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5.1.3.  EU Veterinary and plant health legislation

    Veterinary and plant health legislation is important not only for intra-EU trade, but also for the protection of the environment and of human health. It is in the interest of all Member States to strengthen their common legislation in these fields and, at the same time, not to upset intra-EU trade of foodstuffs.

    The plant health arrangements, which came into force on 1 June 1993, have made it possible to remove all physical obstacles to trade of plants and plant products [Directive 2000/29, last amended by Directive 2014/917]. These arrangements include the rules applicable to the intra-EU trade of plants and plant products imported from third countries, the standards for the protection of the environment and human health against harmful or undesirable organisms and the protective measures against the introduction into the EU of organisms harmful to plants or plant products and against their spread within the EU. The Community Plant Variety Office supervises the protection of plant varieties in the EU [Regulation 2100/94].

    In the veterinary field, the efforts of the European Union are mainly geared towards protecting the health of animals and consequently human health, while allowing the smooth operation of the internal market. Since January 1, 1992, veterinary checks at intra-EU frontiers have been abolished and are instead carried out at the point of departure [Directive 89/662], while measures were taken to monitor zoonoses and zoonotic agents and thus prevent outbreaks of food-borne infections and intoxications [Directive 2003/99]. At the same time, the EC/EU has switched from a system characterised by a policy of systematic preventive vaccination against foot and mouth disease, which could act as an obstacle to the free movement of animals and products, to a policy of non-vaccination and slaughter in the event of an infection source appearing.

    Although the elimination of controls at internal frontiers was necessary for the free circulation of animals and animal products in the internal market, it brought about other problems. The epizootic disease of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE - "mad cow disease"), which first appeared in the United Kingdom in 1996 and then spread to several other countries, is indicative of the importance of veterinary questions for the customs union. Despite the prohibition of exports of bovine animals over the age of 6 months, of meat and specified meat products from the United Kingdom, the certification of animals and animal products in tandem with increased veterinary checks in the consigning Member State [Directives 96/90 and 96/91], the consumers' concerns spread in all the Member States and the beef market collapsed in the whole EU [see as well sections 11.2 and 21.4.2].

    The acknowledgment by the British Government, in March 1996, that there was a possible link between the disease of bovine animals (BSE) fed on meal made from contaminated meat or slaughter by-products and the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease of human beings has spurred many changes to the European veterinary legislation. In the field of the customs union, the Council adapted to the new situation pre-existing directives concerning veterinary inspections and checks [Directive 96/43]. The measures taken include: a system for the identification and registration of bovine animals and the labelling of beef and beef products [Regulation 1760/2000, last amended by Regulation 653/2014]; publicity measures to inform consumers of the guarantees offered by the labelling system for beef and veal [Regulation 2071/98 and Regulation 2826/2000]; measures concerning intra-EU trade in bovine animals and swine [Directive 97/12]; and measures for protection against specified zoonoses in order to prevent outbreaks of food-borne infections and intoxications posing a threat to human health [Directive 2003/99]. All the Member States agreed to follow common rules for the prevention, control and eradication of certain transmissible spongiform encephalopathies [Regulation 999/2001, last amended by Regulation 2016/27]. All slaughterhouses, cutting plants and animal waste processing plants throughout the European Union are required to apply new standardised rules and imports from third countries are subject to comparable requirements [Decision 2000/418 repealed by Regulation 1326/2001].

    Similar problems were created after the detection, in Belgium in June 1999, of contamination by dioxins of certain animal products intended for human or animal consumption. The protective measures, taken under the safeguard clause, obliged all Member States to ensure the withdrawal from the market and destruction of any poultry or egg products or food products containing poultry-related products which had come from suspect farms [Decision 1999/449 and Decision 2000/301]. These cases demonstrate the fact that in a customs union the market problems of a single Member State are in reality problems of the single market. Therefore, the measures taken in order to face the problems of a country concern all the members of the Union.

    In order to ensure high standards of animal and public health in the Union and the rational development of the agriculture and aquaculture sectors, and to increase productivity, animal health rules concerning transmissible animal diseases are laid down at Union level [Regulation 2016/429].

    The Food and Veterinary Office (FVO), established in Ireland, is responsible for consumer protection and particularly for the monitoring of all slaughterhouses approved in the Member States for intra-EU trade, as well as of all establishments manufacturing meat products. Veterinary checks on animal products entering the territory of a Member State from third countries are organised at European level [Directive 97/78, last amended by Regulation 2015/9, and Directive 97/79]. Veterinary import procedures for animals and animal products from third countries have been computerised (Shift System), thus ensuring smooth operation of the internal market [Decision 92/438 last amended by Regulation 806/2003].  The rules on the making available on the market and the use of biocidal products, which are necessary for the control of organisms that are harmful to human or animal health but which can pose risks to humans, animals and the environment, have been harmonised [Regulation 528/2012, last amended by Regulation 334/2014].

    Intra-EU trade in fresh meat is linked to European measures on the struggle against animal diseases, such as classical swine fever [Directive 2001/89], African swine fever [Directives 85/320 and 85/321] and foot-and-mouth disease [Directive 2003/85]. A Directive on health problems affecting intra-EU trade in bovine animals and swine lays down conditions for the production and marketing of fresh meat [Directive 64/432, last amended by Directive 2014/64]. A Regulation aims at the protection of animals during transport [Regulation 1/2005]. It lays down journey-time limits, rest times, and watering and feeding intervals. A supplementary Directive sets additional animal protection standards applicable to road vehicles used for the carriage of livestock on journeys exceeding eight hours [Directive 92/59]. A European Convention for the protection of animals during international transport contains elements inspired by European legislation, such as the need for transporters to be registered and authorised, and for their personnel to receive proper training [Decision 2004/544]. A Regulation lays down rules for the killing of animals bred or kept for the production of food, wool, skin, fur or other products [Regulation 1099/2009].

    The EU also covers various veterinary activities with a view to ensuring the rational development of the livestock production sector and the raising of productivity. Thus, European  rules apply to requirements for feed hygiene [Regulation 183/2005], additives in feedingstuffs [Regulation 1831/2003, last amended by Regulation 2015/327], veterinary medicinal products [Directive 2001/82 and Regulation 726/2004], undesirable substances and products in animal feed [Directive 2002/32], maximum residue limits of veterinary medicinal products in foodstuffs [Regulation 470/2009] and the organisation of official inspections, both at external frontiers and inside the EU, in the field of animal nutrition [Regulation 882/2004, last amended by Regulation 2015/1012]. European rules prohibit the use in stockfarming of certain substances having a hormonal or thyrostatic action and of beta-agonists having an anabolic effect [Directive 96/22]. They also prevent meat imports from third countries, which do not prohibit the fattening of livestock with hormones, causing loud complaints of these countries, notably the United States.

    A Regulation aims to ensure a high level of protection of both human and animal health and the environment and to improve the functioning of the internal market through the harmonisation of the rules on the placing on the market of plant protection products, while improving agricultural production [Regulation 1107/2009, last amended by Regulation 2015/1115]. The European rules on the marketing and use of pesticides containing dangerous substances is becoming more and more strict, by overhauling and streamlining the legislation on pesticides to ensure a consistent level of protection for products which are intended for human consumption and animal nutrition [Regulation 396/2005, last amended by Regulation 2015/845]. The marketing of compound feedingstuffs [Regulation 767/2009] and of agricultural and vegetable seeds and propagating material [Directives 2002/54, 2002/55, 2002/57] are also regulated.

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