New measures to prevent and tackle outbreaks of animal diseases, such as African swine fever, and to restrict the introduction of dangerous new pests into the EU, were approved by the Parliament on Tuesday.

The two draft regulations 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 on animal diseases increase the emphasis on prevention, for instance with better animal husbandry and more responsible use of veterinary medicines, and empower the Commission to adopt urgent measures to tackle outbreaks of diseases that have a major impact on public health and agricultural production, such as Bluetongue, African swine fever or Avian influenza.

"A free market in live animals should not mean a free market in disease. The spread of animal diseases poses a major threat to public health. We therefore need to put in place stricter control and prevention measures at the EU level and in particular address the pressing issue of antibiotic resistance", said Marit Paulsen (ALDE, SE), rapporteur on the animal diseases. Her report was adopted by 570 votes to 63, with 19 abstentions.

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. MEPs also want member states to set up mandatory registration schemes for stray animals, which are often responsible for transmitting animal diseases, by January 2018.

More efficient rules against spread of pests

To curb the higher influx of pests stemming from increased trade and climate change, to contain their spread and to eradicate the most dangerous ones, Parliament insisted on better prevention, e.g. via awareness campaigns and trainings, more efficient rules on plant imports and better information on emerging plant pests in third countries

However, MEPs voted down the proposal made by the Agriculture committee to replace the current black list of plants and plant products from certain countries or regions that are banned from entering the EU with a positive list, i.e. a list of countries and products that do not pose a major risk to EU agriculture and may therefore be imported into the EU.

"The EU has always been an example of an open trading system. The change of philosophy to imports of plants into the EU would be a breach of international trade rules and would result in retaliatory measures from our trading partners, which could, in the end, have a negative impact on employment", said Hynek Fajmon (ECR, CZ), rapporteur on the plant pests. His report was adopted by 478 votes to 146, with 24 abstentions.

Next Steps

The European Parliament voted on its first reading of the draft legislation, in order to consolidate the work done so far and hand it over to the next Parliament. This ensures that the MEPs newly elected in May can build on work done during the current term.

This is an informal message intended to help journalists covering the work of the European Parliament.  It is neither an official press release nor a comprehensive record of proceedings.