Brussels, 28 November 2002
EU Plant Health Regime improved to reduce risk of importing harmful organisms
Today the Agriculture Council adopted amendments to Directive 2000/29/EC, which deals with protective measures against the introduction and spread of organisms harmful to plants or plant products in the European Union. The amended Directive improves the transparency of import procedures for plants and plant products and further adjusts the EU Plant Health regime to the conditions of the internal market, responding to risks resulting from increased trade.
The overall aim of the EU plant health legislation is to ensure protection against harmful organisms that affect plants or plant products. The benefits of the amended Directive include the strengthening of import clearance procedures for plants and plant products and improved conditions for co-operation between customs authorities and official phytosanitary bodies in Member States. The Directive also ensures better information for importers and the establishment of a harmonised system of fees charged for carrying out import checks.
Commissioner David Byrne, responsible for Health and Consumer Protection, said "I welcome this reinforcement of the EU's plant health regime, strengthening the internal market and giving the European Union as a whole an improved capacity to trade safely in plants and plant products."
Two examples of diseases caused by harmful organisms that are addressed by the Directive are potato brown rot and potato ring rot, both very damaging to potato crops with the potential to cause crop losses of up to 50%. Another example is pine wilt caused by pinewood nematode, one of the most devastating harmful organisms affecting conifers. Losses occur in natural coniferous forests as well as in artificial forest ecosystems like ornamental conifer plantings, windbreaks and Christmas tree plantations. A final example worthy of mention is fire blight, which can be extremely damaging to fruit trees and ornamental trees.
These organisms are not dangerous to the consumer but can cause significant economic losses. In all cases very stringent measures to contain them are already in place under the current Directive. The amended Directive introduces improved clearance procedures for the import of plants or plant products that might harbour these organisms, hence reducing the risk of introducing such organisms.
The EU Plant Health Regime was established by Directive 2000/29/EC, which contains all measures and actions to be taken to prevent the introduction into and the spread within the European Union of organisms harmful to plants or plant products. Such organisms are currently either not present in the EU or if they are present they are not widespread and they are being kept under control. The amended Directive that was adopted today was originally proposed by the Commission on 5 April 2001.
In addition to the improved import clearance procedures and harmonisation of fees for phytosanitary import inspections, the amended Directive aims to complete, specify and update other provisions in the Directive, building on experience gained, new scientific evidence and international instruments. In particular, these provisions include:
The amended Directive also adjusts regulatory provisions to clarify procedures for the Commission to exercise the implementing powers that have been conferred on it. Finally, in accordance with obligations under the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, the amended Directive specifies procedures for recognising the equivalence of phytosanitary measures of other parties to that Agreement.
The amended Directive will enter into force on the day of its publication in the Official Journal, and requires Member States to adopt and publish the provisions necessary to comply with it before 1 January 2005.
The Commission will now focus on preparing various implementing measures such as co-operation between the official phytosanitary bodies in the Member States and the Customs authorities, model forms of documents to be used in that co-operation, and the means of transmission of these documents. Such measures must be taken to maintain the identity of the consignments and to safeguard against spreading harmful organisms during transport until the completion of the required phytosanitary and customs formalities.