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Wednesday, 15 December 1999 - Strasbourg OJ edition

Bovine animals and beef: identification, registration and labelling

  Kindermann (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we discussed the question of beef labelling here in plenary as early as February 1997. At the time we, as the European Parliament, voted in favour of the immediate introduction of the compulsory labelling system. However, the Council decided on an initially optional labelling system and postponed the compulsory system until January 2000. We are now being asked to agree to a further postponement of one year, as there has been a delay in the implementation of the applicable regulation 820/97. The Member States and the Commission alone are to blame for these delays.

The Commission justifies the delay by saying that the progress reports from the Member States, which form the basis for the general rules governing a compulsory system, were received too late. In our opinion, the Commission and the Member States did not make a conscientious effort to ensure that the compulsory beef labelling system would enter into force as planned. The Commission must therefore be prepared to answer the question of why it did not take the Member States to task earlier. After all, the Member States were obliged to ensure that the conditions needed for complete proof of origin for cattle were in place and that their electronic data bases were up and running by 31 December this year.

The Commission’s contention, that the presentation of its proposal was delayed because the outcome of the case pending against the Council before the European Court of Justice on the legal basis for Regulation 820/97 has not yet been decided, is also unacceptable. Even if the judgement had been made, it would still have been extremely difficult to complete a codecision procedure on this matter.

We cannot sanction a further postponement of one year without reservation; otherwise we may well be forced again this time next year to agree to a further postponement because some Member States have again failed to do their homework. We will give the Member States a further eight months to catch up but the compulsory system must be definitively introduced in all Member States and for everyone marketing beef on 1 September 2000. The Commission has time until then to submit implementing provisions for the compulsory system. At the same time, the European Parliament and the Council will decide on a new version of Regulation 820/97 under a codecision procedure. This approach will enable the compulsory system to be introduced earlier than envisaged by the Commission in its proposal and will give all those concerned sufficient time to find a lasting and satisfactory solution.

In conclusion, I should like once again to thank my colleagues in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy for taking account of the amendment proposed by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development; I think it is important, here and now, for the European Parliament to speak with one voice and to send out a clear signal on this matter of fundamental importance to consumers. I would also like, once again, to thank all those who have worked on this and the services for their fast work and self-sacrifice.

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