Full text 
Verbatim report of proceedings
Wednesday, 5 April 2006 - Strasbourg OJ edition

16. Exceptional market support measures (avian sector) (debate)

  President. – The next item is the proposal for a Council regulation amending regulations (EEC) No 2771/75 and (EEC) No 2777/75, as regards the application of exceptional market support measures (avian sector) (COM(2006)0153 – C6-0111/2006 – 2006/0055(CNS)).


  Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the Commission. Mr President, in recent weeks and months we have been accustomed to frequent press coverage of new outbreaks of avian influenza. The latest outbreak was confirmed today in a turkey farm in Saxony. We have been able to follow the disease’s development on maps as we have seen it spreading from one country to another. We are all affected either directly or indirectly.

We – and in particular the poultry sector – are faced with a real crisis situation, which requires a swift response. That is why we are here tonight. I would therefore, first of all, like to thank the European Parliament for having accepted the Commission’s request for urgent procedure. I am especially grateful to the Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Joseph Daul, as well as to the rest of the committee for their rapid contribution and opinion on the Commission proposal. That is a clear testimony that when there is a need for us to act fast, we can do so.

The many cases of avian influenza in the European Union have not left us unaffected. Even though mainly wild birds have been the victims of avian flu, it has already had a strong negative impact on European consumption of poultry in many Member States. The impact on prices has varied from country to country, but in general prices have been under pressure and have in some cases fallen significantly. As a result, the poultry meat market faces an exceptionally serious situation and many in the poultry sector are in severe difficulties.

We have already acted. Since the beginning of the crisis last autumn, the Commission has made use of export refunds in order to support the market. But the effects of those measures have been limited, not least as we have been faced with import restrictions on our exports into many third countries. It is clear that we cannot handle the poultry meat crisis effectively on the basis of export refunds alone.

Member States have also announced or taken initiatives with regard to the possibility of using state aid. There is a broad range of support possibilities via state aid, such as rescue and restructuring aid for farmers running into difficulties. Those rules are designed to give quick, effective support to those in the sector who are really in need. We will, in the light of the crisis, examine any proposal as quickly as possible, taking into account both the need for rapid help and the need to avoid distortion of competition. However, we also need to consider alternative measures at EU level. And therefore we have found ourselves hampered by the existing legislation. Our current CMO provides for measures that would allow special market support in cases where veterinary restrictions have been imposed.

The current scope of our CMO, however, does not allow the Commission to act in response to a crisis that is sparked by a lack of consumer confidence. And that is exactly the situation we are in today. Therefore the existing legal framework has to be changed in order to provide the legal basis for new market support measures for the sector. We are therefore proposing to extend the existing exceptional market support as laid down in Article 14 of the CMO in order to include support measures in cases where serious market disturbances are caused by consumer reaction to public health or animal health risks. Our proposal also entails a sharing of the financial burden between Member States and the Community budget and would only be introduced upon a request from the Member States.

We are now taking a first step. We are filling the legal gap. Once our proposal is finally adopted, Member States will have to submit their proposals for practical steps that will fit their specific situation. We believe that will allow the best possible flexibility, and therefore the most efficient response to the current crisis and to future similar situations, if they were to arise.

There is no time to waste. Thanks to the European Parliament’s constructive stance and the rapid procedure it has chosen via which to consider this proposal, we should now be able to ensure a final adoption in the Council in the coming weeks. This will be an important step towards delivering those measures that our poultry sector is so desperately asking for.


  Neil Parish, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. Mr President, tonight we are talking about exceptional market measures for a very successful industry in the EU. We have some five billion chickens in the EU. It is an industry that is not subsidised by the common agricultural policy. We are, as the Commissioner said, facing a reduction in consumer confidence with regard to chicken meat. In some Member States we have seen that consumption drop up to 70%. There is no doubt that we need to promote how safe chicken meat is, especially when properly cooked. In the EU we have put together very good measures to help stamp out the disease when it comes into Europe. At the end of the day, we really need to reduce production and sort out the demand for chicken meat.

One of the benefits of the poultry industry is that the time from when you start to incubate an egg to the time the chicken is ready to eat can be as little as nine weeks. Therefore it is possible to take production out. I do not believe that export refunds are the answer to this crisis. The problem is that if you put a lot of extra chicken meat on to the world market – which is already saturated – and if you are not careful about using public funds to subsidise it, you may find that meat comes back to the European market. I believe the way forward is to reduce the supply and then try to increase demand to get the industry back on its feet.

It is not only the poultry sector that suffers but also the cereal sector, because five billion chickens eat an awful lot of wheat. At the end of the day I agree with you, Commissioner, that 50% co-financing between Member States and the Commission must be the way forward. I believe that will be the way forward for a lot of agriculture in the future.


  Katerina Batzeli, on behalf of the PSE Group. (EL) Mr President, I should like to start by emphasising that the way in which the Commission dealt with bird 'flu was methodical, controlled and efficient.

Unfortunately, however, the lack of information for consumers, the communications policy and the role of the media and the lack of direct national measures, especially control measures, have helped consumers to lose their confidence which, in numerous cases, will probably take a long time to recover.

The repercussions to date in Europe are a 35% reduction in sales of poultry and eggs, with significant differences from one Member State to another. In Greece, consumption has dropped by 65% over the last ten months and stocks of 20 000 tonnes have accumulated, while in France, the biggest poultry producer, there are stocks of 25 000 tonnes.

The intervention measures by the Commission and the national governments must be immediate and the market crisis must be addressed with the most effective economic and social measures for poultry farms and incubators. The results of the bird crisis, as my honourable friend Mr Parish said, are also important for the cereal sector. That is why, in addition to amending Article 14 of the regulations on the operating regime of the poultry and egg market, we propose:

- firstly, 50% financing of emergency measures linked directly to sanitary and veterinary measures;

- secondly, 100% financing from Community resources in cases in which the fall in consumption is due to the blow to consumer confidence;

- thirdly, promoting market measures, such as granting aid for warehouses, for a period required to stabilise the market and

- finally, aid for the withdrawal of stocks and compensation for the destruction of eggs and poultry.

These measures will balance out market supply and demand.

I would highlight in particular the Commission's point that permissible state aid also needed and needs to be given, at national level, to domestic poultry farmers and to poultry farms as small and medium-sized enterprises. Community and national aid must be given at once. It is already overdue, with the result that many undertakings face closure. There will be many social problems in Greece, because they employ 15 000 people.

Mr President, Commissioner, if I may make a joke, if governments and the Commission delay in taking effective measures and interventions, bird 'flu will turn into worker 'flu.


  Ilda Figueiredo, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (PT) In a number of countries, production has been significantly affected, and in some cases has already stopped altogether; thousands of tonnes of poultry has been stored in refrigerators, which is expensive and there is no market for its consumption.

Poultry producers are therefore enduring difficult times. There are countries in which poultry and egg production have suffered enormously, even though there have not been any cases of avian influenza. It is therefore essential that support be provided for producers and that Community financing for compensating market measures be set at 100%, as was the case for swine fever and BSE, given the seriousness of the socio-economic situation in a number of countries and the difficulty of guaranteeing cofinancing.

We have also proposed funding for the removal of poultry while the market is inactive, in order to offset the costs of refrigeration. A long-term information campaign must also be launched throughout the EU in order to regain consumer confidence. It strikes me that this could also be a funding proposal for the Union itself.


  Jeffrey Titford, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. Mr President, I am somewhat bemused by the European Union’s approach to the bird flu scare. The EU has, it seems to me, made a mountain out of a molehill. There is no evidence whatever to suggest that bird flu has mutated and can be passed between human beings. In fact there is very little evidence that it can even be caught from birds unless there is considerable direct contact with the remains of dead birds.

Despite that, in Britain there have been lurid headlines about 320 000 possible deaths and bodies being disposed of in mass graves. This very day, a full-scale bird flu outbreak rehearsal, involving several hundred people, has started in the county of Norfolk, with the dramatic title of ‘Operation Hawthorn’. The theatrical way in which the matter is being handled is creating an atmosphere of hysteria, and the EU has played its part in that by holding well-publicised, international summits to discuss the bird flu crisis. It now wants to set aside EUR 5 million over the next five years for exceptional market support measures to deal with the alleged crisis. There is even what appears to be an open-ended commitment for more funds in 2011.

It seems to me that the EU and some national governments are guilty of creating a massive public scare that has severely damaged the poultry industry, with little or no justification. Forgive me for being cynical, but it also appears to be a handy way for the EU to promote itself as a caring organisation.

Whatever we are actually dealing with here is a virulent outbreak of public hysteria, generated by a highly contagious burst of over-the-top publicity from the national governments and the European Union. In short, everyone needs to stop flapping around like headless chickens and start examining this matter with a degree of objectivity.

If we are going to allocate those large sums of money, they should be used for the production of educational literature that can be disseminated to the public. That material should let the public know that there is actually no risk from properly cooked poultry and that it is perfectly safe to buy it in supermarkets and to eat it in restaurants.

Let us stop making a crisis out of a drama.


  Janusz Wojciechowski, on behalf of the UEN Group. (PL) Mr President, from the medical point of view we seem to be winning the war against avian influenza, because very few outbreaks of the disease have occurred and only isolated cases involving human beings have been reported. Where the media are concerned, however, the issue has been dealt with in a most unsatisfactory manner. No reliable and objective information on the threat of an epidemic was made available, nor was information provided on how to protect oneself in the case of an epidemic. The mass media made headline news out of every dead swan found.

Avian influenza is being presented as a further horseman of the Apocalypse. The information reaching the man in the street is anecdotal, disorganised and often inappropriate. Action by the veterinary services tends to run counter to common sense. Slaughtering entire flocks of domestic birds seems to be done for show, just for the sake of being seen to be doing something. It hardly makes sense, when millions of wild birds can spread the disease unhindered. In addition, there have been many cases of thoughtless cruelty. We have all seen on our television screens live birds rammed head downwards into sacks that were then handled as if they were sacks of potatoes. Furthermore, unfounded information was put about according to which avian influenza could also be transmitted to humans by cats. This led to a number of instances of negative treatment of the latter.

In view of this situation, it is hardly surprising that the market in poultry is in the grip of panic and threatened by disaster. It is therefore entirely appropriate to act in support of the market. This move deserves our full support, and I have in mind also the amendments aimed at increasing the degree of support. In particular, I would like to draw attention to the amendment tabled by the Union for Europe of the Nations Group aimed at increasing the level of support in the new Member States where farmers and breeders are in a particularly difficult situation, as they are only in receipt of partial direct payments.

The best way to support the poultry sector is to provide reliable information and calm the market down. It is best for this to be done by the European Commission, because the latter probably inspires greater confidence than national authorities in crisis situations of this nature. The Commission should disseminate clear information on how the disease spreads. In particular, it should state categorically that consumption of poultry meat does not represent a health risk. The media should also be asked to exercise restraint and avoid creating panic.

There are lessons to be learnt from this crisis. Should similar situations arise in the future, reliable information must be made available to the citizens at a much earlier stage.


  Joseph Daul (PPE-DE).(FR) Mr President, to try and save time, I shall be very quick this evening. I should simply like to thank the Commission for acting so quickly last week on the Council’s proposal. Parliament demonstrated that it was also effective and, if all the institutions put their minds to it, it is clear that we can make the right decisions in eight days to respond to natural disasters, and come to the aid of the victims.

Furthermore, I agree with my fellow members of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, and we have already spoken a great deal about avian influenza. We have for once acted quickly, and it cannot be said that it is because of Europe that the breeders will have to wait to receive compensation.


  Rosa Miguélez Ramos (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, I was gazing at Mr Daul, who has spoken very well and in a short space of time; I wish I could do the same thing.

In any event, Commissioner, I also wished to congratulate the Commission on its rapid reaction to the problems being suffered by the poultry and egg market. It is also the case that we have reacted with the urgency asked of us so that these two Regulations could be amended and the Commission would be provided with the legal basis to act.

As you have pointed out, however, Mrs Fischer Boel, this crisis is not currently being caused by the outbreak of an epidemic, which has not appeared in the majority of Member States, and for the time being there are no restrictions on the movement of poultry within the Union, but rather, as you pointed out quite rightly, it is due to a loss of consumer confidence and the resulting fall in consumption.

In this regard, Commissioner, we are in a complex situation that has only just begun, but which is very similar to the two market crises suffered by beef following the outbreak of BSE. And on both occasions, Commissioner, market support measures were taken at Community level and funded at 100%. My group has therefore presented two amendments to the Commission’s proposal in this regard.

We accept the 50% co-funding of health measures, but we would ask that measures to support the market in view of the crisis caused by a loss of consumer confidence be of a Community nature and therefore be 100% funded from the European budget.

Commissioner, as I have said, we believe that this co-funding mechanism — contributions from Member States for measures that have always been of an exclusively Community nature — would set a serious precedent within the CAP and could jeopardise the principle of the single market.


  Zdzisław Zbigniew Podkański (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, the European Union has a wealth of experience in overcoming crisis situations. It has applied exceptional measures to support the market on a number of occasions in the past, notably in connection with mad cow disease and foot and mouth disease. It has now fallen to us to face up to avian influenza.

The importance of poultry as part of the food sector must not be underestimated. It is essential to introduce exceptional measures. All that remains to be decided is the scope of the aid and the size of the funds. Practice has varied to date. The Community has covered a varying percentage of the losses incurred by Member States, usually between 50% to 100%.

The regulation before us today also provides for significant support to the poultry sector. Unofficial discussions indicate that the proposal for the Community to refund 50% of the costs borne by the Member States is strongly supported. Unfortunately, however, equal does not mean fair, especially as the old Member States are in receipt of 100% of direct payments for farming whereas the new Member States are receiving barely 30%. That is why I believe a principle should be adopted whereby Member States receiving 100% of farm payments receive a 50% refund of the costs incurred, and countries not in receipt of full payments that are funding farming from their own budgets should receive at least 75%.

We need to be consistent. Either we just talk about a Europe of solidarity or we get down to creating it. If we are to create a Europe of solidarity, it must manifest itself in social and economic terms. As a rule, people show what they are made of in difficult, dramatic and catastrophic situations. It is often said that a person’s worth is best assessed in terms of the extent to which he or she is prepared to share with others. It therefore follows that the Union of nations and states will be judged according to the extent to which it guarantees fair distribution of cost and income and also in terms of the degree of solidarity and justice it demonstrates.


  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, we have been hearing about avian influenza amongst wild birds on an almost daily basis recently. This is indeed a disease that mainly affects wild animals, but can it be restricted exclusively to wild birds? There is no clear answer to this question, but we do know that the disease occurs amongst farmed poultry.

The poultry sector has very specific characteristics. Within the European Union, it operates on market principles, and consequently there are only limited opportunities for supporting it. A way of providing aid for the poultry sector in crisis situations must therefore be found. This aid should be awarded in such a way that it does not infringe market principles and is only implemented in exceptional situations, when the market is in crisis.

A broader approach is called for, encompassing consideration of the special characteristics of farming and the need for intervention in certain agricultural markets in specific situations when intervention and outside aid are patently necessary. I believe this is a good learning opportunity for us. We need to find a way of providing special support instruments within the common agricultural policy, in order to help this sector.


  Stéphane Le Foll (PSE).(FR) Mr President, I should also like to welcome the measures proposed this evening, which will hopefully be carried in tomorrow’s vote. Action had to be taken on account of the fact that, in some countries, this crisis is affecting a great many farmers, not to mention the sector itself and all those working therein.

I should also like to say a few words about the manner in which the measures are to be taken, specifically those concerning market management. In this regard, as has already been mentioned by my group just now, I hope, as regards cofinancing, we will be giving priority to 100% European funding.

Furthermore, it strikes me that the time has come for Europe to reflect on the manner in which we apply the precautionary principle when it comes to all health problems, or any other problems that may affect our individual countries and the continent as a whole. I believe in fact that unless Europe applies the precautionary principle, there is a major risk that, due to a succession of problems, and the fact that not all States have all the information or deal with information in the most appropriate fashion, as has been the case in recent months, there will be crises affecting entire sectors, both industrial and agricultural. We then ask farming and the WTO, in this case the poultry sector, to come along and compensate for the impact that is not down to the structures or to the farming sector, but, rather, to panic, as has rightly been mentioned, with specific examples, this evening.

I therefore believe that we need a Europe-wide policy to address crisis situations and ensure that measures are taken at European level and are applicable across the board. This particular crisis is an example that should set a precedent for the future. It should lead us to reflect on both agriculture, and, more importantly, on other sectors such as public health, with the aim of henceforth applying the precautionary principle at European level.


  Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE). – Mr President, it is good that we are doing something to assist the poultry industry. Unfortunately we have had other experiences of loss of consumer confidence in other food products.

In Ireland we have had no cases or reports of wild birds or others with avian flu, but we have suffered a fall in consumption of up to 20%. Europe has been accused of making a mountain out of a molehill but the truth is that we are in a very difficult position.

I sympathise with the Commission. How do we keep avian flu highlighted so that we do not have a human pandemic and so that we spot the problem in wild birds, while at the same time trying to avoid scaring consumers? It is an extremely difficult balance. I believe that Members of this House can play a role in communicating effectively and without panic what is happening throughout the European Union and why we are taking action. There is a huge gap in consumer knowledge.

The trouble is that we have large quantities of poultry meat in storage. Export refunds may not be the answer because markets are closing down to us. We need to manage the stocks. While they are there, they are a huge problem. I feel that removing hatch eggs is part of the solution, but I would worry that you could go too far.

Let us hope that this crisis is just for the short term, rather than the long term, and that we rebuild confidence and consumption. I believe that is what we are all trying to do. However, the poultry sector throughout the European Union is pleased that the EU is responding. Part of that response has to be accurate, clear, panic-free information to consumers.


  Bogdan Golik (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, I was delighted to endorse the Commission initiative on exceptional support measures for the poultry and egg sector, and I am sure many other Members felt likewise. Swift and decisive action is needed.

Even though Europe had been preparing for the advent of avian influenza for some time, we did not manage to stop panic spreading. Initially, only wild birds were affected, and when the first cases of infection amongst farmed birds were confirmed, the demand for poultry went into free fall. In some countries it went down by as much as 70%. Sales and exports were reduced, and certain countries imposed import restrictions, banning the import of Community poultry. This widespread panic is being fuelled by the media, which often fail to provide reliable information. Instead of informing and reassuring the public, they simply aggravate the situation.

Avian influenza itself does not represent a serious danger to breeders. The main problem is the media and the panic arising as a result of the lack of cohesive information on the subject from the European Union.

I welcome the fact that the Commission has proposed exceptional market support measures for the avian sector to deal with the loss of consumer confidence in this sector. Nonetheless, the proposal to cofinance 50% of the costs may have a negative impact on competition within the European Union and amount to a step towards renationalisation of the common agricultural policy. We should also remember that diseases know no borders, which means that a highly virulent strain of avian influenza can easily spread across them and become a problem for the Community as a whole, not just for an individual country.

One hundred per cent support should be guaranteed in such circumstances. That is the only way to win this battle. Partial financing will achieve nothing. Decisive action at European level is called for. The House will recall that 100% finance was made available in the case of BSE. Why is the Commission not proposing similar terms in the case of avian influenza?

It is worth adding that the Commission proposal under discussion is simply a set of temporary measures that can only be in place for a limited period. They do not guarantee the stability of the markets in exceptional situations in the long term. A new cohesive insurance system is therefore needed, as has been repeatedly stated in the House.


  María Esther Herranz García (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, thank you for being here tonight and in particular I would like to express my great satisfaction with the speed with which the Commission has dealt with this issue, which I believe to be important for everybody, for consumers and producers, in the European Union.

I am delighted that account has been taken of the fall in prices and also the fall in consumption that we are seeing in the European Union. I am delighted, because consumers are losing confidence in the face of the possibility of being infected with a disease that we all know cannot be caught in this way. Nevertheless, loss of confidence can lead them to stop consuming products such as eggs or chicken, and that would be very bad news, of course.

I believe that we must distinguish between veterinary measures and market measures. You are proposing a market measure which, for the first time, you are deciding should be co-funded. Well, in this regard I cannot congratulate you: I believe 50% to be insufficient.

In 1997, in the case of BSE, you will remember that 100% was paid. The same happened in the case of foot-and-mouth disease. This is therefore the first example of co-funding of market measures which, as my fellow Member has said, could lead to imbalances in the market, distortions of competition, a concealed renationalisation of the common agricultural policy, and this could lead to very bad results for everybody, including those who are sceptical about the common agricultural policy, because renationalisation would lead to much more of the protectionism which they believe is already too much. I believe that those who are sceptical about the current common agricultural policy should consider this.

I therefore believe that it should not be co-funded and we have presented an amendment which I hope this House will support tomorrow.

It will depend on the governments whether or not this subsidy is requested. If it is 50%, in many cases certain governments would take a long time to do so.

It seems to me that the fundamental problem is that there is no money, either to finance emergency measures or to fund the common agricultural policy, because, essentially what we have is a terrible agreement, and in the future it will be very much worse, in view of the approaching financial perspective.

There is not enough money? Then the governments, in the Council, must provide it.


  Marc Tarabella (PSE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the loss of revenue incurred by operators in the poultry sector, due to the loss of public confidence, could reach 50% to 60%.

Against this backdrop, the Commission has proposed changes to the regulations as regards the application of exceptional market support measures. Such measures are expected by operators who have suffered as a result of an emotional reaction on the part of consumers, and I commend the Commission on acting swiftly. Yet to seek to increase the volume of exports to address the current shortfall in internal consumption runs counter to the principle of food sovereignty.

In this regard, is it reasonable to advocate, as some Member States have done, the destruction of healthy poultry stocks in order to regulate supply? Such a move would only benefit the large companies that have relocated to Brazil. This is the signal they need to restock the European market. What is needed is to activate a safeguard clause to block imports of industrial poultry from outside Europe, especially as it appears that the more industrialised the sector, the more intense the avian influenza virus; in Asia, Laos, where there are no industrial holdings, has been spared, in contrast with neighbouring countries such as Vietnam and Thailand.

I wish to emphasise that the necessary precautionary measures that we are rightly taking in our countries will have a greater effect on traditional farms, which are more concerned with producing high-quality poultry, than on industrial farms, which benefit from additional support. An example of this is the segregation measures, which are restrictive for small free-range poultry holdings.

Lastly, mindful of previous crises that have seriously affected the agricultural world, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy in 1997 and dioxin in 1999 – not forgetting that these problems were entirely different from avian influenza – would it not be opportune to set up a special commission, this time pre-emptively, tasked with detecting the causes of crises, in order to prevent them rather than trying to cure them?


  Albert Jan Maat (PPE-DE). – (NL) Mr President, I should like to endorse what Mr Daul, the chairman of our Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, had to say, and warmly congratulate the Commissioner on the speed with which she has come up not only with an action plan, but also with unorthodox proposals to tackle the problem that is currently afflicting the poultry industry. She has understood very well that Europe must pull out all the stops in order to face up to this crisis. Indeed, the spreading of bird flu by migratory birds and the threat of the virus for people show that society has every reason to bring this disease to a standstill and ensure that the poultry sector does not go under.

It is, in fact, too crazy for words that, despite the threat to public health and the uncertain spread via birds living in the wild, vaccination against bird flu to protect man and animal is still a taboo subject. The much-heard argument that vaccination leads to sales problems has almost turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy, because as long as Europe, as a prosperous market community, hides behind this argument, worldwide vaccination will itself continue to be treated like an contagious disease.

Turning to the proposal itself, I would like to say that so far, market measures have always been taken, and funded, by the European Commission, with good reason, because in that way, the common market was strengthened and distortion of competition prevented. The Commission now proposes to cofinance up to a level of 50%. I have to say, also on behalf of my party, the CDA, that the Commission in this matter, given its limited financial scope, has probably gone for the best option by plumping for cofinancing. Nevertheless, I should like to call on the Commission to make firm pledges so as to avoid distortion of competition among Member States. The CDA would also like to see this regulation help the countries that use vaccinations and experience market losses as a result cushion the consequences, and the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats has tabled an amendment to that effect, to which, I hope, this House will give its unanimous backing.


  Thijs Berman (PSE). – (NL) Mr President, I too should like to congratulate the Commissioner on her stamina. All evening, she has been listening to a persistent misunderstanding under which the Members of this House labour. The European Union is not an insurance company. Where entrepreneurs run risks, they should take out insurance, and that they can do. When France was plagued by FMD, the French Government provided a soft, low-interest loan and the cattle farming industry subsequently paid for the damage it had suffered by means of a disaster fund they had set up themselves, and that is how things should be done.

The European Union cannot be held responsible for all damage suffered by a sector, in whatever industry. If a sound insurance system in poultry farming is lacking, we will have no choice but to take action. That is the European Union’s only option. What action, though, can it take? It cannot push up export subsidies, because that would be a scandal. It would be unacceptable to pass on our problem to the developing world. It would also distort the world market and is at odds with negotiations and agreements within the WTO.

What can be done is to encourage Member States, in the event of an outbreak of a crisis, to grant poultry farmers soft loans of the kind I have referred to. Looking at the measure that the Commission is advocating, I can, to some degree, see where they are coming from, but I think that we must first call for a sound insurance system to be in place for the poultry farmers themselves, because then entrepreneurs will be shouldering their own responsibility, and that is something in which they can take real pride.


  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (PSE). – (HU) The Commission acted correctly, wisely and in good time. We have an excellent Commissioner. While you are Commissioner, European agriculture is in good hands.

Poultry consumption has fallen by thirty percent in the European Union, but in Hungary it has only fallen by fifteen percent, because the government has taken firm steps to gain the trust of consumers. I fully agree with the proposal of the Commission. The Commission has accepted an excellent plan for market measures.

I believe that marketing and regaining the trust of consumers, referred to by several Members of this House, including Mr Daul, Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, are at least as important. Therefore, I fully support the report, and I agree that we must help European poultry farmers. I also agree with the issue of cofinancing, because we, the new Member States, have already experienced cofinancing: we cofinance direct payments at a rate of thirty percent each year, and I think it is fair to apply cofinancing in this issue, as well.

Therefore I fully support the efforts made by Mrs Fischer Boel, and I would like to express my thanks again, on behalf of the European and Hungarian poultry farmers.


  Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I wish to begin by sincerely thanking you for the very broad support that we have had for this change in the CMO. I shall now make some comments on the 23 amendments. In Amendments 1, 2 and 22 you asked for a list of the different support measures to be put into the Council regulation. As I have said previously, it is important to give a certain flexibility to the Member States. They should decide themselves which tools they want to use. I do not want to bind their hands, but I have clearly said that it is important that we try to address the problems upstream. But ultimately I leave it to the Member States. Some of the measures stated in your various amendments are going in the same direction. However, I should just like to mention one of them concerning the financing of an information campaign; this in fact belongs to a completely different legal framework. Therefore, I believe that some of the other measures proposed deserve to be looked into further.

Once again, I must underline that the purpose of this change of regulation is to try to fill in the legal gap that we have experienced and then allow the Member States to suggest the different possibilities that they consider to be the most efficient for them. Therefore, while I have some sympathy for some of the measures you have proposed, I cannot accept or introduce them into the regulation as has been suggested.

Some of you mentioned co-financing, which is proposed in 11 of your amendments. We have had the possibility of discussing this issue on several occasions when we amended our regulation on exceptional market measures. The Commission considers that co-financing on market support measures is an important way to ensure that Member States assume their share of the responsibility for the handling of different crises linked to health issues. We use this type of co-financing in relation to our veterinary measures, and we have had more than ten years’ experience in the co-financing of related exceptional market measures. It is not the time for changing this approach and I am therefore not in a position to accept those amendments.

On the information campaign you asked for in Amendments 1, 2, 16, 17 and 22, it is not the kind of measure that fits into this proposal. However, there is a Council regulation on internal promotion for European agricultural products, and I have asked my services to prepare an amendment to the existing Commission regulation so that when the time is right generic promotion of poultry meat would be eligible for European funding. It would be a waste of money to start a promotion campaign at this stage, but I can assure you that when the time is right, then all the legal aspects will be settled so that we can act immediately.

On Amendments 8, 9 and 23, I do not think it necessary to exclude certain measures on animal welfare grounds. The slaughter of animals is not a priority in the intended measures and the Commission will propose action in line with the different animal welfare standards. Nor can I support Amendment 7 on export refunds. The Commission uses the export refund instrument in a prudent way, taking into account our different responsibilities within our international commitments regarding this instrument.

On soft loans, I do not exclude at this stage any potential national proposal, provided that it does not destroy or distort competition. That is quite clear, and I can promise – as is already the case – that I will act as quickly as possible on any proposal put on my desk from the different Member States.

On vaccination, Member States that decide on a vaccination policy should examine carefully the possible consequences that such a step might have on their international trade. Trade problems created by vaccination cannot, in my view, justify the use of exceptional market support measures based on the new Article 14.

Let me turn to Article 14 in the existing Council legislative text, which was the subject of a question: Member States shall ensure that where producers contribute to the expenditure borne by Member States, this does not result in distortion of competition between producers in different Member States. I would like simply to underline that this was the wording we put into the discussion we had last year on co-financing.

Finally, on procedure: the European Union’s swift handling of this proposal is another sign of its credibility as a valuable partner in tackling the problems that might arise within the agricultural sector.

Once again, it has been a great pleasure for me to do business with you.



  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, Thursday, at 12 noon.

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