers have already been accused of placing economic considerations before human health in regard to the handling of BSE over the last 10 years. Failure to address the Specified Risk Material issue will once again leave policy makers open to this accusation. The protection of human health, he said, must be given priority above all other considerations.
Concluding, he said, that it would have been more appropriate to deal with these two important issues on a scientific and technical basis. Given the outcome of the discussions today, the Commission has no option but to move the discussion forward to the political level ie the next agricultural Council on 16/17 March. Mr Fischler expressed the hope that Ministers will shoulder their responsibility.
Mrs Bonino reiterated that the protection of human health must be given priority above all other considerations. She stressed that the present proposal would have ensured a better control of the risk of BSE.
The proposal on the epidemio-surveillance for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) was approved by qualified majority. Mrs Bonino expressed satisfaction at this outcome as this proposal, she said, “will strengthen the control and surveillance of TSE in all Member States and will ensure that an harmonised approach towards an effective TSE surveillance is achieved throughout Europe”.