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IP/07/252

Brussels, 27 February 2007

EU emergency veterinary team to be established

Today the European Commission adopted a Decision to establish an emergency veterinary team, to provide the support of European experts if needed to respond rapidly to animal disease outbreaks in the EU and third countries. The team will be made up of animal health experts who are available at short notice to assist with major outbreaks of certain diseases, such as avian influenza, bluetongue and foot-and-mouth disease. When necessary, members of the team will be sent to the affected Member State or third country, to provide technical assistance and to work with local authorities in bringing the disease situation under control. The team will also collaborate closely with experts from international organisations, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and International Office of Epizootics (OIE). The Decision to create this emergency veterinary team has been endorsed by Member States in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health. The establishment of the team formalises a support structure which has existed for many years and has been used for example in assisting Turkey and Romania in tackling avian influenza outbreaks last year.

Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said, “Serious animal epidemics in Europe and elsewhere have highlighted the importance of having well-prepared, well-trained personnel available to provide their expertise in dealing with the problem. Time is of the essence when it comes to bringing major outbreaks under control. This EU emergency team will enable us to respond quickly and effectively to future animal health crises in the EU, and to offer fast support to third countries in need of assistance.”

EU assistance to third countries

In the past, the EU has sent experts on regular occasions to assist Member States and third countries which may not have had sufficient resources to handle the disease problem alone. For example, EU veterinary experts were sent to a wide range of third countries when they were affected by H5N1 avian influenza in 2006, including Turkey, Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Egypt. Likewise, when bluetongue was confirmed in Northern Europe last year, the Commission organised for veterinary experts with considerable experience with the disease to assist the authorities in the affected Member States. The Decision adopted today gives a formal legal basis to what is already common practice.

A rapid support mechanism

When there is a serious animal disease outbreak, particularly one that is highly contagious and spreads rapidly, very quick reaction is essential and efficient expert support can be crucial in bringing the situation under control.

However, finding people with the appropriate expertise who are readily available can take time. The aim in creating this new EU emergency team is to have experts in the fields of veterinary, virology, wildlife, laboratory testing, risk management and other relevant areas on stand-by, ready to respond when an animal health crisis breaks out.

Team building

Member States will submit lists of experts they propose for the emergency team, along with detailed profiles of these candidates, to the Commission. From these submissions, the Commission will select the team members and inform Member States of its choice through the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health. The list of experts will be updated on an annual basis, and the list will be available on the Commission’s website.

For more information, see: http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/index_en.htm


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