The Commission has proposed, through an implementing regulation, changes to the annexes to Directive 2000/29/EC on plant health. These changes will considerably weaken checks on citrus imports. Among other things, citrus fruits intended for industrial processing will be subject to fewer checks than fresh produce from countries affected by citrus canker and citrus black spot.
This measure has provoked serious concern in the sector, above all given the large number of cases of black spot disease being detected in citrus fruit from third countries, and owing to the serious damage that the sector could suffer if the disease were to spread to European plantations.
It also seems surprising, bearing in mind the agreement that was recently reached on the new plant health regulation, aimed at stepping up the fight against the spread of diseases from third countries.
Can the Commission explain why it plans to reduce checks? Does it not believe that this step is at odds with the spirit of the new regulation negotiated between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament with the aim of improving checks and preventive measures?
The Commission is considering a draft Implementing act updating the annexes to Directive 2000/29/EC(1), on the basis of recent pest risk analysis and discussions in working groups and in the Standing Committee for Plant, Animal, Food and Feed.
The update under consideration aims at reinforcing the phytosanitary protection at borders by adding several new harmful organisms which have not been regulated so far and which are not present within EU territory. In advance to the new plant health strategy, it is intended to broaden the scope of the current plant health Directive by adding several types of regulated plant material to the list of plants that need systematic import control. It also aims at strengthening several specific import and internal movement requirements, while remaining compliant with World Trade Organisation-Sanitary and Phytosanitary (WTO-SPS) rules. Any measures on imports of citrus fruits will better address the phytosanitary risks indicated in the pest risk analysis documents provided by the European Food Safety Authority and will take into account the WTO-SPS rules.
The draft Commission Decision, once finalised, would follow the normal consultation procedures, now also including one month stakeholder consultation.