|Author (Person)||Neligan, Myles|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.4, No.40, 5.11.98, p5|
|Content Type||Journal | Series | Blog|
FARM Commissioner Franz Fischler is set to unveil a package of stop-gap measures designed to control the use of potentially contaminated livestock offals until tougher restrictions come into force at the start of the new millennium.
The interim measures, which are based on internationally accepted guidelines for assessing countries' risk of BSE infection, would impose stricter controls on the UK and Portugal, but would allow most other EU countries to escape with only minimal restrictions.
The decision to propose temporary measures reflects the European Commission's tacit acknowledgment that the tougher controls, which must be approved jointly by national governments and MEPs, will not become law for up to two years.
"We think that it is necessary to have something in place in the intervening period," said a Commission official.
The stop-gap measures, like the more stringent long-term package of controls, would leave the door open for low-risk countries to apply for wholesale exemptions.
However, whereas exemptions from the long-term controls would depend on a detailed risk assessment to be carried out by EU experts, any country which meets the Paris-based International Office of Epizootics' (IOE) criterion for low BSE risk could obtain a waiver from the interim measures. Under IOE guidelines, countries which have fewer than 200 cases of BSE per million head of cattle per year are classified as low risk.
At present, the UK is the only EU member state which does not meet this criterion, but officials say that the Commission is likely to impose stricter measures on Portugal as well, in view of its escalating BSE crisis.
Union scientific experts are due to examine the complete IOE risk-assessment criteria, and may introduce additional safeguards before the final proposal for interim measures is unveiled later this month.
But officials say they will avoid tightening up the criteria too far for fear of making the proposal less acceptable to national governments, most of which strongly resisted the Commission's original bid to ban suspect livestock offals last year.
The institution is aiming to push the interim measures through the legislative process before the end of the year. A majority of national veterinary chiefs must approve the proposals for them to become law. If the vets reject them, or fail to reach a decision, farm ministers will have to take the final decision.
The vets are expected to consider the proposals later this month, paving the way for a ministerial decision if necessary on 14 December.
|Subject Categories||Business and Industry|