EU food safety commissioner appeals for solidarity on Russian ban

By Carmen Paun, in Brussels

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, Livestock, Pork

EU food safety commissioner appeals for solidarity on Russian ban
The European Union (EU) health and food safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis has called for solidarity between EU countries in dealing with the Russian ban on exports of EU pig and food products.

“We cannot accept any situation under which different conditions might apply to different member states,”​ the Commissioner told the European Parliament’s agriculture committee in Brussels on 23 March. He was referring to proposals from Russia that some favoured EU countries escape its ongoing ban, while exports from others remain blocked.

He said that, despite the EU’s success in limiting the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF), “Russia maintains a disproportionate ban on live pigs and pork exports from the whole of the EU”.​ Andriukaitis told committee members that Brussels will pursue the case it opened against Russia on the issue at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), “unless Russia respects the international principle of regionalisation as regards trade in EU pig products”​. He underlined that the WTO case is in the interest of the EU as a whole.

“In relation to supporting the sector, which is seriously affected by this ban, I have been working closely with [EU agriculture] Commissioner [Phil] Hogan to have the necessary market support measures adopted,”​ Andriukaitis continued. He also said that he and other relevant EU commissioners are working to find ways of opening new markets for EU pig exports “in other countries that, for one reason or another, are closed for our exports”.

However, Polish conservative MEP Janusz Wojciechowski said that the EU needed to improve its support to pig farmers at the moment, since the current one is “insignificant​” and the farmers “will not manage on their own”​. ASF “is coming to Europe from the area of Russia, which introduced an embargo from the other side,”​ he said. “This is a strange situation and we don’t have a correct response from the EU right now,”​ he told Andriukaitis, who is from Lithuania, another country significantly affected by the ban.

Speaking about his priorities in general food safety policy, Andriukaitis told MEPs that he was considering different animal welfare reform options at the moment. While the EU’s outgoing animal welfare strategy has made progress (it ends in December) there are still outstanding issues, “particularly in terms of implementation”​ of welfare standards, he said. The strategy could be renewed, or a new law could be proposed, maybe giving national governments more leeway on enforcing welfare standards, he suggested.

Another issue under assessment by his officials is fighting pathogens, such as campylobacter, in food. “With some 200,000 human cases last year in Europe, and almost 80% of chicken carcases affected, it is my intention to look at every possibility to combat this health concern,”​ he told MEPs.

Related topics: Meat

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