Agriculture committee endorses new rules to protect EU countries from Xylella and newly identified pest risks

On Tuesday, 26 April 2016, the EU Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, chaired by Czesław Adam Siekierski (EPP, Poland) has provisionally approved, by 35 votes to four, with four abstentions,  the draft rules, informally agreed by Parliament and Council negotiators in December 2015, containing preventive measures to curb the growing influx into the EU, of imported plant pests, such as Xylella fastidiosa, which has been devastating Italian olive groves since 2013.

New rules  of plant pests , were endorsed by the Agriculture Committee on Tuesday. Factors driving this influx include increased trade and climate change. The draft rules, informally approved by Parliament and Council negotiators in December 2015, would govern preventive measures for imported plant pests and rapid response mechanisms for high-risk ones.

The Committee rapporteur Anthea McIntyre (ECR, UK), who headed Parliament’s negotiating team, said that “plants pests and diseases do not respect borders and we need to protect our biodiversity by laying down basic procedures for all 28 EU member states to adopt. At the same time, we must be careful not to stifle trade in plants and plant products by introducing unnecessary layers of bureaucracy”, and therefore, “this report strikes the right balance by protecting trade while allowing us to respond to threats in a co-ordinated way across the EU”.

Briefly, the new rules:

  • introduce a preliminary assessment mechanism to quickly identify plants and plant products from third countries likely to pose pest or other plant health risks and empower the EU Commission to ban them from entering the EU,
  • extend the plant health certificate requirement to all plants and plant products from third countries, regardless whether they are imported by professional operators, clients of postal services, internet clients or passengers in their luggage. Only private travellers importing small quantities of particular plants will be exempt,
  • extend the “plant passport” system to all movements of plants for planting within the EU, including those ordered through distant sales. Only products supplied directly to final users, such as home gardeners, would be exempt,
  • oblige all member states to establish multi-annual survey programmes to ensure timely detection of dangerous pests and contingency plans for each pest capable of entering their territory,
  • update existing EU rules to ensure that growers whose plants undergo necessary eradication measures to wipe out specific pests, will be eligible for fair compensation, and
  • allow member states’ authorities to impose eradication measures in private premises too, so as to remove all sources of infestation, but only to the extent necessary to protect the public interest.

Before entering into force,  the provisional text still requires to be formally approved by the Council (EU ministers) at the first reading before it returns to the Agriculture Committee, and is finally approved by Parliament as a whole.

To get more information on the content of the provisional deal agreed in December 2015, please visit the Europarliament official webpage.