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CONSUMER POLICY: EU DIVIDED ON FOOD AUTHORITY'S REMIT.

The scope for the Authority to offer scientific advice about matters transcending food safety, such as animal health and welfare, and plant health products, is coming under fire from Spain, Greece, the Netherlands and Portugal. They say that animal welfare does not really come under the heading of food safety, so it should not be included in the Authority's remit. Portugal even wants to exclude animal health. Austria, Germany and the United Kingdom have yet to make their minds up about this additional activity.On the operation of the early warning system for food and animal feed, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, France and the Netherlands continue to blast the idea of putting the Authority in charge, as the European Commission would like. They believe that this is more a question of risk management and so it should remain the responsibility of the EU's executive arm. Germany, Greece and Italy are continuing to express reservations pending a review of this issue.--On November 8, 2000, the Commission tabled its proposal for a Regulation setting forth the general principles and measures governing food legislation and creating a European Food Authority. The proposal is now on appraisal in the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. MEPs are due to adopt their position at the June 12 plenary session. The EU's Swedish Presidency is hoping a Council common position can be passed before July 1, 2001.--As for Council-appointed representatives on the board, the Commission recommends setting this at four out of a total of 16 members. It argues that the Authority is not a policy-making body and that the four Council appointees would represent the latter not the Member States (in contrast to the advisory forum where it is considered vital for each Member State to be represented). Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Finland, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, and Portugal, a total of 11 Member States, want a higher Council representation on the board and are continuing to voice reservations about the Commission solution. Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are more concerned about having a "board that operates smoothly" and therefore have misgivings about a higher number of members. The United Kingdom in particular, wants the members to be appointed "for their merits and on the basis of an open competition system to guarantee the Authority's maximum effectiveness".The Member States believe that there should be no restrictions on the right of the Member States and the European Parliament to ask the Authority to deliver a scientific opinion on any matter covered by its terms of reference. Hence they no longer accept the provision featured in the Commission's original proposal to state that "the Commission alone, in pursuance of its right of initiative, shall be entitled to make a request for an opinion". The Commission naturally has misgivings about the decision to drop the provision.Other outstanding issues include the Authority's work programme. The Commission representative says that for budgetary reasons the Commission "should be consulted not only about the Authority's work programme as established by the executive director, but also for approval". Another knotty question is the advisory forum, with Ireland resenting the idea that this will include only one representative for each Member State, whereas this country has two food safety agencies (one with a nation-wide scope and the other covering the entire island).
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Title Annotation:European Union
Publication:European Report
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4E
Date:May 16, 2001
Words:555
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