Food Law News - EU - 1999

29 October 1999: BEEF - Statement by David BYRNE European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection on receipt of the Report of the Scientific Steering Committee

SPEECH (99/148), 29 October 1999

Statement by David BYRNE European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection on receipt of the Report of the Scientific Steering Committee

I have received the opinion of the Scientific Steering Committee on the questions referred to it by the Commission in relation to BSE. I am especially glad to be joined on the podium by Professor Pascal, the committee's chairman.

An enormous amount of scientific work has been done over the past few weeks in relation to this matter, both by the Ad hoc committee and by the Scientific Steering Committee itself. I am very grateful to have had such expert and fully independent advice available to me. May I take this opportunity of publicly thanking all of the scientific experts who have worked on this difficult case. I have witnessed scientists working at the pinnacle of their profession under full public gaze. I am especially grateful for their hard work and professionalism.

I have only received the committee's report within the past half hour. You will appreciate, therefore, that I can only comment in general on its contents. However, I can say that the committee has confirmed that there is no need to review the decision to lift the ban on UK beef exports. This follows a very thorough examination which focused on the concerns raised by the French authorities.

From my preliminary reading of the report, I can say that it is comprehensive, reasoned and balanced. The Committee's conclusions have been already sent to the European Parliament and I will deal with this matter in Parliament next week. I have made contact this evening with representatives of the French, British and German Governments. I expect to have discussions early next week with both Mr. Nick Brown and Mr. Jean Glavany regarding the scientific committee's opinion.

Clearly, we all need a few days to reflect on the full implications. However, I am optimistic that all will see it as a very positive development in resolving the current difficulties. I am now confident that a rapid solution is in sight.

I believe that the French and German authorities should take stock of the Committee's opinion and lift their national restrictions on imports of British beef. These restrictions are no longer necessary in the light of the safeguards in place. The safeguards in question were introduced on sound scientific advice. This advice has now been re-confirmed.

The past few weeks have put the EU's system of scientific advice in the spotlight. I am greatly encouraged that the system has proven its worth. It has ensured that issues of great concern to citizens were subjected to very detailed and rigorous scientific scrutiny in an independent and transparent manner. Europe's citizens can take comfort that their interests are being protected by a system of scientific advice that is based on independence, excellence and transparency. I would like to thank Professor Pascale and his colleagues for their work in upholding the highest standards of scientific excellence. Over the coming days it is vital that all concerned strive to reach a resolution of this difficult situation. We now have a sound basis for moving forward with confidence. It is vital that Europe demonstrates that it is capable of resolving differences in a mature, reasoned way and that all concerned respect the rule of law and the acquis communautaire.

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