MEPs back duty-free imports of Tunisian olive oil with EU producer safeguards  

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MEPs voted emergency measures into law on Thursday to help Tunisia’s economy by importing 70,000 tonnes of its virgin olive oil duty free in 2016/17, after adding safeguards for EU olive oil producers. These include a mid-term assessment of the effects of the measures, updating them if they turn out to be harmful, and ensuring that the imports are tracked from start to finish.

The emergency quota was approved by 500 votes to 107, with 42 abstentions.

"The adoption of these emergency measures is good news for Tunisia, which is facing very serious difficulties. Increasing the zero-duty olive oil quota, without increasing total export volumes, will provide essential help for Tunisia, and is not likely to destabilize the European market. What is at stake here is the success of Tunisia’s transition to democracy, which is vital not only for Tunisia but for Europeans", said rapporteur Marielle de Sarnez (ALDE, FR) after the vote.

The vote follows the Council’s agreement to take up Parliament’s requests for additional safeguards. These include a mid-term assessment, a pledge to update the measures if they harm EU olive oil producers, a “tracking clause” obligation to ensure that all olive oil under the quota is obtained entirely in, and transported directly from, Tunisia, and also deleting the possibility of “contemplating” the prolongation of  the emergency measures beyond the initial two years.

Read details on the emergency measures

Next steps

The text needs to still formally be approved by the EU Council. It will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the EU Official Journal, once the two co-legislators have signed it during the April plenary session.

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