Poland pushes for speedy Union repeal of dairy imports ban

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Series Details Vol.4, No.21, 28.5.98, p8
Publication Date 28/05/1998
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Date: 28/05/1998

Myles Neligan and By Mark Turner

WARSAW is urging the European Commission to speed up the process of repealing the EU's five-month-old ban on Polish dairy imports.

The call comes after Union officials indicated late last week that they could accept a new export certification scheme put forward by Poland.

"The import ban has had a highly negative impact on our agricultural trade with the EU," said Polish agriculture attaché Andrzej Krawczyk. "We welcome the Commission's acceptance of our new scheme, but it must now cut through the usual red tape and allow exports to resume as soon as possible."

Warsaw is pushing the Commission to reopen the EU market to Polish exports ahead of an 18 June meeting between Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler and Polish Agriculture Minister Jacek Janiszewski.

"The dairy dispute is the biggest bone of contention between us, so it would be as well to settle it now so that we can concentrate on the more pressing issues which will dominate relations between us over the next few years," said Krawczyk.

However, the Commission insists it cannot lift the ban until it has carried out another round of inspections, and says none of its veterinary inspectors will be available until 10 June at the earliest. Given that it will then have to evaluate their report, it is likely that the embargo will still be in force when Fischler and Janiszewski meet.

Under the latest Polish proposal, dairy products destined for export to the EU would be strictly segregated from those for domestic consumption.

Five of the country's 40 licensed dairy plants would only produce export-certified goods, under stricter than usual hygiene controls, on certain days of the week.

Commission officials say this would be enough to guarantee the safety of Polish dairy produce. Imports were suspended last December after EU health inspectors found poor hygiene standards in two of Poland's four export-certified plants, prompting protests from Warsaw officials who argued it was unfair to suspend all imports because of negative inspection results in two plants.

Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek has sacked junior minister Slawomir Zawadzki after the Commission announced a 34-million-ecu cut in the country's 212-million-ecu Phare technical assistance aid this year.

The Commission acted after repeatedly warning that Poland's project proposals were not good enough.

Poland is the first country to have its aid cut under new Commission rules which stress that projects must "tackle priorities set out in the Accession Partnership", the blueprint for transition countries' membership preparations.

Polish sources claimed they had met a 15 May deadline for proposals, and were surprised at the decision. But integration committee head Ryszard Czarnecki said: "This should be a lesson that projects coming out of Poland should be scrutinised more carefully, so that we avoid such situations when much larger funds are made available."

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