Simplified European rules will soon apply to coffee extracts and chicory extracts following the agreement reached between the two branches of the Community's legislative authority, namely the European Parliament and the Council.
The new Directive on coffee and chicory forms part of a broader process of simplifying Directives on foodstuffs. In 1996, the Commission had proposed reviewing a total of seven Directives in accordance with the undertaking it had given at the Edinburgh European Council in December 1992 to simplify and streamline certain existing legislative texts in the light of the principle of subsidiarity.
Directive 77/436/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to coffee extracts and chicory extracts will therefore be replaced by a simpler text dealing only with the essential requirements to be met by the products concerned so that they can move freely throughout the internal market. The products concerned are coffee (or chicory) extract, soluble coffee (or chicory) extract and instant coffee (or chicory).
The former Directive was intended to define coffee extracts and chicory extracts, to determine the substances which could be added during their manufacture, to establish common rules for packaging and labelling them and to specify the conditions in which particular names could be used for some of these products. The new Directive refers to the existing general provisions applicable to all foodstuffs and in particular those concerning labelling (horizontal Directives). It should be noted that most of the horizontal Directives were adopted after the Directives harmonising each individual product (vertical Directives).
Contrary to the situation with other files, it proved possible to settle the differences between the Parliament and the Council on this Directive fairly quickly. The Conciliation Committee meeting on 8 December was therefore able to agree on a joint draft. As soon as that text has been finalised in the official languages of the Communities, each Institution will, in accordance with the Treaty, have a period of six weeks in which to confirm agreement definitively (by an absolute majority of the votes cast in the case of the Parliament and by qualified majority in the case of the Council), after which the Directive will be deemed to have been adopted.
At a second reading during its plenary session on 16 September 1998, the European Parliament adopted three amendments to the Council's Common Position. All three were rejected by the Commission and also posed problems to many of the Member States.
In Amendments 1 and 2, the Parliament wanted to reintroduce into the Directive arrangements for pre-packaging ranges. The Commission and some members of the Council found these amendments unacceptable as they thought such a provision had no place in a Directive which was primarily concerned with ingredients and labelling.
The solution finally adopted by the Conciliation Committee is a recital to the effect that the Commission is planning to propose a range of nominal weights for the individual packaging of coffee and chicory products made available to the consumer; this range would be included in the general Directive on ranges (Directive 80/232/EEC) and the Commission will be making this proposal as soon as possible and at all events before 1 July 2000 (the deadline for transposing the new Directive on coffee and chicory).
Amendment 3 wanted to introduce into the Directive a reference to ISO Standard 11292 on methods of determining the carbohydrate content of soluble coffees. Like the Commission, most of the Member States thought it was not appropriate, in the light of the rapid development of technology, to fix specific methods of analysis in legislative acts.
According to the compromise approach adopted in the joint draft, the Member States will ensure that the methods used are in accordance with the Directive on methods of analysis (Directive 85/591/EEC) and have been validated or standardised or will be as soon as possible.