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Brussels, 11 July 2007

Commission adopts a Green paper on bio-preparedness

Today the European Commission has adopted a Green paper on bio-preparedness. The aim of the paper is to stimulate a debate and launch a process of consultation at European level on how to reduce biological risks, and to enhance preparedness and response capabilities.

Vice-President Franco Frattini, Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security said: "The recent unsuccessful attacks in London demonstrate that terrorist threat continues to be real. Although in the past terrorists used explosives or improvised explosive devices, they may in the future resort to non-conventional means such as biological weapons or materials. Hence, we should avoid complacency, in particular as the impact of such an attack may have much greater consequences in terms of a death toll or economic impact. Therefore, risks from dangerous biological materials and pathogens have to be reduced and preparedness fostered in Europe through a comprehensive approach aiming at achieving a better preparedness in this area".

Health Commissioner, Markos Kyprianou said: "Protecting the health and wellbeing of EU citizens is a top priority for the European Commission. For that reason, we invite stakeholders to provide us with input on how existing instruments can be enhanced to deal with biological threats that may arise to public safety".

The risk of bio-terrorist attack is statistically low, but its consequences can be devastating. In addition, in an age of open borders, more frequent and long distance travel and the global transport of goods, natural outbreaks are increasingly of concern. Furthermore, as the biotechnology industry continues to expand globally, dual-use expertise and technology could become available to criminal political entities and terrorists. Naturally occurring diseases, laboratory accidents or other inadvertent releases of disease agents and pathogens pose a threat which could cause significant social and economic disruption. Therefore, risks from dangerous biological materials and pathogens have to be reduced and preparedness enhanced in Europe through a biological all-hazards approach – generic preparedness.

Cross border, multi agency and cross sectoral cooperation is critical to any effective preparedness strategy, whether in the prevention of disease outbreaks or responding to them. In this context, the European Commission is presenting a Green Paper with concrete policy options and deliverables. It also seeks the views of stakeholders on the existing mechanisms and frameworks and what their possible shortcomings may be.

This Paper is relevant for a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including national authorities responsible for risk prevention, investigation and response, human, animal and plant health, customs, civil protection, law enforcement authorities, the military, bio-industry, epidemiological and health communities, academic institutions and bioresearch institutes. The consultation will remain open until 1 October 2007, and all responses will be published online unless otherwise requested.

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