France risks heavy fines for ban of British beef

The Commission has asked the European Court of Justice to fine France for every day the ban on UK beef remains in place. This is the second time France is taken to court for refusing to import beef from the UK.

The European Commission has now called on the European Court of Justice to put pressure on France to lift the ban. It asks the Court to fine France 158,250 euro per day the ban remains. The Court will most likely use the “accelerated procedure” and announce its decision in 3-4 months time.

The French Prime Minister Raffarin, as well as the Agriculture Minister Gaymard, have stated that France will not lift the ban unconditionally. The French food safety authority (Afssa) has been asked to do further research of the risks of UK meet. The results are to be presented in September. Afssa claims that up till now the data on the safety measures taken in the UK from 1996 have been too weak to use for evaluation and comparison.

 

On 27 March 1996, the European Commission ordered a ban on British beef, after the discovery of BSE. The ban was lifted after three years, in August 1999, but France decided to maintain it - thereby breaking European law. France said its own national Food Safety Agency was not convinced about the safety of British beef.

On 13 December 2001, the European Court of Justice condemned France's refusal to lift the ban on direct imports of British beef. The Court nevertheless acknowledged that "certain difficulties in applying Community decisions were the result of unclear legislation" and stressed the importance of a reliable tracing system. Moreover, the Court recognised that the European Union did not have a reliable tracing system in place for beef when it allowed some British exports to resume in August 1999.

 

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