Slovakian prime minister considers import restrictions to tackle dual quality food

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags: European commission, European union, Slovakia

The Slovakian prime minister has warned of import restrictions its country would take in response to the quality of products sold in the region. 

In a press conference, Robert Fico said he could not accept the citizens of the Slovak Republic being treated this way, commenting that the issue was “growing into a considerable international scandal”.

Fico referred to the ongoing practice in which foods sold in certain Central European countries varied in meat type and content despite these foods sold in the same packaging and under the same name.

“This is a serious political issue,”​ he said. “If we do not feel the European Commission’s action go far enough we are prepared to take temporary unilateral measures.

“One such measure could be, for example, a rule which asks public catering facilities to supply products from Slovakia for six months.”

Fico’s concerns were also repeated at the Visegrad Four/V4 meeting this week, in which Slovakia were joined by the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, that have also been affected by this issue.

Czech evidence 

The Czech Republic made available a recent survey which found Tulip Luncheon meat from Germany is made from pork. However, the Czech version is made from poultry meat.

In addition, Iglo fish fingers, also from Germany, contained more fish meat compared to those purchased in the Czech Republic.

“We, the prime ministers of the Visegrad Group countries, are strongly convinced that all consumers within the European Union have the right to quality and safe products,”​ they said in a joint statement.

“It is unacceptable that our consumers are treated differently and in a discriminatory way. We are strongly convinced that every citizen has the right to buy products of the same brand, which are of the same quality regardless of a region or a particular country.

“Non-discrimination is a key principle of the internal market.”

'No need for further legislation'

The situation, which came to prominence back in 2013, took centre stage at the European Commission this week, where the justice, consumer and gender equality commissioner Vĕra Jourova, vowed to take firm action against the food’s producers.

At the Agriculture and Fisheries (Agrifish) Council meeting held on the 17 July, Jourova stated that food makers that misinformed consumers a branded food was the same in all EU countries were guilty of unfair commercial practices.

Along with Jourova’s comments, in which she requested food makers stop the practice and to increase quality standards, the Visegrad Group called on further and detailed examination of the problem, asking for “concrete” ​and “strong”​ measures.

“In order to enable member states to efficiently step up against these practices appropriate Union level legal provisions are indispensable. As these are not yet available we call upon the European Commission to propose adequate measures urgently.”  

The Commission responded to the information shared at this week’s meeting in Brussels, restated its commitment to fight against unfair commercial practices.

It said it would engage the consumer protection network and “enhance synergies with the high-level group on the food supply chain.”

However, it considered that for the time being there was no need for further legislation.

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