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European Consumer Commissioner
Press conference speaking points
Ladies and Gentleman,
It is my great pleasure today to give you the yearly update on how the European Union is serving its citizens with regard to product safety.
And to "report back" on how the Rapid alert system for dangerous consumer products coped with the challenges it faced.
2. There are 3 key findings in the RAPEX Report for 2008:
3. What do these figures mean? And what lessons can we draw?
A 16% increase in notifications means that the RAPEX system is working better and the overall capacity is increasing.
It means that fewer dangerous consumer goods – particularly toys - are "slipping through the net".
The figures show that Member states are more and more active. They are better targeting their inspections and enforcement actions and are increasingly effective.
Business too took their responsibilities more seriously and recalled their unsafe products from the market more readily.
This is all very good news.
But there is no room for complacency.
4. A lot of important progress was made already last year
In 2008, the EU focused particularly on strengthening its international cooperation - with third countries, mainly China and the US – and tackling the flow of dangerous goods at source.
We upgraded the Memorandum of Understanding with China – setting out how we co-operate on safety issues - and we participated in a joint outreach programme to China with the US authorities in September 2008.
In November 2008 I hosted the first tri-lateral summit on product safety in Brussels with China and the US where trilateral priority areas for action for 2009 were agreed.
That high level product safety summit was a very clear signal about the determination of leaders in Europe, China and the US to put the safety of citizens first.
It also reflected a new political momentum to insist that standards are high and fully enforced at every step along the global supply chain in the increasingly globalised market.
5. In 2009, there is a new and very significant challenge for product safety.
The biggest challenge for 2009, is to make sure that product safety is not set aside during this period of economic crisis.
Product safety is not a luxury that can be dispensed with in times of recession.
On the contrary, at times of economic crisis, when price becomes a very prominent factor in consumer spending we need to step up our efforts and keep our vigilance especially high.
Businesses must continue to respect their duties towards consumers. There can be no short cuts when it comes to safety.
And Member States must continue to allocate the necessary resources to surveillance and enforcement.
Only two years ago, millions of goods were being pulled off shelves all over the world. We had a "summer of recalls" including toys with lead in paint, loose-magnets toys and tainted toothpaste.
It had serious effects both on consumer confidence and on trade.
The challenges of managing complex global supply chains have not diminished. They will only increase.
We cannot afford to let current economic and financial challenges diminish our vigilance in any way. That is the major challenge we have to face for 2009.
It will be a difficult year.
Thank you. Now I am very happy to take your questions.