New legislation to tackle outbreaks of animal diseases, such as African swine fever, more effectively, restrict the introduction of dangerous new pests and enable the EU to act quickly but responsibly in emergencies was adopted by the agriculture committee in two separate votes on Tuesday.
MEPs increased the emphasis on prevention, for example with better animal husbandry and use of veterinary medicines, and tightened the rules on importing plant products thatcould pose a risk to public health in the EU.
The new rules should help EU countries and animal and plant operators tackle dangerous animal diseases and the higher influx of pests stemming from increased trade and climate change. The two regulations approved on Tuesday, on animal diseases and pests respectively, merge some 50 pieces of legislation and update them to take on board recent scientific and technological advances.
Focus on prevention: better animal husbandry and responsible use of medicines
The new rules clarify the duties of farmers, traders and animal professionals, including veterinarians and pet keepers, to ensure the good health of their animals and prevent the introduction and spread of diseases.
However, more focus needs to be placed on prevention, the agriculture committee said. To boost good animal husbandry and the proper use of veterinary medicines, MEPs proposed that member states should pay particular attention to antimicrobial resistance and ensure better access to professional training in this area when designing their national plans for the prevention and control of infectious animal diseases.
For instance, veterinarians must provide proper explanations to farmers, traders and pet keepers of how to use antimicrobials responsibly. The adopted text also says animal operators should be subject to animal-health visits by a veterinarian to their premises with the aim of stopping emerging diseases from spreading through the EU market.
Urgent measures with proper scrutiny
To tackle diseases that have a major impact on public health, agricultural production or animal welfare and health, such as Bluetongue, African swine fever or Avian influenza, the Commission must be empowered to adopt urgent measures, MEPs say. But they insist that both Parliament and Council must have proper scrutiny over the measures adopted and the possibility of repealing them if necessary.
More controls on stray dogs
Member states should set up mandatory registration schemes for stray animals, which are often responsible for transmitting animal diseases, by January 2018, say MEPs. They also suggest that the Commission could table a proposal concerning electronic databases for stray dogs throughout the EU by 31 July 2019.
Pests: tighter rules on plant imports
In a separate vote on measures to protect plants from pests, the agriculture committee proposed a complete overhaul of the current approach towards imports of plants and plant products from non-EU countries in order to make preventive measures more effective.
Contrary to the Commission's proposal to keep the black list of plants and plant products from certain countries or regions, the approach favoured also by the rapporteur, Hynek Fajmon (ECR, CZ), the committee voted to establish a positive list, i.e. a list of countries and products that do not pose an unacceptable danger to EU agriculture and may therefore be imported into the EU.
Countries wishing to export plants to the EU should submit a request to the Commission, which should decide whether or not to accept it on the basis of various checks, including on-the-spot audits by the EU, says the committee.
The draft legislation on the prevention and control of animal diseases, being steered through Parliament by Marit Paulsen (ALDE, SE), was adopted by 31 votes to 6, with 3 abstentions.
The draft legislation on protective measures against plant pests, being steered through Parliament by Hynek Fajmon (ECR, CZ), was adopted by 24 votes to 11, with two abstentions.
Both texts will be scrutinised by the full House at the March or April plenary session. (tbc).