Parliament doubles EU food agency funding
looking up for Europe's first food agency.
Bringing months of political wranglings to an end, last month Italy - on the cusp of its presidency handover to Ireland - oversaw the EU ministers' decision to locate the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in Parma, Italy.
EFSA welcomed the decision this week. "We can now move forward with the planning of our move and full establishment of the authority in Italy," said EFSA management board chairman, Stuart Slorach, at a meeting in Brussels yesterday.
Geoffrey Podger, the head of EFSA, has started the ball rolling with a visit to Parma last week and yesterday confirmed his intention to relocate EFSA as quickly as possible - no later than 2005.
Clearing the path for new recruits, EFSA confirmed at the meeting that the European Parliament has cleared an EFSA budget of €28 million for 2004, more than doubling funding - €12 million - handed out in 2003.
Although already underway with a staff of 70 temporarily housed in Brussels, the EFSA workload in risk assessment is rising steadily as the Commission calls on the agency's scientists for new opinions on foodstuffs.
Under new EU rules, responsibility for the risk assessment of foodstuffs falls on EFSA, while risk management must be handled by the European Commission.
But with this two-way exchange vital, critics wonder whether the move to Parma - at a purely practical level - will harm the flow of information between the two European bodies.
"The challenge for us is to keep properly in touch with Brussels. At the beginning, EFSA had to make the break from the Commission, and since then we have established good relations," Geoffrey Podger told FoodNavigator.com last month, emphasising that EFSA will do its maximum to ensure communication remains strong.
In a move to increase transparency, EFSA agreed this week that all management board meetings would be open to the public from March onwards. The first meeting with 'public access' will take place in Dublin on 10 March.