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Brussels, 31 March 2006

Economic impact of bird flu on farm sector under spotlight at CoR debate (3 April)

The economic impact of avian flu on regional farm sectors across the EU will be the theme of a roundtable discussion at the Committee of the Regions on Monday, 3 April. The debate, at the CoR’s headquarters in Brussels (11:15am, Room BEL 52), is organised by the Committee’s Commission for Sustainable Development (DEVE).

DEVE chairman Pedro Sanz Alonso (EPP), President of the government of La Rioja, Spain, has invited three specialists to participate: Hans Kordik, President of the Special Committee on Agriculture, the expert group which advises the Council of Ministers; Laurent Lourdais, policy officer responsible for the poultry sector in the European Commission’s Agriculture Directorate; and Vincent Cordonnier, head of unit at the European farmers’ and agricultural cooperatives’ organisation (COPA-COGECA).

At the conclusion of the debate, the DEVE members will issue a political declaration expressing concerns about the way the crisis has been handled. One proposal under consideration is the creation of a centralised system in the EU to monitor the economic effects of bird flu on the agricultural sector, taking full account of regional variations.

The members will also assess the Commission’s proposal to allow the EU to share the cost of market support measures in the eggs and poultry sector. The initiative, tabled on 29 March by Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, is a response to dramatic falls in the consumption of poultry and eggs in some Member States, which has in turn led to a sharp reduction in prices.

Current regulations limit compensation to cases where avian flu affects a particular farm or where farmers are prevented from moving poultry due to restrictions imposed on veterinary orders. There is currently no scope for providing aid to take account of loss of consumer confidence.

The Commission has proposed co-financing 50 percent of the cost of market support measures linked to the fall in consumption and prices. The proposal will be sent to the European Parliament and Council, with adoption foreseen by the end of April.

Opinions on natural catastrophes, waste recycling and clean transport

Among other issues under discussion at the DEVE meeting will be three key reports, set for final discussion prior to adoption by the CoR’s plenary assembly:

• Debate on opinion on natural catastrophes (fires, floods and droughts): response to a referral by the European Parliament. Rapporteur: Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso (EPP), President of the autonomous region of Murcia, Spain. Due for final adoption at the plenary session on 26-27 April.

  • Opinion on Commission communication on taking sustainable use of resources forward: a thematic strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste, and on the proposal for a directive of the Parliament and Council on waste. Rapporteur: Laust Grove Vejlstrup (EPP), county councillor for Sydthy, Denmark.
  • Opinion on the proposal for a directive of the Parliament and Council on the promotion of clean road transport vehicles. Rapporteur: Ewa-May Karlsson (ALDE), chair of the municipal board of Vindeln, Sweden. The two latter opinions are due for final adoption at the plenary session of 14-15 June.

Background: What is avian flu?

Avian flu is a contagious animal disease caused by viruses that infect birds and, less commonly, pigs. Avian flu viruses have, on rare occasions, also crossed the species barrier to infect humans. In domestic poultry, bird flu viruses cause two main forms of disease; the ‘low pathogenic’ form commonly results in mild symptoms (eg a drop in egg production) and can easily go undetected. The highly pathogenic form spreads very rapidly through poultry flocks, attacks multiple internal organs, and has a mortality rate that can approach 100% within 48 hours.

Sixteen countries within the European region of the World Health Organization have so far reported confirmed cases of H5N1 avian flu in birds to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE): Austria, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Romania, the Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey and Ukraine. Three European countries have reported cases of H5 avian influenza: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro and Switzerland.

World Health Organization Europe region website:
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