17 January 2000
Curry attacks ‘spineless’ EU over beef

By FWi staff

A LEADING livestock industry figure has branded the European Union “spineless” for deciding not to seek an emergency injunction forcing France to lift its ban on British beef.

Meat and Livestock Commission chairman Don Curry said the decision called into question the credibility of the European Commission after its own scientific committee said British beef met safety requirements.

The interim measure would have forced France to accept shipments pending a final European Court of Justice decision on whether the BSE ban is legal.

He said: “It seems almost beyond belief to me that such an organisation as the EU could act in such an indecisive and spineless manner.

“Their own scientific committee has endorsed the fact that our beef meets all their requirements and all their demands for safety and traceability.

“It is up to them to act to ensure fair trading is maintained along with their own credibility.”

The EC decision not to pursue the emergency injunction came as no surprise to many observers.

Lawyers have advised the commission that the court was unlikely to approve an injunction because France is maintaining its ban on public health grounds.

This followed a politically astute move by France to launch its own counter-case against the commission.

France accused the EC of failing to take account of fresh information it had presented to experts in Brussels, thus jeopardising consumer safety.

The commission could have been accused of exposing France to unnecessary health risks had it insisted that the ban be lifted and then lost the court case.

The EC would also have had to forfeit the right to present certain documents if it had insisted on interim measures, said legal experts.

Now the lawsuit must be pursued through the court in Luxembourg, in a lengthy process which could take more than 18 months to complete.

The EU lifted its three-and-a-half-year BSE ban on British beef in August. France and Germany have refused to accept British beef citing health fears.

German health and agriculture committees are to consider the issue before it is put to the vote in the upper house of the German parliament next month.