The European Parliament and
On 6 November 1997, Parliament's BSE Committee adopted the
report by Mr Reimer BÖGE (EPP, D) by 18 votes to 1.
Two important points from the findings of the committee, which was
set up to check that Parliament's recommendations on BSE were
implemented, should be highlighted.
. The first point is what Parliament achieved. In the words of
the rapporteur, Mr BÖGE, "What other Parliament committee
has achieved so much in so short a time?". By setting up a
Committee of Enquiry and using the threat of a motion of
censure as part of its strategy, Parliament has managed to
assert its rights vis-à-vis the Commission and carve out a
position within the institutional system which allows it to
supervise the executive effectively for the first time.
. The second point is that, as was emphasised by Dagmar
ROTH-BEHRENDT (PES, D), chairwoman of the committee -
the standing committees will continue to monitor this issue
closely. The Commission is to submit a report every six
months and a major interinstitutional conference is to be held
in late 1998.
Above and beyond the BSE crisis itself - and largely thanks to the
action taken by Parliament - a genuine European public health policy
is now starting to evolve. Moreover, when the Amsterdam Treaty
enters into force, the EU's ability to shape public health policy will be enhanced and Parliament's
role as co-legislator strengthened. The co-decision procedure will be used in this area, which means
that no legislative text will be adopted without an agreement between Parliament and the Council.
Commission's positive response
The BSE Committee says that the Commission has implemented most of Parliament's
recommendations or has agreed to clear deadlines for their implementation. The main points to
which this applies are the following.
. The recommendations on transparency. Parliament condemned what it saw as the arcane
proceedings of the scientific committees. These have now been thoroughly reformed. The
Commission has promised that all documentation, including confidential documents, will be
forwarded to Parliament.
. Inspections were found to be inadequate and poorly organised. They have now been
improved. The monitoring system has been overhauled and the relevant Commission
departments reorganised. The conclusions of the reports from the veterinary inspection visits
will be made available to Parliament and the general public. Within the Commission,
monitoring functions have now been separated from legislative activities.
. Protection of public health was inadequate - hence the public's concern. The Commission
is currently drawing up a framework directive on food law. In addition, on 12 October 1997,
it adopted a proposal for a directive on liability for primary agricultural products. The
Commission has promised to push for the co-decision procedure to be applied to agricultural
policy. However, the regulation on beef labelling, adopted by the Council contrary to
Parliament's wishes, was adopted under Article 43 which provides for consultations only
rather than Article 100a which would have involved the codecision procedure - the
Commission has lodged an appeal against Council's choice of legal procedures.
. The institution of proceedings for infringement of the Treaty against Member States which
fail to comply with EU law (e.g. on meat-and-bone meal).
However, problems remain and measures will have to be taken to deal with them. The
recommendations listed below were not followed up.
. Legislative proposals to allow compensation claims for costs incurred as a result of BSE.
. Disciplinary measures. Although the report welcomes the fact that a reorganization has
taken place at all levels of the veterinary services, as part of which officials have been
assigned to other duties, it regrets the fact that no disciplinary measures have been taken.
. Administrative measures against the UK to obtain a refund for the EU budget of the funds
granted to help eradicate BSE.
. The institution of proceedings against the British Government for the failure by Mr Douglas
HOGG, former Agriculture Minister, to appear before the Committee of Enquiry.
. Tabling of a motion of censure against individual Commissioners.
The United Kingdom
With regard to the plants visited in the UK, the report welcomes the substantial and effective efforts
made such as improved provision of documentation, closer checking and staining to prevent meat
which is unfit for human consumption from being placed on the market. It hopes, however, that such
efforts are not confined to the plants which were visited by Parliament's BSE delegation to the UK.
The committee is disturbed at the scale of the traffic in meat of British origin in violation of the
embargo and deplores the lack of coordination between the police and customs services of the
Member States, and between EUROPOL and UCLAF (the Commission's anti-fraud unit), as well as
the lack of information or the delays with which provide information to the relevant Commission
As the BSE delegation noted on its visit to the UK on 1 and 2 October 1997 that port checks are not
The report regrets the omission of any proposal to improve the monitoring system but notes the
undertaking by the President of the Commission, Mr Santer, to submit proposals on the system by
February 1998 at the latest.
Meat-and-bone meal, which is used as a supplement to animal feed, is generally accepted as the
main cause of BSE in cows. Strict legislation is therefore needed to provide the guarantees needed
to ensure that an outbreak of this kind does not happen again. This was the purpose of the
International Scientific Conference on Meat-and-Bone Meal held in Brussels on 1-2 July 1997 by
Parliament and the Commission.
Parliament's position on this matter is clear. It argues that it is acceptable to manufacture and use
meat-and-bone meal, as this is the only way of disposing of animal carcasses, but that a range of
precautions is needed to eliminate any health hazards. Sterilisation for at least 20 minutes at 133°
C and 3 bar (a standard which has been binding in the EU since 1 April 1997) is essential; risky
substances must be withdrawn, as must carcasses of animals which are sick or unfit for human
consumption (15% of the substances currently processed); there must be a ban on feeding such
meal to ruminants; and, as an additional precaution, meat-and-bone meal should not as a rule be
produced in the UK.
The BÖGE report calls for rules on the labelling of meat-and-bone meal: it says the ban on feeding
it to ruminants should be clearly marked on the packaging, along with the ingredients.
There is as yet no EU ban on "recycling" carcasses of sick animals into meat-and-bone meal (unlike
in Switzerland and Sweden).
The Commission should, says the report, push for the EU's standards to be adopted at the
forthcoming WTO negotiations.
Support for victims of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
To date, 21 people have died of the new variant of CJD in the UK. The MEPs on Parliament's BSE
delegation to the UK officially met representatives of the association of victims and families of
victims of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease who had not been given the opportunity to meet UK
Government ministers. The MEPs concluded that the health care system was not able to cope with
the victims' needs.
Parliament has expressed its support by adopting a budget amendment to provide funding for the
victims and their families. The BSE Committee is urging the Commission to ensure the funding
provided, without absolving the United Kingdom of prime responsibility for the matter.
The new scientific findings published in the journal Nature endorse the belief that there is a link
between BSE and CJD. Parliament is keen to encourage research to discover how the disease is
transmitted from animals to human beings. Of the additional funding for the 1997-98 fourth
framework research programme, Ecu 35m out of a total of Ecu 115m have been earmarked for BSE
Background - Facts and Dates
2 September 1996 (Brussels): constituent meeting of the BSE Committee of Inquiry.
17 February 1997 (Strasbourg): Parliament adopts the 79 recommendations of the committee, as
well as a "suspended motion of censure"; rejection on 20 February of the motion of censure against
the Commission tabled by José HAPPART (PES, B) on the grounds of failure on the part of the
Commission to handle the "mad-cow" crisis effectively (118 votes for, 326 against, 26 abstentions).
6 November 1997 (Brussels): the BSE Committee adopts the report by Mr BÖGE, thereby winding
up its proceedings.
18 November (Strasbourg): plenary debate due.
19 November: vote due on the resolution accompanying the report.
The Commission has undertaken to submit a follow-up report twice a year to Parliament and the
Late 1998: a major interinstitutional conference to be held to assess the situation.
Further information: Etienne BASSOT - tel. 284 47 41