The Council once more discussed the proposed Directive on Cocoa and Cholocate products intended for human consumption, the purpose of which is to create a truly internal market in the EU for chocolate.
A compromise text prepared by the German Presidency, which builds on the work done under previous Presidencies which and has been discussed thoroughly during the last few months, was presented to the Ministers. The great majority of delegations considered that this compromise represents a balanced solution and could support it; the Commission, however, could not accept the Presidency compromise with regard to the limitation of the implementing powers conferred on it by the Council.
The Council President therefore had to conclude, with regret, that although a qualified majority exists among the Council members, the proposal has to be passed on to the next Presidency.
It is recalled that the proposal has its origin in the drive for simplification of too detailed Directives requested by the Edinburgh European Council in 1992. It was submitted by the Commission to the Council on 30 May 1996, at the same time as proposals for six other vertical Directives on foodstuffs (i.e. Directives laying down very specific rules on the composition, manufacturing specifications, packaging and labelling of certain foodstuffs).
The most sensitive issue at stake has always been the Commission's proposal to authorise the use, in the production of chocolate, of vegetable fats other than cocoa butter up to a limit of 5% of the weight of the finished product. The current Chocolate Directive from 1973 does not foresee this possibility; however, seven Member States were granted an exemption to this rule at the time of their respective accessions to the Community (Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Portugal, Sweden and the UK).
According to the Presidency compromise, there would be a harmonised solution for the use of non-cocoa butter vegetable fats: such fats could be added to chocolate products at a level of not more than 5% of the finished product. There would also be a definition and a list of the fats which would be authorised; the list comprises six vegetable fats of tropical origin.
For products containing other vegetable fats than cocoa butter, their mention in the list of ingredients would have to be supplemented by a statement "contains vegetable fats in addition to cocoa butter"
As to the powers conferred on the Commission (by way of the "comitology" procedure), they would be limited to the adaptation of the Directive to general Community provisions applicable to foodstuffs. Given the sensitive nature of this Directive for many Member States, any other changes - including to the technical provisions contained in the annexes - would be decided by the legislator. However, the compromise - rejected by the Commission- left the door open, in a revision clause, to the possibility of transferring more implementing powers to the Commission at a later stage.