Brussels, 28 April 2003
Avian influenza: Byrne visits crisis centre in the Netherlands
EU Commissioner David Byrne met today with Dutch Agriculture Minister Veerman and Dutch State Secretary of Health Ross-van Dorp at one of the crisis centres the Netherlands has established to combat the outbreak of avian influenza, in Stroe. Mr Byrne who is responsible for Health and Consumer Protection in the European Commission also participated in a roundtable with local farmers and regional and local representatives in Barneveld.
After touring the crisis centre, Mr Byrne said: "The professional approach to combating the unfortunate outbreak of avian influenza is far reaching. . I understand that the Minister and his officials are doing everything possible to eradicate the disease. However, everyone involved in the sector has to do their best to support these efforts and respect all precautionary measures to avoid spreading the virus further. I am reassured that the actions taken so far have led to a decrease in the number of new affected or potentially affected farms and I hope that the disease is being successfully contained. I would also hope that full respect for the comprehensive measures in place can bring about the earliest possible resumption of trading opportunities. Clearly the industry has been dealt a severe blow and it is important that it gets back on its feet as quickly as possible."
He added: " I regret that I am having to visit this crisis centre for the second time. As recently as 2001 the Netherlands suffered an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. Two years ago, the European Commission supported the Dutch government in its approach and partially compensated affected farmers for the loss of their animals. We will do this now again, but of course the EU can only contribute in part to the final bill.
Under the Veterinary Fund, the Commission contributes about 50% of the expenditure incurred by the Member States for the culling and destruction of poultry in infected and possibly infected farms. It also covers certain other costs such as cleansing and disinfection of farms.
According to the figures available at present, the costs for the EU will probably amount to at least 70 M€.
Human health implications
Commissioner Byrne made clear that he regretted deeply the death of the Dutch veterinarian Jan Bosch and through the Dutch government extended his sympathy to his family. "Nevertheless, the current scientific expertise allows us to believe that at present the virus strain of avian influenza in the Netherlands does not represent a risk to the general public."
Concluding, he emphasised that the European Commission will continue to support the Dutch and Belgium authorities in their efforts. "The Commission has adopted a total of 13 Decisions establishing specific measures to better control and eradicate the disease in the Netherlands and Belgium with the full support of the experts of the other Member States of EU. The Member States including the acceding countries will meet again on 6 May to discuss the evolution.
On a more general level, a range of actions surveillance, scientific advice and research have been ongoing for some time, which will assist in due course in the revision of the EU legislation on the control of avian influenza."