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Brussels, 16 March 2005

Questions and Answers on the EU-Russia deal on the trade in plant products

Why did this deal have to be negotiated?

On 4 October 2004, Russia wrote to the European Commission asking for the introduction of a single EU phytosanitary certificate with improved protection against falsification, to be used by all 25 Member States by 1 April 2005. Russia had reported problems with Western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis, a harmful organism) found in certain consignments of plant products. In addition, Russia complained about the lack of security in certification opening up the possibility of fraud.

What has been agreed?

Agreement has been reached on the level of harmonisation of certificates at EU level: the layout will be identical, but the Member States will implement different solutions as regards colour and security features such as watermarks. The certification of plant products in transit via the EU or moving within the internal market before being exported to Russia was another important issue, where a basic understanding has been reached but further technical discussions will need to be held to work out the details. To avoid any disruption of trade, a transitional period of three months has been agreed for the Member States to implement the agreement.

Which countries were affected by Russia’s bilateral measures?

Russia blocked the trade of plant products from certain EU Member States (a partial ban on the Netherlands in June 2004 followed by a complete ban in December 2004; a ban on Estonia in August 2004; Germany in November 2004 and Denmark in January 2005). The affected countries have been working bilaterally with the Russian authorities to find a solution. Until now only the Netherlands succeeded in reaching a partial lifting of the ban, subject to certain temporary concessions. However, the EU-Russia deal is not connected to the agreements made bilaterally and any concessions made bilaterally will not affect other Member States.

Who negotiated this deal with Russia?

Export certificates are a Member State responsibility, but the Member States gave the Commission a mandate in December 2004 to negotiate on behalf of the whole of the EU. The EU negotiating team is led by the Commission and supported by representatives from certain Member States in the so-called Roosendaal Group (Denmark, Estonia, Latvia), the rotating EU Presidency (currently Luxembourg) and the Council Secretariat.

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