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26/07/2016

Commission concerned with lack of food safety in candidate countries

Enlargement

Commission concerned with lack of food safety in candidate countries

Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection,
David Bryne, has warned that too little attention has been paid
to bringing the food safety standards of the candidate
countries up to EU levels.

Commissioner Byrne’s remark echoes an earlier statement by
the Spanish Agriculture Minister, Miguel Arias Canete, who
declared in February that the candidate countries need to
improve their food safety controls. He pointed out that
their “porous” borders with other eastern countries – such
as Turkey, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldavia where food
controls are almost non-existent – constituted a potential
risk.

Commissioner Bryne discussed the issue
of food safety with the Agriculture Ministers of the
candidate countries, during the Agriculture Council in
Brussels on 19 March. The Commissioner is determined to
force the candidate countries to improve their food safety
standards because the EU will not compromise its own safety
levels.

In the biggest candidate country,
Poland, only 30 dairies and 19 meat-processing plants
comply with EU standards. Other producers will be allowed
to produce food for the domestic market only after
accession.

The Commission underlines that it is
vitally important to ensure that the EU food safety law is
fully transposed into the national legislation of each
candidate country and that administrative structures and
procedures are strengthened and reformed in good time prior
to accession. Nevertheless, the EU will consider well
justified requests for transition periods if they do not
undermine key EU standards.

The main outstanding issues in the
ongoing negotiations on food safety are:

  • the capacity of the candidate countries to guarantee
    sufficient external border controls;
  • compliance with the high level of EU health
    protection rules regarding BSE;
  • bringing food processing establishments up to EU
    standards;
  • respect of the EU’s Animal Welfare rules.

 

Background

Food safety is a key feature of EU policy on consumer
protection and health. The candidate countries will have to
comply with the EU's "from the farm to the fork" approach
after accession. To date, not enough progress has been made
in this area, and the Commission intends to put pressure on
the candidate countries to align themselves with EU food
safety standards before they are allowed to produce food
for the internal market.

Two areas of enlargement negotiations
are concerned with food safety: free movement of goods and
agriculture (which covers veterinary and phytosanitary
issues and animal nutrition).

 

Timeline

10 out of 12 candidate countries have provisionally
concluded negotiations on the free movement of goods, and
none of them have requested transition periods concerning
food legislation. Negotiations with Bulgaria are in
progress, and will soon be opened with Romania.

Only Slovenia has provisionally closed
negotiations on the veterinary, phytosanitary and animal
feed part of the agriculture chapter. Slovenia has obtained
a transition period for animal welfare rules. Negotiations
with the other 11 countries are ongoing, and are expected
to close by the end of the Spanish Presidency (end of June
2002).